Steelhead Fly Fishing on the Salmon River, New York

For some unknown reason Steelhead fishing managed to stay off my fishing To Do List, until recently. I loaded the Mariner Hybrid with my heavier Scott rods, a big net, vise, 2x heavy scud hooks and tons of egg yarn. Patagonia Capilene layers were essential to cold weather fishing along with heavy socks and micro puff clothing. Matt Devlin and I made the seven hour drive to Altmar, New York on twelve gallons of gas on Sunday November 10th.
Steel In Net
We arrived that afternoon to find 60-80 people lined elbow to elbow in the first 100 yards of river below the town bridge. I am not exaggerating, we could barely find a place to park! To say the conditions are crowded on the Salmon River is an understatement. Using my Scott E2 ten foot six weight, I had people so close below me that I could barely swing my line with little more than the leader on the water.
The Douglaston Salmon Run cost $30.00 for a day pass, and was worth the money to get some space, although we only spent half a day there out of four days fishing. Depending on your luck the fishing could be fun or frustrating and may not be for everyone. If you enjoy solitude, or are easily rattled by anglers fishing above and below, stay at home. The fly fishing stretch had fewer people not crowding as close, with some even offering to net fish. In some situations the indicator darted upriver, and the line ripped through the water with an unforgettable sound.
The Release
On our final morning a heavy lake effect snowfall began and the action got hotter as the conditions got colder. We had established ourselves the day before in a tough to wade area, and had it all to ourselves at 5:45 a.m. with some familiar faces on the far side of the river back for more action. It wasn’t long before people were yelling, “fish on” and you struggled to clear your line of a ten pound plus steelhead leaping and splashing down river like a dog swimming after a stick. The fish created a big white wake at the surface and loud splashing would snap you out of the trance of dead drifting for hours. At times as many as four fish were on the line at once in our area. Twice I hooked up and had to wait until the angler below me swung his fish into the net, so I could do the same. It was surreal to be in a snow storm around fifty other anglers on an eighth mile of river who are all willing to brave the cold, crammed conditions for these fish. At times my hands were so cold they felt painfully hot, yet digging a heavy steelhead out of the net for a photo was an exciting moment.

Bright Fish, Bright Eggs

Related Post:
Steelhead FlyFishing Video on the Salmon River, New York