We brought home a skunk. The Salmon River trip was fun, but the only fish we brought to hand were two tiny brown trout, about 3 inches long. I'll get to that in a minute. (By the way, this is pretty much a post about me complaining so it won't hurt my feelings if you close the browser right now)
We got to Altmar around 1pm and noticed it was relatively dead. That place is always packed so that was a little scary. I didn't see one person from Schoolhouse down to the Wire hole. Odd. We decided to hit up Melinda's fly shop to get the scoop on conditions. She told us that the rush of warm weather caused a ton of runoff to hit the water, which unfortunately meant really cold water temps and fish that weren't budging. We did notice that once we hit Cortland, there was still patches of snow on the ground around the dense forests. It became more predominant as we drove north, and was apparently melting fast and making for poor fishing conditions. The river was running around 1200, which is high comparing to some of the winter flows, but nothing compared to the 20,000 we hit during the flood last fall.
We worked our way down about 2 miles from Altmar and stopped right before we started to get in to Ellis Cove. We had a few taps along some gravel bars, but nothing to write home about. I hooked up once on a black stone at the downed tree past the Wires, but that didn't last too long. He spit the hook. Right after that happened some guy walked in immediately downstream from me, made 2 casts, and landed two 8 lb. steelhead on green eggs. Luck of the draw I guess...
We fished until about 6pm and then decided to head to the trailer to unpack. On our way back up to the car, we crossed a little spring creek that feeds in to the Salmon River. I had noticed that there were some size 16 (yes, 16! seems huge to me compared to what we get around here) midges flying around, and when started to cross the creek, I saw hundreds of small fish jumping out of the water and gorging themselves on them. It was so cool to watch them clear the water chasing these bugs that I had to bend down in the stream and get it on video.
I had a size 22 BWO in my magnetic fly drying box and some 7x tippet, so I decided to see if they'd take the fly, just to really see what the hell they were. They were definitely small browns. I caught two in two casts and they would be the only thing's I'd land all weekend. They were beautiful. Look at those marks on the side of them!
We headed back to the trailer, unpacked, and then hit some local redneck bar for some sub-par food. We came back, tied up a dozen flies, and crashed out sometime before midnight.
We were up at 5am and on the water by 6:40am. We decided to hit the upper fly stretch. I've never fished this water and when I got there I could have kicked myself for not checking it out before. It was gorgeous! The only problem was, there was no way in hell we were crossing it. The runoff had it raging.
I started working this deep plunge pool in front of a rock cliff. Jack decided to head downstream and hit a run under some low hanging branches. I connected with about a 9 lb fish on my 4th cast. He took a size 12 rubber leg stonefly with pink ribbing that I tied the night before. I worked him for about a minute or so and then he got out in the main current and I knew I was doomed. Yep, he was gone ten seconds later.
We both headed downstream and found a really nice gravel bar with a nice long deep run that we knew were holding fish. The problem there was, everyone else knew it was holding fish. We squeezed in where we could, in spots that most likely didn't contain fish, or were snag central. I wound up losing about 25 flies there.
I walked downstream a little more to shake off my frustration and there it was. The salmon shrine from my earlier post. It was sick and twisted, but I have to admit, it was also somewhat funny.
If you've ever fished this river after the salmon are done spawning, you'll spend your day stepping over carcasses, or dodging half-dead zombified 40 lb kings who are swimming sideways and bashing in to you, almost knocking you down into the drink. They smell awful, and creep you out. You'll be standing on the side of the river talking or rerigging and one will just beach itself right in front of you and start flipping out. It gets annoying, and even after you unpack, your car smells like rotting salmon for about a week. The funny part of this was that as people were walking by it, they kept leaving a fly in it's mouth. When I walked by on Sunday before we left, his mouth was a virtual tackle box.
I caught up with Jack and we headed back up because we saw people leaving. Jack got a spot in some prime water. There was a nice 20 foot gravel bar that you just knew the steelhead were going to spawn on, surrounded by some really deep water where they were waiting. He hooked in to a nice colored up hen that was about 10 lbs easy. He connected to her on a woolly bugger, fought her for a good two minutes, and she finally threw the hook.
It then slowed down so we headed back down to Altmar. It was just ridiculous. The spin fisherman were out in full force, complete with their skin tight Cabelas camouflage waders, giant pickup trucks with the ducks unlimited bumper sticker, 8 foot ugly stick rods, cheap beer, and pink Berkley power worms. The thing that annoyed me the most was that half of them were dragging a giant steelhead on a stringer that was most of the time still alive. I don't like when people keep beautiful fish like that, but if they do, they should at least put it out of it's misery.
After that spectacle, and a slowdown on the bite, we decided that we had nothing to lose by hitting the tribs. We headed out towards the lake and hiked the Grindstone. Jack brought a small trout up to his feet which then broke off. I started hiking upstream around beaver dams, seeing an occasional steelhead hugging a log. The problem was that these streams were only about 8-12 feet wide at the most, and crystal clear. The second the fish saw you, they were gone. I did see some crazy huge sculpins though.
We then hit up Sage creek, which is a tiny spring creek that runs in to Lake Ontario near the town of Mexico. This thing was even small than the Grindstone, but really fun. We found a really deep narrow pool under a bridge that we could see fish swimming around in. Jack finally hooked in to a 2 foot steelhead on a black bugger, which once again threw the hook.
We headed back to the trailer, and our gracious hosts prepared a very nice steak dinner for us, which was much appreciated after two days of nothing but McDonald's, BK, and Arbys. I don't think I've ever been so tired in my whole life. I was out cold by 10:30 and slept until about 6am. It felt awesome.
We packed up so we could hit the road right after fishing. We headed back to the upper fly stretch and there were even more people than yesterday. The good thing was, we did get some good spots and around 9am, the bite picked up. Jack gave me this bugger he tied with a deer hair tail, which got me into a fish for about a minute before it ran upstream and spit the fly. A few guys around me hooked up at about the same time and one landed his fish.
I then proceeded to literally lose 15 flies in the next hour. It was trees, rocks, breaking off fish in a 5 second fight. You name it. If it's a way to lose a fly, I did it. My box was looking empty.
We then hit up Ellis Cove for a few hours. It was starting to warm up, and I think the runoff was finally starting to die down, because people were really starting to hit fish. It was crowded so we fished a little too far upstream and only had a few taps. It then started to rain so we packed it in around 2pm.
All in all, I had fun, but goddammit, I wish I landed at least one. I'll be back with a vengeance soon enough, I'm sure.
Thanks to the Lutz family over at Jon's Little Salmon Tackle for being such awesome hosts and putting up with us. If you ever need some great lake fishing supplies, Jon is definitely the man to see. He has more trolling gear that I've ever seen in one place!
I was so happy to see my family when I finally got home 5 hours later. My son greeted me with an Easter egg he painted himself, and I noticed a few packages for me.
Feathercraft finally sent me the dubbing dispenser that was back-ordered, and I got a care package from Rip Lips Fishing containing four 100 packs of tungsten beads! I have some nymphs to tie! If you need tungsten, you should check them out. 100 packs of tungsten beads in all kinds of sizes and colors are only 12.99 each. Tell them I sent ya! Thanks to Ethan for the hookup!
Well, if you made it through this post, I'm impressed. Thanks. I'm off to slam a beer and hit the sack.