Pulaski, New York, November 2-4, 2018
I knew it was going to be ugly—after nearly two weeks of rain the Salmon River in Pulaski, N.Y., was running high and fast. The river did not disappoint.

Greg Liu and I stepped into the river and immediately I felt the 1600-plus fps of pressure against my legs. We did not wade very far from the bank and any attempt at crossing the river was out of the question.

Greg set me up with a modest indicator and a length of leader with a Mop Fly tied on the end. Four split shot were crimped on just above a small swivel. With water moving this fast you needed everything to straighten out quickly after the cast or you’re just wasting your time.
I was using an Airflo Speydicator line but was struggling with all the weight. Greg handed me another rod outfitted with a Rio Switch Chucker line and this did the trick—the huge Skagit head pulled everything out of the water and made casting all the line ornaments much easier for me. However I did notice that it was easier to mend line with the Speydicator’s longer belly than the thinner running line that followed the Chucker’s head.

We fished hard and moved to fish different areas on the Douglaston Salmon Run but at the end of the day I had no takers.

Jin joined us the next day but a weather front had moved in. In the morning we hiked down the muddy forest trail as rain drops rolling off the trees spattered on our rain jackets. The river flow had gone up a bit more overnight but now we also had to contend with the wind.

It wasn’t that bad in the morning, but as the sun climbed so did the wind. Casting wasn’t too difficult yet, but the Fall leaves were being blown off the trees and the Salmon River was soon filled with them. When this happens the fish will hug the bottom, a natural reaction when you see hundreds of objects coming fast at you as you’re trying to swim upriver. And in this mess the chance of a steelhead seeing your fly goes down.

We fished hard. After lunch we drove to the opposite side of the river and continued to fish. I stuck with the indicator but switched to an egg pattern while Jin, with two rods, alternated between swinging a weighted nymph or using an indicator rig.

In the late afternoon I spoke with Matt, a patrolling Douglaston river keeper. He told me I was fishing in a pretty good high-water spot but overall the fishing was slow. He told me that only ONE angler on the river had hooked and landed A FISH for the entire day. He also told me he hooked it right up against the bank at the spot we were fishing in the morning.

The wind finally got to us and we called it a day. We made it off the river just as a slushy snow mix began to pelt down.
Blue sky and warm weather greeted us the next day but the water was still running high. The good news—no wind and nearly all the floating and suspended leaves had cleared out. But it was still pretty tough fishing.

We moved around a lot and tried different locations. Again, we fished both sides of the river (no wading) but the fish had lock-jaw. Again, after speaking with a patrolling DSR river keeper, only one angler had caught a steelhead for the entire day. But that’s fishing. Nobody promises you a fish. You just have to fish hard and hope for the best.

DIRECTIONS: Fly into the recently renovated Syracuse Hancock International Airport in New York or, from Virginia, just get on I-81 for a seven hour drive north to Pulaski, which is about 30 minutes outside of Syracuse. Our fly shop of choice is Whitaker’s, about a quarter mile to the right of the freeway exit.

We used single-hand switch rods and two-hand spey rods with steelhead, skagit or mid-belly lines, sink tips, indicators, split shot, heavy leaders and a variety of egg patterns, streamers, and nymphs from size 2 to 12 to drift or swing through possible holding areas on the fast moving river.