Rainbows among the Browns–and Golds–of Autumn

Mike with his biggest brown ever!

Runs of coho and kings have petered out on the Salmon River. Still, some can be found in the whitewater…And they’re huge. I saw a king landed on October 30 that went forty pounds if it went an ounce. Indeed, it was almost as big as the guy trying to carry it–and drag it–to his car.

The scale of this year’s run is still obvious. Cadavers are everywhere; stuck between the rocks and wrapped around submerged branches, they wave in the current like muddy banners left by a defeated cavalry charge. Late spawners, now reduced to living dead, mill around in the ripples and pools. It’s a sad end to the noble beasts, but it’s the price they pay for their 3 ½-year sensual feast as the biggest, baddest kids in the drink.

Their loss is the trout’s gain. The river is loaded, from Douglaston Salmon Run to the fly-fishing only section, with huge browns and steelhead. Unlike the salmon, these guys ain’t there to spawn and die. On the contrary, the browns are there to spawn and the chromers are there to thrive by feasting on the caviar deposited in the gravel by the salmon.

Living classroom

With all the fish sure to be around, I called my cousin a few weeks ago and invited him to bring up his three oldest sons for the fishing trip of their dreams.

“Sure!” he responded.

He came last weekend.

We hit Altmar on Saturday, and saw quite a few steelies landed, and the huge king mentioned above. But we couldn’t buy a solid hook-up if we waved a fist-full of flies, egg sacs, whatever in the current.

Sunday was a different story. We started at Deer Creek at first light. The water was low and the fish weren’t in.

An hour later we headed for Pulaski, hit the staircase and worked up to the base of the village pool. Along the way, I got nine hits and landed one fish–what can I say, they were faster than I was.

Mike, Iggy’s oldest, got two hits and landed an eight-pound steelie and a 10-pound brown–ah, the speed and stamina of youth–all granted by the forces of nature to a guy who had only caught stockies until then.

Andy, Iggy’s 16-year-old, lost a couple fish, but the “excitement was well worth it!” he claimed.

And John, a 13-year-old with a smile that could make the sun blush, nailed a nice 18-inch steelie, too small to keep…except in his fondest memories.

We used single, plastic eggs fished in pockets and the edge of the current.

The kids had a ball and assured me they’d be up again soon, and often. Now, that’s a thought for a bachelor bracing for retirement.

The browns are in heavy now and should remain for the rest of the month, their numbers declining as November wears on. The steelies will be there till spring.

The fish are cooperative. It’s a great time to go out and tangle with one of these beauties. And while you’re at it, bring along a youngster and show him the ropes. It’ll be a lesson the kid will carry in his memories for the rest of his life.

You don’t really need any highly specialized tackle, either. The young men above used my Shakespeare spinning combos, pretty standard stuff you can get at any outdoors store that carries fishing gear. There are plenty to choose from throughout Oswego County and Central New York.

Being a professional, I like to look like one and use an 8 weight Pflueger Trion Fly-fishing combo.

By the way, these fish didn’t get big by being careless. While they’re not exactly leader shy, what they don’t see won’t distract them. Use a fluorocarbon leader like Berkley’s Professional Grade Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. It costs a little more but it’s well worth it.

The Salmon River is super slippery. Use traction devises like Korkers.

Andy showing off brother Mike’s steelie.

John holding his first steelie.