Bitter Grounds

While there are still a couple of good weeks of fall trout fishing remaining, dates are being bandied about for steelhead trips to Lake Ontario. It's hard for me to consider these trips when the weather occasionally makes sunny spurts into the 70s and fall foliage is rocking. I'm terribly behind on visits to the Housatonic and there are plenty of local trout streams that are finally in shape after a long summer. Yet, I still find my mind wandering north.

Digging out a new pattern on the Salmon River (photo: Chad Shmukler).
Digging out a new pattern on the Salmon River (photo: Chad Shmukler).

The Salmon River in Pulaski, NY is my Steelhead stream of choice. I've fished others in the region but my limited knowledge of the Salmon exceeds many-fold my knowledge of the others so that, and habit, make the Salmon my usual destination.

By the time I get up to the Salmon River it's after the prime. Part of that is my fault. I'm not what one would call “hard core” so I start my planning much too late to secure lodgings during the sweet spot of the season. By the time I can clear a few days on my calendar and rooms become available I'm fishing at the tail; some would consider it offseason. Of course that affords me the opportunity to enjoy real Steelhead weather; single digit temps and double digit snowfall are not uncommon.

The Fishing Was Hell

Mike turned to his guide, "Is it much farther?" he asked.

"No, in fact we're there," answered his guide nodding a horned head in their direction of travel.

The Millionaire's Mirror - Photo: Paul Snyder
Photo: Paul Snyder.

Mike turned back and discovered that, miraculously, they were standing on the banks of the Henry's Fork of the Snake; he instinctively knew it was the Railroad Ranch pool. The sky was so blue it hurt his eyes and the vast blueness stretched from horizon to horizon in the dazzling manner only found in the west. Fluffy blue clouds dotted the skies, a light breeze swayed streamside grasses and the sun edged towards the mountains casting long shadows. The air was cool enough to touch the skin gently and it was alive with large, careening bugs.

5 Tips for Better Streamer Fishing

Once anglers achieve success with streamers, they often focus intently on fishing big flies. The reason is simple and well known: big flies catch big fish. There's also a rush that comes with streamer fishing that doesn't come with other brands of fly fishing. Streamer fishing is distinctly different than dry fly fishing and nymphing and in most respects is more dynamic and varied terrain. Unlike these other tactics where following a few basic rules can lead to consistent success, the streamer fisherman needs to approach the water with a more predatory, evaluative eye in order to produce results.

North Delaney Brown - Photo: A.J. Swentosky
Photo: A.J. Swentosky.

Streamer fishing is about the world of swimming prey, whether that prey is smaller trout, baitfish such as minnows, sculpins, leeches or something else entirely -- it swims. And imitating a swimming creature requires a different skill set and approach than imitating a drifting or floating one. Beginner streamer anglers will often try to apply the rules of the dry fly and nymphing worlds to that of the streamer fishing world and end up frustrated when the results don't come.