Douglaston Salmon Run, Pulaski, New York, October 24, 2015
It turned out to be a very stupid decision.

During our previous trips to the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY, to fly fish for steelhead I always carried a variety of boxes stuffed with egg patterns, nymphs and streamers in the pockets of my wading jacket. After accidentally dropping a full box in the river and watching it float away towards Lake Ontario--the water was running too high and fast to chase it--I decided this time I would only bring one medium box loaded with a selection of patterns.
Greg Liu, our guide and owner of Oswego Outfitters, usually provided flies and in past trips, if I used any personal flies, I seldom lost anything. Until today.
This year’s salmon and steelhead season was off to a slow start and Greg warned Jin, Tom and I that the fishing was going to be tough, that we were going to earn every fish we caught. Greg parked me at a spot on the river where he knew fish were going to pass during their annual migration upriver to spawn. It was in the middle of very fast and shallow water with lots of rocks and bottom obstructions. But there was a slot where, if you got the cast and drift just right, a salmon or steelhead would eat the fly.
Did I mention the rocks and obstructions? This place ate flies and leaders. I caught several salmon and steelhead but I also lost lots of flies. The one box I brought was getting pretty light, especially with pink egg flies, which the fish loved. I tried blue, yellow, cream, chartreuse and red. I drifted nymphs and buggers but the steelhead and salmon ignored everything except the pink egg flies. If it was pink, they ate it. Unfortunately I lost all the pink flies I carried to snags and was stuck with the colors I had left in the box.
I was drifting a blue Sucker Spawn through the slot when the line suddenly stopped. I set the hook. It was stuck on the bottom. I thought I just lost another fly but when I gave the line some slack and tugged everything came up off the bottom and on the fly was one of the pink patterns I had lost earlier in the day. It was time to recycle that fly!
On the third drift something crushed the fly and went airborne, slamming back into the river and taking off upstream. Steelhead. A big one. All the fly line was off the reel in seconds and the steelhead took me about 50 yards upstream before it turned and streaked back towards the lake. I passed one angler and luckily most of the area was pretty shallow so I could follow the fish. We went about 100 yards downstream before the fish jumped again then turned and surged upstream where it found a deep hole and refused to move. I pulled low and sideways, trying to move it into shallower water. It gave a little but would always pull back against the drag and return to that deep hole. However I eventually gained almost all the fly line back and was trying to maneuver the steelhead away from some large rocks and into the shallows when it took off on another short run. This time I managed to turn it and get it on its side in shallow water but twice as I approached to grab the leader it turned and ran. When I finally got the fish on its side and under control I didn’t want to mess around trying to get a photo after such a fight. I quickly laid the rod alongside, took a measurement and released it. It gave one massive flip of its tail, spraying water, and was gone. It was a decent fish.
That area remained productive for the rest of the trip and the salmon and steelhead continued to show lots of love for pink. Jin stuck and landed his steelhead in that slot and I hooked several more salmon and another steelhead there.
Tom never fished this slot but he found his own area downstream from us and caught several steelhead using nymph patterns.
Greg was right, fishing was tough. But if you paid attention to what the guide said, fished hard, and brought enough flies, it was possible to have a great time even if the fishing was slow.
DIRECTIONS: From Virginia just follow I-81 for 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, and nymphs from size 2 to 12.