15 Dec Steelhead Fever – Dennis Zambrotta
Fishing for steelhead trout can be addicting – just ask Fishchris. I plan a trip each season to the Salmon River in Pulaski New York targeting steelhead trout in this world class fishery. When my regular steelhead partner told me he couldn’t make the trip this year I began searching for someone else willing to endure frozen fingers and standing in 34 degree water all day. Chris Keen is a regular customer at the Edge and seemed very interested in making this trip. After a few conversations at the shop I invited him to come along.
We left Middletown at 4am on December 1st and traveled the Mass Pike and NY Thruway (I-90) 6 hours to Pulaski New York. We arrived just before 11 am and purchased our 7 day NY license then tried to check into our hotel. Our not very nice hotel clerk told us we couldn’t get into our room until 12 noon. A little irritated I told Chris we would take a ride so I could show him the river and kill an hour before we could check in. It was a beautiful day with temps around 50 – VERY unusual for Pulaski. We drove up to the Altmar Bridge which is Pulaski’s version of the Charlestown Breechway – easy access fishing and all types of anglers fish there from novice to expert. As soon as we entered the parking lot Chris had his first glimpse of the Salmon River and even a caster who was tight to a fish. I then said we may as well gear up and kill an hour. We went downstream to an area that couldn’t be named more appropriate for someone learning how to steelhead for the first time – the School House pool. Finding an open spot we slipped into the water and waded out thigh deep. Now, normally new steelhead anglers have to pay their dues before they hook up with a steelhead and generally even then they lose the fish. But Chris was able to hook AND LAND his fist steelhead after only 15 minutes on the river. Must mean something having two consecutive e’s in his last name and chasing a fish with the same. After netting his fish I knew I wasn’t fishing with a Jonah.
Steelie Keen with his first steelhead
To make a long story short we never got to our hotel room until 5pm. Chris ended up landing two more steelhead and lost a few more. I ended up with two steelies, a brown trout, and a coho salmon among the 11 fish I hooked for the afternoon. All were taken with spinning reels and noodle rods bottom bouncing Chrystal Meth flies on 6 pound tippets. The flies were recommended by avid steelheader Jason Dichristofaro (kegger7676) – thanks Jason – we owe you a beer.
DZ with Steel
That evening we hit Stefano’s Italian Restaurant (the very best place to eat in Pulaski) owned by my friend Savi and had well deserved pizza and beer to celebrate our successful first day. If you eat there make sure to ask for Savi and tell him Zambrotta sent you.
Based on our success we decided to head back to Schoolhouse the next morning. I told Chris we had to be at that pool before dawn to get a prime spot. Next morning we were on the river bank by 5:45. The morning bite started quick with Chris landing two steelies in the first hour and me dropping my only two hookups. Chris then hooked another that wanted no part of the net and continued downstream on a screaming run. Chris would then learn that not everyone is friendly on the Salmon River. A fly fisherman was fishing downstream about 25 yards from us – there is an old saying that you can always tell a fly fisherman fishing for steelhead – he’s the guy standing IN the pool. We’ll this guy yells at Chris that Chris’ line is rubbing on his waders. Chris says, Yea, I’m on a fish, please move back towards the bank. The guy refused to move and Chris broke off a nice steelie. That A hole would go on to have arguments with various other fishermen for the rest of the morning. Some guys just can’t have fun. The bite died and we broke for lunch. We returned in the afternoon with snow falling and temps now in the mid 30s – more like steelhead weather. My morning luck changed as I landed three steelhead in about an hour.
DZ with steel (A Hole in the background)
Steelhead Weather – now that’s more like it!
Chris “Wet Dog” Keen working the pool at dusk
Next day we decide to fish the private steelhead runs down river at Douglaston. This area is private and you pay for access by purchasing a daily pass ($45). It is the most scenic section of the river and fishing can be phenomenal. Being Douglaston is very close to Lake Ontario the steelhead tend to be much brighter and full of piss and vinegar. It was 23 degrees at 6am as we made our way to the Meadow Run but other than a small jack steelie for Chris all we caught was ice cold fingers and toes.
Head of the “Meadow Run”
At 10am we head upstream a ways making a quick stop at the Flats. There we also caught a few small jack steelies.
Small “Jack” Steel
We broke for lunch and returned to Douglaston. I decided to take Chris upstream to the Glide – perhaps the most popular location in Douglaston. To my surprise there were NO fishermen at all fishing the Glide even though it was 12:30 in the afternoon. We worked a few runs with egg sacs fished under floats. Finally I hooked up with a bright run steelie that Chris was able to net downstream.
DZ with Glide Run steel
In a matter of 10 minutes I was on again with my best steelhead of the trip that took some nice jumps in the main pool before succumbing to another expert net job by Chris.
More DZ steel
We fish until dusk with no other hook-ups. The next morning we head back to the Schoolhouse at dawn for a few hours before we have to leave. We share the run with four drift boats and the bite starts hot right at 7am with multiple hook-ups for everyone. I hook two rockets and drop both – Chris takes another steelie and the drift boats and their clients take many more. Those guides really know the
lanes where these steelhead station and they put their clients right on the fish. After an hour the bite is DEAD. We fish till 10 am with no more action. We check out of Super 8 and I head home with another fisherman who has now contracted a bad case of steelhead fever for which there is no cure – only repeated trips will ease the symptoms. Enjoy the sickness Chris!