My fishing buddy had never seen the Salmon River in New York in mid-October, so we drove up and looked off the bridges at the zoo-like scenes at Altmar and Pulaski. The fishing was shoulder-to-shoulder in the usual spots. We saw plenty of large, dark king salmon being dragged in on fly and spin rods — most hooked in fins. At the public access closest to the estuary, we saw a few beautiful steelhead on stringers.
But you don’t always have to fish in a mob, even on the Salmon River. It helped that it was Sunday and many anglers packed up and left at lunchtime, which was when we started. We waded into a pretty stretch just above town where only a few people were fishing and proceeded to catch nothing all afternoon. The bright, sunny weather turned Central New York snotty — dark, windy & spitting occasional rain.
Finally, late in the afternoon, we started casting to a small pod of big kings that were cavorting in shallow water. Yes, this may have been some kind of spawning activity, and I feel a little guilty about pestering them, especially since wild king salmon are becoming very well established on the Salmon River. But the kings were too preoccupied to even notice our flies swimming around.
Then we both thought we saw a flash of a brighter fish alongside the ruckus. Hoping a steelhead had come to peek in on the freaky kings, my buddy cast and the fish took his fly on the second pass. Turned out it was a jack, a small king that had come upriver a year or two ahead of schedule. This fish, like the next four we caught, put up a wild fight, charging down a shallow side channel, pulling, running and even leaping now and then. My partner used streamers, I used Sucker Spawn (with no shot), and the jacks readily grabbed them both. Our 12-pound fluoro generally held and we picked most of them up.
Next month, steelhead.