April 16-19, 2015 Outing Report
Salmon River NY

Little Sandy Creek near parking lot

Ken's Steelhead at Upper Fly Section

Orwell Brook near parking lot

A pair of spawning steelhead are hugging the edge by the center weed bed

Dennis trying to catch one of the pair

A Dead Beaver near Beaver Dam on Orwell

Back in December, we planned an April steelhead trip to the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. We reserved the Douglaston Manner Lodge which can sleep 7 on the Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR) and immediately had 6 people signed up. At the end of January, a 7th signed up and we had a full house. A week ago Sunday morning, one person dropped out due to medical problems and his fishing partner followed suit due to the iffy fishing conditions. Later that morning, I discovered that the DSR was closed to fishing after Waterline (they control the releases from the Salmon River Dam) increased the flows from 1250 to 2750 cfs. While the DSR normally has a 30 day cancellation policy to obtain refunds, they said they would provide refunds if we chose not to come. Monday evening, I talked with Jay Sheppard and he relayed information from Larry Coburn that the first fish of the spring run appeared on Sunday at his place on Trout Brook and some more showed up Monday. Jay also told me he and Charlie Gelso were driving up to Larry's on Wednesday. Tuesday, 2 more dropped out due to the questionable fishing conditions. Wednesday morning, the DSR was still closed and a 5th person bailed but Dennis and I decided to go. We had briefly considered going to Erie, PA instead but they were closed to fishing on Friday for stocking plus the water conditions were low and there were no fishing reports on the eastern streams since April 5. We also briefly considered Ohio when Richard Lewis posted a report from Chagrin River Outfitters. However, Wednesday, I couldn't find any reports from Cleveland Metro Parks, Lake County Metro Parks, or the Steelhead Site that indicated good fishing plus the forecast for Pulaski looked better than the Ohio forecasts. In hind sight, Ohio may have been a better choice but we still remember the complete skunking without seeing a fish from last spring in Ohio!

I woke up at 2:45am Thursday morning and checked the Waterline website. Good news, they dropped the flows from 2750 to 2000 cfs at the dam - still high but an encouraging sign. The wife dropped me off at Covert's at 4am. We departed Columbia a few minutes after 4 and missed the Round The Clock Diner for breakfast when we got to York. After not seeing anything through Harrisburg, I brought up google maps on my phone and we found a Denny's at Wikes-Barre (I just spelled it like google maps spelled and said it). When we crossed into NY, I called Whitakers and they said the Salmon River tribs and Little Sandy were fishable. I talked to Jay Sheppard and he said South Sandy may be fishable the way the North Sandy gage was dropping. We arrived at the DSR about 12:30 to more good news. Waterline had dropped the flows to 1250 cfs and the DSR was open to fishing!

After storing our clothes at Douglaston Manor Lodge and gearing up, we headed for the lower access at Trout Brook. We only fished there for a short time as the water was still too high to cross the stream and I was too lazy to hike up over a hill to continue down stream. We saw no fish in the short section we covered and the conditions were very fishable. At the next access, we saw one steelhead that I spooked with my first cast and she disappeared and didn't return to her lie after we returned from hiking up stream a short distance. We briefly fished at the bridge after 3 others left but we never saw anything there. We tried to find an access on John O'Hara Brook that we fished several years ago but gave up on that after driving in circles for a while. The upper most access to Trout Brook was occupied so we headed to the Little Sandy. I hooked a 10" rainbow on a red bh brassie while Dennis caught a 10" rainbow, a big sucker, and lost a steelhead. There were a couple of other fishermen there but we didn't see any steelhead covering probably a 3/4 mile section of the stream. From there we drove to South Sandy and even though the gage on North Sandy had dropped to 800 cfs, both the South and North Sandys were muddy. After a shower we went to dinner at Stefano's where we joined Jay, Charlie, and Larry. They had fished Orwell Brook where Larry caught 5 and Charlie caught 1 (although he had quite a story to tell with no photo to back it up!) and they reported seeing a few fish.

