H: Just returned from my first steelhead trip on the Salmon river in Pulaski, NY. I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard so many horror stories, seen pictures and videos of anglers elbow-to-elbow on the river... I expected my experience to be marred by horribly crowded conditions and rude anglers. But somehow expecting the worst, yet hoping for the best, resulted in a great trip! I caught some beautiful steelheed, enjoyed the cameraderie of fellow Juliana's Anglers, Shannon Brightman and Kathleen Clayton, and made some new friends on a lovely river that I hope to fish again very soon.
We arrived late Friday afternoon and settled into the 1880 House, our home for the next few days. Linda Tarbox, the owner, her daughter Dawn, and granddaughter Hannah, are the nicest of people and made us feel very welcome. Later that evening, as we walked back from dinner at the River House, I was shivering in my usually warm and toasty down coat. I started to worry about how I would handle the cold temperatures on the river the following morning.
Got up around 5:40 Saturday morning, after Shannon and KC left to meet their guide. The two of them were floating the Salmon river with Paul Conklin. After donning every warm layer I had brought with me (5 on top, 3 on the bottom, plus waders), I met my guide, Lou Guerrieri (Linda's recommendation), and we drove to the Douglaston Salmon Run. Lou had forewarned me that it would be a good hike down to the pool we'd be fishing. It was chilly (high 30s) but not nearly as cold as I had feared. Still, I relished the thought of warming up with a brisk hike.
We parked in the DSR lot and Lou started assembling his gear. He grabbed a portable folding chair from the back of his SUV and began to strap it to a large, heavy-looking backpack. I was concerned he might have a hard time carrying everything down, so I said, "Lou, there's no need for you to bring a chair for me. I can sit anywhere." He replied somewhat sheepishly, "Actually, the chair is for me. I have a bad back..." I chuckled at my wrongful assumption and we began our hike to the Salmon river.
I never heard the starting pistol but clearly the race was on, as every angler in the lot rushed down to claim the best spots on the river. Lou is no spring chicken and years of smoking has taken its toll on his health and fitness. Hunched over with the huge pack and chair strapped on this back, he reminded me of a giant tortoise, slowly but steadily walking the trail. I stepped aside numerous times to let other anglers pass by (slow and steady wins the race... ;). We talked most of the way down and I knew right away that we'd get along. Lou is a direct, no nonsense guy with a quick sense of humor.
20 mins. later we arrived at the Meadow. It was already filled with 8-9 anglers. Fortunately, Lou knew a contingent of them, a group of 5 italian gentlemen from Montreal and Miami: Pietro, Nuncio, Fabio, Claudio... They were old clients of his who he'd become friends with over the years and they had claimed a prime stretch of the pool. I was pleased to see several of them fishing with two-handed rods. Lou spoke with a couple of them and they shifted positions to make room for me. It took a while for me to feel comfortable casting in such close quarters with anglers above, below, and directly across from me.
|6 pounds of fresh chrome from Lake Ontario.|
We stayed at the Meadow all day. I didn't really mind. It seemed an ideal ambush spot for fresh steel entering the river despite my seeing only 6 other hook-ups all day. Later on, I played another steelhead, this one hooked on a silver doctor fly. It took me into my backing as I walked down river after it. I knew immediately that this one was big brother/sister to the first. Unfortunately, it resulted in a SDR (short distance release), about 10 feet from Lou's net. I rushed it, lost focus for a moment, and the hook came out. Lou said it was about twice the size of my first fish.
After making over 200 casts and swinging at least 15 different flies, I was done. Plus, I looked forward to sharing some good river stories with the girls. Thank you Lou (and Team Italia) for a very enjoyable day on the river!
I returned to find Shannon taking a well deserved nap. KC had apparently gone back to the river for round 2. I was disappointed to hear that neither of them had caught a fish and that there had been some miscommunication with Paul about needing our car as a shuttle. Hence, their trip had been cut a bit short. Plus, they had nymphed all day (not exactly my idea of fun ;). Dinner that night at the 1880 House was a veritable feast—some of the tastiest prime rib I've ever had—along with great company from fellow anglers staying at the inn. I went to bed completely stuffed, exhausted, and dreamt of steel :).
|Shannon and Paul (our guide and taxi driver ;).|
|The new Mistress of Spey, Shannon Brightman.|
Paul came down with his net and we walked down river in pursuit. My amazing steelhead jumped at least 5-6 times for me. Everytime he jumped, my heart jumped, too! He displayed some serious acrobatic prowess. I found myself cheering for him like a fan. Woo hoo!!! Paul gave me a few funny looks after that ;). Memories of yesterday's SDR fish prompted me to take my time with this one. I was completely focused yet surprisingly relaxed. Somehow, I knew I was going to land him. Besides the physical fly line connecting us, I felt a strange bond with this fish. Can't explain it... About 20 mins. later, I maneuvered him into Paul's net. (Just writing about this makes me smile! :)
|13 pounds of pure fun! My handsome 34-inch Salmon river steelhead buck.|
I don't think anything could have ruined that day on the river for me, not even the smell of death all around me (the putrid stench of decomposing salmon). Perhaps if I'd been elbow-to-elbow with rude anglers... But then, I would have just left for another stretch of river. Thank you Paul, Shannon, and my magnificent steelhead! It's funny how a day on the river and a couple of beautiful fish can make everything seem right for a moment in time.