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Fly-fishing on the Salmon River in upstate New York, United States

Posted by on September 13, 2011

About this time of the year is probably the perfect time to go big-game fishing out in upstate New York’s Salmon River where tons of salmon and trout swim upstream from Lake Ontario for spawning season. Sure, people can go on those big-game fishing boats to go fishing out on the Lake for salmon and trout but I’ve found that fly-fishing for these bad boys is a lot more fun to do. It’s almost like hunting for fish at times when you can see them in the river (easier to see with polarized sunglasses) and then casting a fly or a lure in front of them in hopes of getting it to bite. Sometimes a fisherman has to cast many times before the fish will bite as my friend says that’s the way to piss off a fish to take it after being teased too many times.

Fly fisherman fishing in the Salmon River, New York

My friend fishing on the river

It takes a lot to be successful at fly-fishing as often times the best time to go fishing is right as the sun comes up which is when the fish start to get active and start swimming upstream. There are all kinds of fish in the river: Bass (small-mouth and large-mouth), Chinook Salmon (aka King Salmon), Coho Salmon, Atlantic Salmon (although I’ve never seen one or heard of one caught), Brown Trout, Steelhead, and supposedly Lake Trout. The most commonly caught fish are Chinook Salmon and some of those fish can get very big. This results in some very good fighting fish and rod-bending action!

Fly fisherman with big brown trout in the Salmon River, New York

I caught a nice Brown Trout for my first major fish on the river

The fishing on this river can be difficult at times if you don’t know what you are doing. When I first fished for salmon on this river, I just flung my fly around while walking in the river with waders on hoping that something would be caught but I never got a bite. It wasn’t until next year that my friend showed me how it was done, that there was a way to fish for salmon and trout. Instead of using a dry fly which is using a fly as a lure on top of the water, the fly would be a nymph or an egg, meaning the hook and lure would be bouncing around the bottom of the river to get to where the fish were. Also, the fish have to take it in their mouths. You cannot snag them by hooking them in the tail or other part of the body. Even outside their mouth is considered to be illegal and the fish have to be returned. Once I got used to the mechanics of it, I started to get comfortable and pretty soon, I was catching some big fish. My first major fish that I caught out of the river was a 15 pound brown trout and the funny thing about this fish was that I caught him twice! Had I caught him a third time, I would have gotten that fish mounted or just plain outright eat the fish.

Fly fisherman fishing and holding Coho Salmon in the Salmon River, New York

Holding up a Coho Salmon with my friend, Joe

It was pretty soon that I would be catching some major big ones like the Chinook and Coho Salmon. I got really good at this that I remembered some guy yelling at me for releasing a 20-30 pound King Salmon. He couldn’t contemplate why I was letting go such a big fish. My response was that I could catch more of them and then I realized that this guy didn’t know how to catch anything on the river and had zero fish in the bag. I’ve filled my limits of 3 a day quite easily on most days.

Fly fisherman fishing and holding King/Chinook and Coho in the Salmon River, New York

Holding up a day's limit of fish

After fishing on the river for awhile, I finally landed a fish that I’ve always wanted to catch: a Steelhead. These ferocious fighting fish can do some amazing acrobatic stunts in and out of the water by jumping and making all sorts of swims in and out like a crazy, mad-man. I remember looking in this one section of the river and doing a double-take because I wasn’t sure if there was a fish or not in the shadows. Once I realized that it was a fish, a chrome-colored one, a Steelhead, I started to throw my hook and salmon egg lure at it. A few throws and bam! I got a bite. A minute or two of directing the fish into shallow water, I landed it. I had to say that I was one of the luckiest people at that time as it generally takes most people several Steelhead bites (and maybe a fishing season or two) before someone actually lands one. I did it on my first season on the river and wow, I definitely got him! I was excited about it that I did in fact eventually get the fish mounted.

Fly fisherman fishing and holding Steelhead in the Salmon River, New York

Finally got a Steelhead!

I probably should have gotten the Brown Trout mounted as well but that’s okay. I got a ton of fish meat for my troubles on the river. I caught a ton of Coho Salmon which has some of the best tasting fish meat around and of all the King Salmon I caught, I got a lot of it smoked which has to be some of the best snack-like foods out there. It’s from this experience that allowed me to become a much better fisherman especially when I later went to Mexico.

Fly fisherman fishing and holding King/Chinook in the Salmon River, New York

Some days just can't be beat like catching a nice-sized salmon to get smoked

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