Friday, we hoped they would drop the flows some more but no such luck - they remained at 1250 cfs which translates to about 1800 cfs at the Pineville gage and even higher at the DSR. We planned to hike down to the meadow at the DSR but encountered a lot of snow and shelf ice a short distance downstream. Instead we fished the edges of the river from the south DSR parking lot up to the Little Black Hole (I think it's a little over a mile of water we fished) finding a lot of very nice and very fishable water but finding no fish! Dennis wanted to continue to the Black Hole but this required another hill climb which I wasn't up to. After lunch, we went to the Upper Fly Section and were the only vehicle in the upper lot. There was another vehicle in the lower lot and we past 2 fishermen while hiking down to a spot we had fished on a previous trip (somebody called it the Paradise Pool). One fisherman was across the river from our spot. Right after we settled into fishing, 4 more fishermen hiked past us and several other fishermen showed up on the other side of the river. We fished there for about 3 or so hours and observed two or so steelhead rolling near a fallen tree. I managed to catch a standard size steelhead on a red bh brassie and both of us thought we might have had a few other strikes going through a various assortment of flies. The 4 guys that had gone down stream left before us without any strikes and we observed no activity from the several fishermen across the river. When we left, there was still one fisherman on the other side.

Saturday morning, Waterline increased the flows from 1250 to 1800 cfs so we decided it wasn't worth it to try at the DSR again. We headed for Orwell Brook in the town of Orwell. Charlie had told us to hike down a ways and work our way back up stream. However, all we found around the town of Orwell were Posted - No Trespassing signs. We went to the public access point on Tubbs Road. There was one other vehicle in the parking lot on the public access map but other vehicles at pull offs both up and down from the parking lot. When we walked in, I saw a steelhead in the riffles just below a deep pool. I tried several flies before his tail found my crystal meth. I pulled it out immediately but the prick spooked him up stream. I checked later to see if he returned but no such luck. Dennis and I first fished down stream to a farmers bridge (a fisherman from the Boston area said a little below the bridge was the lower end of the public access section). I tried several flies over a 20 minute period before Dennis informed me there wasn't a steelhead there! After lunch back at the truck, we worked our way upstream. A short distance up stream from a beaver dam and pond, Dennis spotted a steelhead moving downstream. I saw it settle next to a tree branch. When Dennis went to fish for it, it had disappeared so we continued to work our way up stream. I soon spotted a pair of steelhead a short distance up from the tree branch hugging the edge of the stream. Dennis spent a fair amount of time casting to this spawning pair. He managed to lose 5 flies in the weeds, etc. in his attempt to catch either of these fish. His final attempt, a first cast from an upstream position, spooked them downstream and we couldn't find them after that. I saw one more fish that I spooked into a deep hole never to see him again. We covered virtually all of the Orwell Brook public access water below Tubbs Road plus I checked out about 15 or so yards of Perkin Brook at it's confluence with Orwell and we only saw a hand full of fish over about 2 miles of stream. We saw one fisherman with a fish and another that said he caught one. We didn't fish the 1/2 mile access above Tubbs Road but Orwell was an excellent stream to fish. We ended the day back at the lower Trout Brook access where we saw a pair of steelhead as soon as we hiked down the hill. Dennis spooked them when he crawled up to remove a weed along the bank so he could cast to them. After hiking down stream to a pool our group had fished on a previous trip and finding no fish this trip, we hiked back up stream hoping the pair had returned to their lie in the riffles. However, there was no such luck and we quit around 5 PM.

Sunday morning, the flows were still at 1800 cfs at the dam. The flows on the North Sandy were falling toward 600 cfs so the South Sandy should have been fishable. However, we saw so few fish covering many miles of streams over 3 days that we decide to pack up and head home. As we crossed the state line from NY into PA, I received a call from Charlie saying he and Jay were also heading home. They had also briefly considered going to the South Sandy. Charlie said this is the poorest steelhead run on the Salmon River that he's ever witnessed. We both think the steelhead fish kill that I heard about in December was worse than the NY DEC thought. This morning, they increased the flows to 3500 cfs and the DSR is closed for fishing again!

Ken Bowyer