Pulaski, New York, November 14-16, 2009
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The Fall fishing frenzy on the Salmon River was over. The decomposing carcasses of spawned out fish lay in the quiet eddies, salmon driven to exhaustion and eventual death by their mad dash upriver to fulfill a primal mission to ensure the survival of their species. But we weren't here for salmon. It's steelhead season.
Jin and I met Salmon River guide and spey casting instructor Greg Liu early Saturday morning at Whitakers Fly Shop where we quickly geared up and soon found ourselves standing in knee deep water on the Douglaston Salmon Run.

The weather was unusually warm and the water unusually low. Air temperature was in the high 40's to mid-50's and the river was running about 338 cfs at a balmy 48 degrees. Low, clear water.

Jin was swinging a
spey rod and I used a 10-foot 7-weight one hand stick. Throughout the three-day fishing period Greg would vary the terminal tackle setup on the rods depending on the type of water we were fishing. We would fish indicators in some areas, bottom-bounce on a tight line in others or swing tube flies and large nymphs. It all depended on what the water was doing at that particular time.
Because the weather was so nice, there were lots of other anglers roaming the water along the Douglaston but Greg got us to a few very productive slots and Jin pulled out a couple of very nice steelies. However my luck was lagging. I got a few tentative takes and a couple of reel-screaming runs down the DSR but nothing substantial stuck around for the net. Most of the action seemed to come early in the morning and later in the afternoon.
Because the action of the Douglaston was slow, Greg decided to leave and break for lunch on the porch at Whitakers then try a few spots along the Salmon River. We fished, but it was slow and that was the norm everywhere we went.

After Greg left us for the day Jin and I decided to drive down to Altmar to check out the action on a narrow stretch of the river known as the 'unemployment line'. It's located just 30 yards from the main parking lot below the Altmar bridge ans as usual it was packed with anglers.

This section of the Salmon River narrows considerably and the fish are forced to run a gauntlet of line and hooks as they make their way upriver. Anglers lined both sides of the bank and were set up on every deep run, casting for steel. Standing on the bridge and looking down into the river you could see fish swimming up the river--resting behind boulders then advancing a few feet in short, powerful dashes. But we saw very few hookups while we were there.
It was even warmer on Sunday and we started off well with Jin hooking into several steelhead, including one hot ass-kicking fish that ripped his line in a shower of spray across the opposite shore of the DSR and around several boulders before breaking off. But his luck continued to hold and he hooked and landed a couple of nice fish, including a big brown, before the day was over.
Monday was chilly. Although it was supposed to be just a degree or two cooler, it was damn cold if you stood in the shade and had there was a breeze blowing. We started off near our usual spot on the DSR and in about an hour Jin landed his first fish of the day, a very hefty steelhead. I had takes but there was still a large goose egg following me around the river. But that's steelhead fishing, where a good day is one or two fish landed and an exceptional day is four to five fish in the net. But at least you're swinging a stick on a beautiful river and not stuck in a mind-numbing meeting crunching numbers while staring at the doughnut crumbs stuck in a cube-denizen's beard.

Towards the afternoon Greg moved us further upriver and we fished near one of the many islands that dot the Douglaston and it was here that I finally got rid of the bad mojo by sticking and landing a nice brown trout that was decked out in spawning color.
We moved again and I was set up to fish a very deep run. I was drifting an egg pattern and as I was stripping line back through slow water for another cast I got a savage strike that broke the fly off. Jin was fishing above me and he also got a couple of strikes but we really couldn't get anyone in the mood to play so as the sun began to go down and it started to get really cold we called it a day and headed for home.

EQUIPMENT: We used 7 and 8-weight fly and spey rods with floating lines. Breathable waders with rubber soled boots studded with steel cleats and a wading staff are mandatory for navigating the Salmon River but the flow was low and wading wasn't a problem. Also thermal layers, sun glasses, gloves and a good, waterproof, breathable rain jacket and cap.