The main section of the Salmon River is located in and around the town of Pulaski, Oswego County, in upper New York State. This river is known throughout the East Coast and Canada for its huge Steelhead (Rainbow trout that lives in the ocean but returns to spawn in fresh water) and salmon runs, with large numbers fish filling the river during their annual spawning runs to Lake Ontario.

The salmon run of Kings and Cohos usually begins sometime in August and depending on the weather will often end sometime in October. These are big fish. I tied into a King with my 9 weight fly rod and it was like trying to stop a bus. All you could do is hang on and try to stop the run before you run out of backing. But then the real fun begins when steelhead begin showing up in the river begining in late September and again, depending on the weather, water levels and other factors, are usually around until May. Fishing for 'chrome' is totally different from salmon hunting. The steelhead strike is sudden and the runs are fast with lots of jumping and sudden direction changes (you think the fish threw the hook because the line goes slack but the fish just turned around and is charging towards you).

However because there are lots of big fish, there are also big crowds. If it's seclusion you want then fishing the Salmon River during the height of the salmon season is not for you. I've seen 30 anglers crowded shoulder to shoulder, lining up on both sides of a deep pool that was no more than 40 feet long. And it is not uncommon to find hoards of fishermen walking through the ealry morning light with flashlights as they make their way to a favorite hole. There isn't that big of a crowd when the Steelies run. You'll see folks on the river, but not in the numbers you see during salmon season.
The Salmon River usually runs fast and the bottom can be slippery due to the slate and gravel bottom. You need a shoe with cleats or spikes. Not felt. Not felt and spikes. Cleats or spikes. Period. Wear anything else and you're asking for trouble. A good wading staff is mandatory unless the river is low. Water levels rise and fall depending on water release from the reservior for generating power so pay attention to where you're standing. if you're out in the middle of the river and the water rises quickly, you could be stuck out there or have a very difficult walk back to the main banks.

: From Virginia I just got on I-81 and it's a straight six hour drive north to Pulaski, which is about 30 minutes outside of Syracuse, NY.

EQUIPMENT: We used 7 and 9 weight rods with special weight-forward steelhead/salmon lines and heavy leaders with large indicators and lead shot. We used various types of egg flies--some we tied but most tied by guide Greg Liu. A bit of advice--if you're tying your own flies be sure to use beefy hooks. The steelhead and salmon in this area will straighten any hook that is too soft. And if you forgot to pack anything or experience an equipment malfunction there's always Whitakers fly shop.

December 19-20, 2007
A report from Jin
Snow, cold, and Christmas shopping kept most fishermen away from Pulaski. Even the Lower Fly Zone had only two anglers last night.

Guide Greg Liu and I fished the Douglaston Salmon Run with two other fly fishermen and their guide. We had the 2.5 mile stretch of water to ourselves. There was about a foot of snow on the ground and ice ledges lined the river, making it tricky to get in and out of the water. We had to dodge chunks of floating ice and I almost got taken out by a 2-foot chunk that hit my leg.

The river was flowing at about 335 cubic feet per second and ice covered the Meadow Pool and everything below. We worked the rock pool but I couldn't buy a strike so we crossed the river and worked couple other sections without a bite. We continued down to the Spring Hole and finally I landed my first steelie. It was a small guy around 8 lbs. Not much of a fight but bright chrome.

We spotted Bob and Rob fishing the Jos Pool above us and they were landing a ton of fish. They motioned us to join them so we spent couple hours there and I hooked two steelies. One broke me off. The second fish broke the tip of the rod. Hmmm....this rod breaking is starting to become too common.

We walked up to fish the flats but didn't get any more bites today.

It snowed another inch overnight. Air temperature dipped into the mid 20s but warmed up to a balmy low 30s by morning. Water temp was 33 degrees. Once again, we had the entire river pretty much to ourselves.

We started fishing the lower end of the SR where we had some success the previous day. Fishing was slow. Lots of drifts through pools and slots before finally landing my first steelhead late morning. It was a 5 pounder
that was still bright but starting to change color. I hooked another fish in the same spot but the take was so subtle that I thought I had hooked floating ice. A chunk of ice on a fly feels a lot like a medium sized steelhead---for the first 10 seconds or so.

We moved up river and started to cover more spots. I spooked one steelhead that was sitting next to the ice that had formed on the edge of the river. We followed him for a bit but gave up when he tucked under the ice.

November 17-19, 2007

A report from Jin
I drove up to Pulaski, NY, Friday night to meet guide Greg Liu and chase steelhead for three days on the Salmon River. The crowds were gone, the salmon run was over and even the carcasses had been washed away by recent rains.
The weather was surprisingly good for this time of year. We had sun for most of the three days, though air temperature did drop below 20 degrees in the morning and never rose much above 40 degrees. The water temperature hovered around 40 degrees--marginal fishing condition for steelhead.

This was my second trip to the Salmon River this year. We missed the big push of steelhead that went up the river in mid-October, however there was a steady stream of fish moving up the river all week. The strategy, according to Greg, was to target moving fish by finding pools, deep pockets or a slot or run where they were resting before continuing up river. We found one great slot that accounted for most of my fish.
I managed to hook 18 steelhead and land eight of them. Despite the cold water most were able to break me off through brute force. All of the fish we landed were bright chrome, with couple fish pushing over 10 lbs. I managed to hook couple brutes. One fish in particular kicked my ass, pulling line with me in hot pursuit, only to move into the safety of fast water.

I'll be back....

October 19-20, 2007

Jin and I were in New York to fish the Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR), a privately owned fishing area just outside of the town of Pulaski, NY, in Oswego County with local fishing guide Greg Liu.

