January 13, 2012 in What's Happening
I’m sure most people have either fished or heard of the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. If you have, then you have heard about the crowds, “the combat” fishing, the weather, and all of the problems that the river has. For those reasons, the Salmon River gets a bad rap? What gets lost in all of this is just how incredible this fishery really is.
Yes, the fall salmon run is crazy. Thousands of people flock to the river in pursuit of large King salmon, Cohos and hopefully a beautiful lake run brown trout or bright chrome steelhead. It seems at times almost impossible the fish can even make it the 13 or so miles from the mouth of the lake to the hatchery. But somehow they do. It is these two months that over shadow the rest of the year. As November approaches, temperatures drop, hunting season in the area opens and the snow begins to fall. Leaving the river only to the diehard fisherman who refuse to sit at home and daydream of a fish on the line.
Winter seems to engulf this area. Lake effect storms can dump feet of snow in a day. Interestingly enough, because of the lake effect snow bans you could be standing in the river getting 2-3inches but get in your car and drive north or south a few miles and there will be a foot!! This makes not only the fishing difficult, but often makes just getting there an experience. Route 81, a major road that leads to Pulaski, closes at certain sections several times a year due to the snow. Ever wonder what causes lake effect snow?
Now I know most of you who haven’t fished here are wondering “why in the hell would anyone subject themselves to that”? Well, it’s easy. Steelhead! Big Steelhead! Winter is the time of year that the crowds disappear and you can walk and fish several areas of the river and only see a few drift boats and diehard anglers. Not many people want to brave the weather or risk being stuck in upstate NY during a storm. But if you do, the rewards can be great.
The fishing this time of year is all nymphing. The most popular techniques are fishing strike indicators or adding weight and slowly bouncing small egg flies or nymphs along the bottom. The takes are subtle and many times are missed. Fishing strike indicators will help tremendously. When hooked this time of year the fight can very. If the weather is on the warm side, above freezing, then the fish usually jump and will make some nice runs. If super cold they lay low and dog you. However, this is still a nice fight, usually because the fish average 6 – 10lbs.
Timing is also important and keeping in touch with what is going on up there is a must. Steelhead will run several times throughout the winter. When they start, the Douglaston Salmon run is the place to be. http://www.douglastonsalmonrun.com/ This is the first real section of fishable water the fish run through. There is a cost to fish there but it is well worth it during a run. I frequently check the site on what is going on.
If you don’t hit a fresh run of there is still a ton of access along the rest of the river. The “popular spots” like the lower fly zone will always have a few anglers but along Rt. 13 you will find several access spots. Don’t be afraid to explore the river. You will not only be amazed at the beauty of this river but also how much fishable water there is. I also recommend hiring a guide if you have never fished there before. This river can be dangerous at certain water levels and with the right guide you will learn a ton! Here is a link to the water levels of the river
Winter fishing can be difficult but if you are prepared it’s a blast and I guarantee you will have a story or two to tell our friends when you get back!
Handling a fish in the winter
I know and understand the people want pictures of their fish, but in the winter it is very important to handle the fish correctly. If temperatures are below freezing try not to take the fish out of the water. Its gills can freeze with the cold. If you want a photo, then keep the fish in the water until the cameraman is ready. Lift the fish out, take the photo and get him back in with in seconds. Only take one photo each time you lift it out. This will ensure a safe release
Dress for the weather
Dressing warm and protecting your self is a must during the winter. Many days your guides will be frozen and so will you if you’re not careful. Start with good insulated underwear. From there layering is key. Remember if you are to hot you can always take it off. Wear a warm hat and neck gator is also a good idea. Your feet will be the hardest thing to keep warm. Some people wear insulated boot foot waders this time of year and that is a good idea. But if you are going to hike long distances you are going to want the support of stocking foot waders with boots you can lace up. I have two pairs of wading boots. One size that fits perfect and another one size bigger for the cold weather. This allows me to wear heavier thicker socks. Here are a couple other things to think about.
- studs or korkers
- fingerless gloves
- fleece hand warmer, its what quarterbacks use around their waist
this to me is an essential as after releasing a fish it will warm your hands up quick!
- Hand warmers – these can be found anywhere, just shack then and the stay
warm all day.
- 6 or 7wt rods are the rods of choice this time of year. Floating lines, long leaders and light tippet. Flourocarbon is recommended. Strike indicators are always good to have. Tin split shots or flies with tungsten beads are advised as led is no longer sold in NY. Having an assortment of flies is a good idea. Most veterans of the Salmon river will tell you that changing your that changing your fly often will lead to more hook ups. It seems one minute the steelhead key on pink estaz, then an hour later its blue, and then they want small nymphs. So keep changing it up. Last would be a net. Having a good net will not only help landing these fish but it will keep your hands out of the water and much warmer.