Last Chance Dropbacks

By Spider Rybaak

A nice domestic male rainbow caught in Downtown Pulaski.

Unseasonably warm weather turned March into the balmiest month of the year – so far. A lot of steelheaders who came up to the Salmon River last month expecting to be blasted by winter’s last snow and cold ended up fishing in short sleeves. One Fort Drum angler I met complained, in a distinctly Southern drawl, “ Y’all, I expected to get snow-blinded , not sun burnt!”

Just then, he set the hook on a steelie and admitted, “But I ain’t complainin’…Fish On!”

While the bite, and weather, remained great the first week of this month, the second and third weeks saw cold temperatures riding high pressure systems. The weather had a curious effect on the fish. As often as not, they’d hit in the early morning but as the sun swept over the water, they’d shut right off. Hot bite one day… off the next… it was enough to make a quiet man mumble to himself in public.

This week the weather has been closer to normal; and the fish and anglers are acting like they’re supposed to. Most of the steelhead have spawned and they’re heading back to the lake, feeding like there’s no tomorrow.

While a few stragglers and late spawners – punctuated by domestic rainbows and early running landlocked Atlantic salmon – can be found throughout the stream, the main body of chromers is in the lower river, from the village of Pulaski down to the Douglaston Salmon Run.

In the middle of the week I decided to try my luck and fish in downtown Pulaski, within earshot of US 11.

On Tuesday, I used my JW Young centerpin outfit to float-fish a bubblegum-colored Berkley floating Trout Worm through the current at the foot of the Village Pool. In less than an hour, I landed a brilliantly colored, five-pound domestic rainbow, and lost two.

On Wednesday, I switched to my Spey-casting outfit and threw a stylized olive wooly bugger I got at Malinda’s Fly & Tackle Shop & Lodge (315-298-2993), over in Altmar. Using a Rio SpeyVersiLeader (got that at Malinda’s, too) with a 3.9-inch per second sink rate, I was able to swing the fly through the rapids right into the sights of a famished, three-pound steelie hen. She slammed it with the ferocity of a killer whale, almost throwing me off balance.

The fishing’s real good over at the Douglaston Salmon Run, according to river keeper Garrett Brancy. He offered, “Several of our guides (private guides who fish the DSR regularly) report everyone’s catching fish; a mixture of drop-backs and domestic rainbows, and a few smallmouths.”

“The Douglaston Salmon Run closes on the last of April,” he adds.

Which is only right; the smart money is betting this weekend will see the last of this spring’s run of steelies melt out of the river. If the typical spring weather of the last couple of days holds up, the bite’ll be a good one, adding a wonderful taste of normalcy to a spring seasoned with uncertainty.

A female steelie caught in the same area as the male above.