Douglaston Salmon Run, Pulaski, New York, December 12-14, 2009
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There's only one fish species on the planet that will push an angler to drive 300-plus miles up the ass end of a major snowstorm to fish from dawn to dusk in freezing conditions for three straight days. Steelhead.

I joined Jin to fish with guide Greg Liu on the Douglaston Salmon Run in Pulaski, New York. To say the weather was awful was being generous. A major lake effect snow storm had just dumped anywhere from several inches to several feet of snow across the northern part of the state and in some areas motorist were stranded in their vehicles overnight. Greg called as I refueled outside of Baltimore to warn us about the snow so we decided to spend the night about two hours outside of Pulaski then push on early in the morning to meet Greg at Whitaker's Fly Shop to begin fishing.
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Snowplows had cleared I-81 overnight and we encountered no problems as we completed the final leg of the trip and rolled into the parking lot around 8:30am. After gearing up we headed to the Douglaston Salmon Run to being fishing for steelhead. Ice rimmed the banks of the river and the water temperature was a brisk 34 degrees while the air temperature hovered around 17 degrees. The water flow was up to 750 cfs--perfect for fishing.
PhotobucketUnlike early Fall fishing, chasing steelhead in the winter is pretty tough. The fish are there, but sometimes no matter what you throw at them they just do not want to bite or they're taking the fly very gently which was what happened over the duration of our trip. Jin was fishing a 14-foot spey rod and I was using a 10-foot single-hand fly rod. Both rods were rigged with floating lines and indicators and you had to watch that indie carefully because if you saw a small twitch or it dipped momentarily chances are a steelhead just inhaled then spit out the fly.
PhotobucketJin quickly tied into a brown and a steelhead and landed both while I had two possible takes but didn't stick any fish. Greg moved us around the Douglaston to several very nice areas but the fishing was tough. Other anglers reported similar luck but the only thing you could do was to fish hard, watch that indie and get a good dead drift going. Praying to the fish gods was also helpful.
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We would break for lunch around noon and there was nothing better on a frigid day than a bowl of hot noodles. I had picked up several different types of Asian noodles at the local Lotte supermarket in Virginia before leaving to fish in New York. Jin and Greg carried JetBoil heaters and in a few minutes we had enough hot water for several bowls of hot noodles. On a cold day this really warms you up fast.
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After lunch we would hike to another section of the Douglaston to fish different runs or glides. Some of this water looked deceptively shallow but looking at the river bottom you could tell that although you were standing in ankle deep water going any further was a really bad idea. We worked the water over--starting shallow then gradually increasing the cast to cover as much of the run as possible. Jin had an advantage with the longer spey rod. He could hit water that was too far for me to cast to and with the longer rod he could move and handle more line than my single-hand stick. Spey and switch rods began appearing on the Salmon River several years ago and now it seems to be the rod of choice for most of the anglers fishing the DSR. The single-hand rods are still being fished, but more anglers are turning to the longer sticks so they can fish further out and handle longer drifts.
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As the days rolled on the weather began to get warmer. Snow turned to rain and the water and air temperature began to rise. On our final day of fishing it was a balmy 37 degrees so we could cut down on the number of layers we were wearing. However the fishing continued to be tough for me.
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Greg moved us up and down the river and we fished hard. Jin scored a few more steelhead but I eventually went 0-5. But I can't complain--I had my shot at the fish and the fish won.

EQUIPMENT: Jin used a 14-foot medium-fast action spey rod with a multi-tip line. I used a 10-foot 7-weight fly rod with a floating Rio Steelhead line. Other very important equipment that is mandatory anywhere you fish on the Salmon River are a wading staff and studded bootfoot waders.
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