Oswego County, New York, November 15-16, 2008
"There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like and idiot." --Steven Wright

Heavy rain, plunging temperatures, wind, possible sleet and snow. Perfect steelhead weather.

A light drizzle was falling Friday evening as Jin and I pulled off I-81 and into the hotel parking lot. We quickly unpacked, laid out gear and grabbed some sleep because we had to meet guide
Greg Liu at Whitakers fly shop at 6:30am on Saturday.
The morning sky was overcast and a light mist was blowing. It was cold. After gearing up at the shop we followed Greg through downtown Pulaski to the Douglaston Salmon Run. There was already a number of anglers in the parking lot in various stages of preparation but not in the numbers usually found on the water when big salmon were making their annual run upstream. We quickly grabbed our stuff and moved off to catch some steel.

Greg set us up in two slots and we began fishing. I was using Jin's switch rod, which at 11-feet was quite a bit of stick to be waving around. He strongly suggested I use it instead of my 9-foot 6-inch rod because the water was running higher and faster than in October and I would need something with a bit more length to move line out to the more distant seams. This was the first time I used this type of rod so it was learn as you fish. Somehow I managed to get line out and onto the water in the right place or at least close enough to it to hook fish. But the first thing I noticed about the rod was the ease of moving lots of line with very little effort. You could easily cast and mend long lengths of line and really extend your drift.
Jin was using a spey rod and Greg took him out midstream to work a slot. On Jin's second cast it was fish on. We had only been fishing for five minutes. They gave chase downstream and soon brought a very nice steelie to net. After the customary pictures they geared up and moved back to the slot and another cast later it was another fish on! It looked like there was going to be a high fin count.

But as the sun began to burn through the haze hanging over the river the bite suddenly stopped and it became very quiet. We varied our casts and switched out flies but soon we could see other anglers begin to move around to find fish and after awhile we joined them in the hunt.
The rain really began to pelt down and we stopped to fish at several locations. Greg would set us up and point out the pockets we needed to cover with our casts. I picked up a nice fish and lost a few to poor hooksets. Jin did pretty well too, landing steelhead and several brown trout.
During our lunch break Greg showed us a new toy--a gas burner he uses to heat up water. He prepared an instant noodle lunch to go along with the turkey and ham sandwiches. With rain beating down on us and the cold wind blowing, something hot to eat was heavenly.

The rain was coming down steadily as we continued the steelhead hunt further downstream. Greg set Jin up at a spot in the middle of the river then took me about 100-yards further up to a deep seam and told me to work the calmer water just outside a line of waves breaking over some boulders.
After I was settled in he told me he was going back to stand with Jin because if I caught anything, I would soon be downstream with them anyway. He was right.

I started casting in close and gradually moving further out. After 20 minutes of casting the indicator suddenly dipped below the surface and I pulled back hard on the rod. At first I thought I snagged a log but then I felt the shake of a fish on the other end. Suddenly a steelhead erupted from the water, cartwheeled then headed downstream straight for Greg and Jin pulling line and backing as the reel drag buzzed.
I had the rod with an angry fish on the other end in one hand and a wading staff in the other as I moved slowly towards the bank and out of the main current. I was calling to Greg and Jin, but they couldn't hear me over the roar of the river. The fish jumped several times as it continued to run and I figured from one of the jumps that there was at least 80-yards of line out. Greg finally heard me and yelled instructions, telling me what to do to get that fish turned towards his net. After a few shorter runs all the line was back on the reel and the fish was in the net.

We called it a day and grabbed a quick dinner at the
River House Restaurant before returning to the hotel to dry off gear and get ready for the next day.
I knew it would be bad when I looked out the window the following morning at 5:30am and saw sheets of rain coming down. Well, at least it wasn't snow. Yet.

We set up on the Douglaston again but unlike the previous day the temperature was plunging and the wind was blowing. Casting was tough and some of those wind gusts picked line up off the water as I was setting up for a cast and blew it back onto me. But we made a go of it and fished hard. I got one hit as the fly was rising off the bottom after ending the drift and saw the silver flash as the fish slashed at the fly. Then I discovered the true cause for the bad weather and slow fishing. Jin brought a banana onto the river!
Never, never, never bring bananas fishing. Ever. Bad mojo. I grew up in Hawaii and learned at an early age that bananas were not welcome wherever anglers wet a line. Greg, who has fished and guided around the world and is wise beyond his years, nodded his head slowly and quickly concluded that this fruit was indeed the cause of the bad weather and slow fishing. But Jin didn't believe in the power of the banana so this caused him to miss landing TWO nice steelhead in the next few hours.

After a quick lunch we continued to walk the river, looking for fish. The weather wasn't getting any better and sleet mixed with snow was starting to fall. We called it a day around 2:45pm and headed back to Whitakers to warm up, change into dry clothing, play with the dogs, drink hot coffee and eat doughnuts before hitting the road for home.

EQUIPMENT: We used 7 and 8-weight switch and spey rods. Boots with cleats and a wading staff are mandatory for navigating the Salmon River. Also thermal layers, gloves and a good, waterproof, breathable rain jacket.