Pulaski, New York, November 15-17, 2013
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Steelhead fishing can be tough. Bananas make it tougher.

Jin and I were fishing the Salmon River at the Douglaston Salmon Run with
guide Greg Liu for a few days. The weather was beautiful but an approaching cold front would bring wind, rain and lower temperatures a few days later. The water was running at 500 cfs and would rise to 800 cfs a few days later.

We met Greg at
Whitaker's Fly Shop in the morning where we slipped on waders then headed for the Douglaston Salmon Run. Normally, there would be a few cars already parked at the lot but when we arrived the lot was packed with vehicles. The Douglaston has been selling limited season steelhead passes and today was the first day the passes were valid. It was a mob scene, but the seasonal pass is a great deal if you plan to fish there for more than six trips.
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I pulled out a couple of bananas out of my backpack, bad fishing juju and probably deposited there by the Chiquita fairy, as we finished putting our stuff together.

We hiked down to the water and once there we saw that the normally sparse crowd of steelhead season was beginning to look like the bumper-to-bumper traffic of salmon season. Lots of anglers were scattered up and down the river and quite a few were on the banks hunting for an open spot to fish. We managed to find a spot and began to fish hard.
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For the next few hours I caught my fair share of the bottom and an array of twigs, leaves, monofilament and long-lost flies and streamers. Later in the day I did catch a fish.

My drift through a fairly deep slot was about to end as the fly began to swing and rise. The mends were straightening out when I felt a slight tug on the line, so I set the hook hard and waited for the heavy pull and screaming run as a steelhead rushed down the Salmon River. Something pulled back, but it wasn't a steelhead. I stripped the line in by hand and dangling on the other end was the largest sucker fish I've ever caught, with an egg fly firmly impaled in the corner of its blubbery lips. It was later identified as a Northern Hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans) and a mature specimen, which I assume was what I caught, will measure over 22 inches and can weigh over four pounds.

Jin pricked a couple of fish but that was about it for the day.

The second day started off colder than the first, with a bit of drizzle but fewer people on the water. Jin stuck a nice steelhead but lost it just before the net. I continued catching leaves and was up on Jin by at least eight leaves by the time we broke for a streamside instant noodle lunch.
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I continued to draw blanks in the afternoon and by this time I had thrown everything I had at the fish--various egg patterns in various sizes and colors, nymphs and even a pink worm. Nothing.
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On our final day on the water the wind was up and so was the water. The reservoir bumped the flow up and the water was a bit colored. There were far fewer people around today and we managed to fish at all our usual spots. Jin was swinging a fly on his spey rod while I was drifting flies under an indicator.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon, near
the Staircase Pool, that Jin landed a steelie on the swing. A bright pink fly was the key. I added a couple more leaves to my collection before we had to quit the water and head for the airport.
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Salmon River Slideshow

DIRECTIONS: From Virginia just follow I-81 and it's a seven hour drive north to Pulaski, N.Y., which is about 30 minutes outside of Syracuse.

EQUIPMENT: We used single hand, spey and switch rods with steelhead, skagit or mid-belly lines, sink tips, heavy leaders and a variety of egg patterns. streamers, tube flies and nymphs.

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