Salmon River Steelhead

Fly fishing for steelhead (actually any technique) is a new me.  But with winter stretching on, one has to consider all the possibilities and since the Salmon River is relatively close to home, steelhead represented a viable option for January fishing.  With only one previous experience under my belt, my friend Bob and I decided to headed down to New York for our first fishing of 2009. It was also our first time fishing the Salmon River – lots of firsts.

Bob met me at our place and we were off by about 7 am. The weather forecast was for sunny skies and temperatures around zero. By around 9:30 and after missing the exit for Pulaski, we made it to Fat Nancy’s where we were provide with some basic information, a river map showing all the major pools and a few assorted items for catching fish.  Apparently the ticket is eggs fished just off the bottom.

Given this was all new to us, it seemed reasonable to do a bit of experimenting and check out a few different spots along the river. The decision was made to start at the lower fly fishing area. Given it was a Monday, I was a bit surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot and the number of people in the water. 10 am and we were on the water.  We fished for a while without any success other than Bob lost a fish when his leader broke. But that was at least an encouraging start.

After a bit we decided to try another spot. Crossing over the river we passed the parking lot just downstream of the fly fishing area and since it had a few vehicles in it decided to continue on. A few minutes later we came to Ellis Cove and stopped to give it a try. A couple guys were coming back to their vehicle as we got ready. They had caught a few earlier in the morning but things had slowed as the sky cleared. We did find a few other people fishing and a couple had nice steelhead to show for it.

From there we moved on to Pineville Pool where we talked to a guy from Scranton Pennsylvania. He gave us a few tips as to where the pools were but still no success. By this time it was about 1pm and we were getting cold and hungry so we decided to go look for something to eat. On our way back into Pulaski we passed Sportsman’s Pool and since the parking lot was deserted we stopped to have a look. It was a bit of a hike to the water where we found a nice long pool. A couple drift boats were anchored at the head of the pool so we figured it might be a good one to check after lunch. We got back and headed down to the water but again without success.

From there we went back to the lower fly fishing area for a bit and then decided to fish things off at the pool just downstream of the bridge. It was now busier than earlier in the afternoon but clearly people were having success. We watched one guy lose a nice steelhead and saw a few other guys with fish on stringers. Despite some pointers from a guy who was spey casting as to the location of a good slot along the far bank, I wasn’t having much success.

I was having trouble managing the weight on my line so I don’t think I was getting close enough to the bottom. Although, Bob was fishing a sinking line and wasn’t having any success either.  We ended up packing it in around 4:30 without any fish.  Although it was less than an auspicious start, it was good to get out.  The challenge of learning this type of fishing is something we will have to keep working on.

Pennsylvania Road Trip

Last week we took a few days and headed down to Pennsylvania.  We had a couple objectives in mind – to experience steelhead fishing on the Lake Erie tributaries and second, to revisit Lancaster County with its prevalent Amish traditions.

The steelhead idea was more mine but my wife humored me.   This was all new to me and since this wasn’t specifically a fishing trip, I really wanted to see things for myself and maybe experience what it was like to catch a steelhead.

Thursday morning after breakfast we headed out from Erie to explore the creeks to the west of the city.  First stop was Walnut Creek – specifically the lower portion near the lake.  Since it was still early in the season, the water was relatively low and the fish had not advanced far upstream, the fishing was concentrated in this area.  Nothing like I had experienced before but somehow people seemed to make it work.

The few holes were well fished and after watching a few steelhead landed and more than a few lost, we continued on towards Elk Creek.

It was a little calmer in this area but that might have been related to the fact that the fishing, according to some was slower on the Elk.  After making not that this might be a spot where I could elbow in, we headed off to another spot on the Elk further upstream.

This was further upstream where the fishing didn’t seem to be as heavy but as we watched several fish were caught so evidently at least some steelhead had made it this far upstream.  I made another mental note to consider this spot for myself and did return here later in the afternoon.  I was able to work myself into a spot on the pool in the last photograph alongside a guy with spinning gear who evidently new how to fish.  I watched him land three nice steelhead in fairly rapid succession.  I chose to work a streamer through the area as the local fly shop owner had indicated they were working and this was a technique I could relate to.   Probably it was luck rather than my streamer experience but eventually I did hook into a steelhead and eventually land and release him.  It was probably in the 24 inch range but what a spectular looking fish and powerful.  Although I tried, there was no repeat and as the late afternoon wore on, I was becoming acutely aware that the layers of clothing I had applied were not sufficient to hold out the cold so I packed it in with the goal of returning the following morning.

Friday morning I was up before sunrise hoping to experience the pull of another steelhead before we headed southeast to Lancaster.  I arrived at the parking spot in the dark to find at least half a dozen vehicles ahead of me and most of their occupants were gone – presumably ahead of me to the river.  Oh well – I prepared as rapidly as I could and aside from tying a fly onto my line in the receding darkness, things went pretty smoothly.  I found a spot on the water amidst several other fisherman and although I saw one hook up shortly after sunrise, things were definately slower than the day before.  Slow for me meant no hits and no fish.  The morning fishing ended early.

Friday morning we headed down to Lancaster County for a few days.  Although I managed a couple hours fishing on the Tulpehocken River Saturday morning, the rest of the trip was touring and shopping.  The Tuplehocken is an interesting river.  It was late in the season but I found trout rising to Tricos but didn’t have any success in enticing them to bite.

Lancaster County is home to a large Amish population whose lifestyle is clearly evident as you tour the rural countryside. Sunday morning we toured the backgrounds looking for covered bridges and of course numbers horse and buggies.

Pine Grove covered bridge is the only double-span, double-arch bridge in the county.  It was first built in 1816 and then rebuilt in 1846 and 1884 after flood damage.

All together a great road trip.