Ups and Downs

A fine, first-snow chromer taken in the special, fly-fishing, catch-and-release section in Altmar.
Heavy rains and snows throughout Central New York have swollen the Oswego River to roughly 20,000 cfs (give or take), way beyond what your average steelheader can handle. What’s more, the water’s murky, and you practically have to hit ‘em on the head for them to hit. And that’s sad, because when its running like it is now, chromers storm into downtown Oswego like college kids hitting Florida’s beaches on spring break.

However, like the wise man once said: “Patience, grasshopper.”

The water’s gonna go down…promise. And when it does, there’s gonna be so many steelies in the bubbly, anglers’ll rename the city of Oswego Steeltown. Indeed, the river’s last stretch of rapids might even get overrun so heavy and thick with chrome, it might spur the EPA into investigating the “source of all that heavy metal …”

Oswego County didn’t earn its reputation as the fishiest spot in America because of one hot spot, though. Indeed, when the river is too fat to fish, all eyes turn to its only real competitor in the contest for title as the Lower 48’s premier fishing destination: the Salmon River.

Last week the stream was so high everyone stayed home; except the steelhead. You see, the river’s slightly warmer plume cut into Lake “O” like heat coming from a register in a cabin just opened for the winter. Its caressing currents drew every chromer within miles into its gentle, confining embrace.

With the stream running at 750 cfs, that’s just about what it is, too. In fact, this level is ideal for man and beast alike: high enough to make them feel comfortable and secure; low enough for us to wade and reach most of the good spots.

Don’t worry about all the snow socking the country either. Located on the western edge of the Tug Hill Plateau, one of the snowiest parts of the country, the folks around here take their plowing seriously and the roads are kept clear. What’s more, there’s only about a foot of powder lining the Salmon River and that’ll be packed down into a snowy trail before this posting even makes it out of my computer.

First snow on the Salmon River is squeaky clean and beautiful. The leaves have laid down for the winter, allowing you to see for great distances through the woods.

Regardless of where you go on the river you’ll be richly rewarded. On the Douglaston Salmon Run you can count on catching loads of steelies, often with deer peeking over your shoulders. The upper river’s fly-fishing only section promises loads of metal, some within sight of bald eagles foraging on salmon carcasses. And everywhere in between, you’ll breathe fresh air washed in wilderness; steeped in silence broken only occasionally by a steelhead exploding through the surface, tail-walking in its bid to get away from the hook of a dreamy-eyed angler.

Clients of Douglaston Salmon Run (a private, pay-to-fish, catch-and-release, preserve) choosing streamers.

Jason. Douglaston Salmon Run’s River Keeper, releasing a fine steelhead.