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Will Wetline

2018 Salmon River (NY) Steelhead Trip

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Here's a view looking out the back at Mud Creek Lodge, one of six properties owned by the Douglaston Salmon Run. It's a short drive from there to a DSR parking area and river access.

 

It was great fishing weather during our time at the river, October 22 - 26: mostly cloudy, a few hours of sun, a few of rain. Calm conditions to moderately breezy. Air temps ranged from just below freezing to the low 50ºs. Water temps were in the mid to high 40ºs.

 

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L - R: Aaron Muller, Aaron Holmes and Don Muller form a receiving line to greet steelhead coming in from Lake Ontario. They're dead drifting, (bottom bouncing or high sticking if you prefer these terms), egg pattern flies, size 10, 2X strong.

 

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If a fish blew the pool we'd cautiously chase it into the stretch you see in the photo. Understand that a steelhead of any size, say 5 lbs. and up, is gonna go wherever it feels like going. These fish are the fastest in freshwater and also the most unpredictable. A good example from this year's trip is the one that, immediately after the hookset, thrashed the surface and then went . . . where? Reeling quickly, I caught up with it as it headed upstream between me and the bank. It then zipped 360º around me and continued its upstream journey. Truly an astonishing maneuver which I followed awkwardly, negotiating the rocky bottom in cleated boots.

 

Let's look at a few fish now:

 

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Cold-looking Don holds a steelhead recently arrived from the big lake. The chrome coloration changes to rainbow trout with time in the river. They're at their peak of power and speed now. This drops off as the river gets colder. On a December trip a few years back, a veteran steelheader referred to their behavior as "lethargic," which still breaks me up. Lethargic compared only to their chrome capabilities!

 

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A smiling Aaron Muller displays this chunky fish for a photo op. Aaron had a difficult week due to tackle problems but kept at it. Good thing for the steelhead he wasn't his usual dangerous self.

 

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Aaron Holmes, the first Aaron's fishing buddy since college days, came all the way from Seattle. Thoughts of steelhead took over his brain (as they do to all fishermen who've had one on) on his first trip in 2011. I'm waiting for a photo of Holmes' best-of-trip, a 15 lber. 

 

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"Pleased to meet you!" said I. Don't mean to disparage the medium sized steelies I brought to net, but I couldn't beat a big one on this trip. There was one that weighed in the mid teens that taunted me by clearing the water - twice! - right in front of me then turned around, sped downstream, and broke me off. Aargh.

 

Let's talk about other species that swim in the Salmon River.

 

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Don holds a fine specimen of a domestic rainbow, a close relative of the steelhead. However, the 'bow is a homebody - it lives its entire life in the river, never venturing out into Lake Ontario.

 

Don's next fish was a brown of about 9 lbs. that was so lively it wouldn't keep still for a picture. Take my word, it was a beautiful, plump brown as they are in these parts.

 

It was an unusual year for salmon. In the past we've seen a number of "zombies" - dark, decaying creatures at the end of their life cycle. Six or seven years ago I landed a "green" salmon over 20 lbs. which is a king that's colored up but not yet decaying. 

 

This year we got into quite a few "fresh" salmon. These fish were golden brown colored, spotted, and too big and powerful for our steelhead gear. We did have a better chance of stopping one of these monsters than a freight train but . . . 

 

To summarize: We hit it just right this year. River flow was 335 cfs which is what we prefer. The weather was great. And the crazed chromers kept us busy!

 

The deposit has been made for next year's trip.

 

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Will Wetline

 

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Sweet. Sounds like you had a great trip. 

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Awesome trip!

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How can you tell the one is a "domestic rainbow"? Looks like a male that has been in the creek a while to me. Nice fish!

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On 11/10/2018 at 9:22 PM, everythingthatswims said:

How can you tell the one is a "domestic rainbow"? Looks like a male that has been in the creek a while to me. Nice fish!

I can't be absolutely sure. However, there are far more steelhead than rainbows in the river in their season and the steelhead are faster and crazier when on the line.

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awesome fish willie, saw this on the other forum. ill be there this weekend

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On 11/10/2018 at 9:22 PM, everythingthatswims said:

How can you tell the one is a "domestic rainbow"? Looks like a male that has been in the creek a while to me. Nice fish!

Agreed.  To be clear, "steelhead" and "rainbow trout" are the same species.  Steelhead venture out into the lake, and live a pelagic lifestyle, chasing alewife.  This process is called smoltification, and the physical change is caused by a diet of fish, rather than bugs.  True steelhead venture into the ocean, and return to rivers to spawn.  The Great Lakes are a suitable ocean substitute for these transplants.  As for "native" rainbows, I'm not sure there are any rivers or tribs that stay cold enough to support rainbows all year, but maybe.  All spawning males end up taking on a darker color, and a kyped jaw due to the hormonal changes spawning brings.  The changes are even more remarkable in salmon and brown trout.  I know all the tribs around me, about an hour west, are barren or even dry in the summer months, but come to life in late summer/early fall when the kings, then browns and coho begin their spawning runs. 

 

@Will Wetline those are gorgeous, dime bright fish!  I'm surprised you had as many salmon as did.  They're pretty much done in all the creeks here, though I have seen a coho or three late into winter.  Have you ever tried centrepinning?  I know it's fly only on the DSR, but we clean house upstream in public areas - Altmar, Pines, Wires, etc.  Pinning excels at targeting fish in deep holes.

 

You can see my pin reel in the pic below.  This is one of those creeks that is barren in summer months.

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7 hours ago, J Francho said:

  Have you ever tried centrepinning?  I know it's fly only on the DSR, but we clean house upstream in public areas - Altmar, Pines, Wires, etc.  Pinning excels at targeting fish in deep holes.

 

You can see my pin reel in the pic below.  This is one of those creeks that is barren in summer months.

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All the steelheaders in my group dead drift flies, mainly egg patterns but occasionally nymphs, buggers and Zonkers. I am the only one not technically fly fishing, i.e. I'm spinning with a TFO 9' 6" rod with power in the butt yet able to get adequate distance with a #5 lead shot. I much prefer it to the 10' 6" noodle rod I fished in earlier years. A Stradic 4000 with 8 lb. running line and the same test leader complete my outfit

 

I am aware of how effective pinning is but I generally get enough action with my setup to keep me amused. Thanks for mentioning this other presentation. BTW, I think egg sacs are permitted in the DSR. 

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18 hours ago, Will Wetline said:

I am aware of how effective pinning is but I generally get enough action with my setup to keep me amused.

That's what it's all about!

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