The DSR is considered to be one of the best stretches of fishing water on the Salmon River. Steelhead and salmon on their annual migration from the Lake Ontario waterway pass through tthe DSR first, so they've seen the least amount of fishing pressure. However due to the ongoing drought in the northeast water levels were extremely low when we arrived, running at 130 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the first day and rising a bit the second day to 185 cfs after some brief showers the night before.

Last year when we fished the Salmon River and the DSR the water was running between 1200 to 1500 cfs. This low water concentrated the fish into a smaller area, forcing them to travel in the deeper channels and pools in the river which in some areas were no more than a foot deep. Temperature was at an abnormal 72 degrees and we needed none of the heavy thermal underwear we brought for the trip. I wore a light shirt and pants and brought a light windbreaker in case it rained.

On the first morning, as we were walking across the DSR , we could see salmon and steelhead pushing upriver with their backs and fins sticking up out of the water.

Greg lined us up on some good runs and Jin hooked up to a silver torpedo of a steelhead that shot past me so quickly that I had to jerk my line out of the way before we got tangled. It left a whitewater wake as it pulled line upriver and Jin was quickly into his backing. Unfortunately that fish pulled off after a short fight but Jin hooked up again and landed a nice chrome steelie.
I also got into a few fish but could not get a good hookset on them so they pulled off after a few seconds on the line. I was also very dumb--after having a hook partially straighten on a fish I bent it back into shape but I was thinking all the time that I should cut it off and put a fresh fly on the line. But what the heck...I figured I'd drift it a few more times then change it. Wrong move. I hooked up with a nice salmon on the second drift and after a brief fight it straightened the hook. My fault. A very stupid move on my part for not switching out a flawed lure when I had the chance.

Greg tied on a salmon fly and we hunted for some big ones coming up the DSR. I hooked a few but the hookset was not firm and the fish pulled off. Greg said the jaws of the salmon are changing as they come upriver to spawn, becoming harder and longer with a pronounced hook beak and teeth so I needed to really bear down on the take and stick it to the fish hard to drive the hook home.

Jin caught another steelie in a nice deep hole he staked out upriver from where Greg and I were fishing. Greg moved up to help Jin, who was running upriver with some hot chrome on the end of his line. In the meantime I decided to also move up and poach at Jin's spot. After two casts I had my own steelhead and an answer to a question I asked Greg earlier--would a steelhead eat a salmon fly.

Rain began to fall in the afternoon and continued through the night. The following morning the flow had risen to 185 cfs with overcast skies and cooler temperatures.

Fishing was slow. Greg brought a couple of extra rods so we wouldn't have to switch leaders back and forth when fishing for salmon or steelhead. There were a lot of other fisherpeople on the river but not many were seeing any action. Greg took us to one of the runs and positioned me for a shot at a salmon. He pointed out that the fishermen downstream of us were standing in one of the salmon runs and that diverted the salmon up our way. Sure enough, a big one soon showed up and after many casts I had a firm hookup.

It was like fighting a bus. All you could do was hang on and try to keep the fish away from snags and rocks. After a five minute fight Greg netted the fish and I had a decent salmon.

December 16, 2006
It was a cool and overcast day with water running clear at 1600 cfm. Guide Greg Liu would pick a spot for us to fish and we'd put some drifts through the runs then move to fish another area.

This was the first time I waded fast water and it was a challenge. A good wading staff was essential gear and Greg told me if I fall in, drop everything EXCEPT the staff. Without it you're in trouble. Greg and Jin were experienced with this sort of wading and they made sure I didn't get dunked. But for sure footing in fast water you can't beat lots of spikes on the bottom of your shoes. I have dual purpose wading shoes...felt soles with some spikes. The best combination for wading this type of river would be a shoe with no felt soles and lots of steel spikes, something like Korkers, Chota or Simms spike-bottom shoes.

We fished a few other spots as we made our way down river and around mid-morning I got a solid hit on an apricot-colored egg fly.

The fish hit as the drift was ending but as the line went zinging through the guides, a loop of got tangled around between the reel foot and rod handle. It's amazing how quickly, and how tightly, the line can move and get cinched down when there's a big fish on the other end. I pulled on the line to get some slack so I could clear the reel but the fish would not cooperate. It put a pretty good bend on the rod and was jumping in mid-river but I finally managed to get some line in and untangle the mess.

I fought the fish for a few minutes while Greg told me where to step as we backed out of the river towards shore so we could follow the fish on dry land. However when the steelhead hit a line of rapids it pulled off. Checking the hook I saw that the shank was slightly bent and this probably occured when the line was hung up on the reel.

I had one other strike later in the day but it was not on very long and the fly wound up in a tree branch over my head. I left Pulaski to return to Virginia that evening but Jin stayed for another day and had better luck, going three for four with his largest fish at 12 pounds and the next one in at around 8 pounds.

October 20-22, 2006
I pulled in this steelhead on a 9'6" 7wt at the 'Trash Compactor' on the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York. Guide Jeremy Garnish (above, left) set us up to drift egg patterns through a likely holding spot for steelhead and about an hour later I was rewarded with the sight of my indicator disappearing underwater and the sound of line being quickly pulled off the reel. I was into my backing in seconds but after a few runs and jumps we brought the fish to net, snapped a few pictures, and released it back into the river.
We fished various spots along the river for the next three days. Lake effect snow and high water were some of the obstacles we had to deal with, but everyone caught fish. The Lower Fly Zone was crowded in the afternoon but that was to be expected for this time of the season.

On the last day I decided to try for a salmon with my 9wt. Jeremy worked with me and we got a big one to take an egg fly. I thought I could handle it but once that fish hit the current and took off downstream all I could do was hang on. We went back and forth for a few minutes but I put too much pressure on him and he broke off. Oh well, next year!