Copyright 2014 James Marsh
Fly Fishing the Salmon River In New
The Salmon River is the most popular Salmon and
Steelhead River in the Eastern United States. The river
flows from the lower reservoir through the City of Pulaski
into Lake Ontario near Selkirk State Park in the Finger
Lakes area of New York. It's a tailwater that operates to
produce electrical power and the discharge rates and
water levels can change (the water flows are posted on
the Internet and generally change at 9 PM) within a
short time. Anglers from all over the Eastern United
States visit this stream for one reason. They want to
catch one of the 30 pound salmon or 20 pound
steelhead that move into this river. As if that were not
enough, huge size brown trout move into the river from
Lake Ontario. Atlantic Salmon and Lake Trout are also
Depending upon water flows and temperatures, late
August is generally the start of the fall run of King
salmon. This enormous run of fish lasts till late October
when the steelhead start their annual jaunt (water levels
and other factors dictate when these fish begin and end
their run). The King Salmon (also known as Chinook
Salmon) are large, averaging twenty to thirty pounds.
Fish to forty plus pounds have been caught
The river flows out of the Salmon River Reservoir.
Pulaski is known for its close proximity to the Salmon
River. There's approximately twelve miles of river that's
fishable with well identified holes and pools. Although
some areas are more likely to hold more fish than
others, these are migrating fish and they can be found
There are two fly fishing only areas. The first one is the
Lower Fly Zone located between a marked boundary at
Beaverdam Brook downstream to the County Route 52
Bridge in Altmar. The other Upper Fly Zone is located
just downstream from the Light House Hill Reservoir
tailrace to above the upstream side of the Salmon River
Fish Hatchery. These areas have special regulations.
The Lower Fly zone is open from September 15 through
May 15. The Upper Fly Zone is open to angling from
April 1 to November 30. These dates are subject to
change, so be certain to check the current regulations.
Late August is generally considered the start of the fall
run of King salmon but it depends on water levels and
temperature. This big time run of big fish lasts till late
October when the steelhead run begins. Again, the
water level is the main factor that determines this. The
Chinook Salmon, known as King Salmon, are big fish,
averaging twenty to thirty pounds. It isn't uncommon for
fish weighing up to forty pounds to be caught.
During the salmon run, most fishermen (I refuse to call
them anglers) use spinning gear. These big fish are in
the river to spawn, not to eat. They strike purely out of
aggression. The longer they remain in the river, the less
aggressive they become. Although some still attempt to
snag these fish, snagging has been outlawed. The thing
you want to also take into account is the sheer numbers
of anglers during the salmon run. Anglers usually line
the banks uncomfortably next to one another during the
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Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of
All of the photos and all of the
information was provided by Dennis
McCarthy. Dennis is an avid fly
fisherman from New Jersey who
travels and fishes extensively. He
has a trailer on the Salmon River
and fishes there very often.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Steelhead are the main feature and the
reason most fly anglers come to the Salmon
River. These fish probably average about
eight to ten pounds but it isn't uncommon to
see much larger ones caught. They are
usually in the Salmon River from late
September to May of the following year.
There's also a summer run of steelhead.
These steelhead are called Skamania. They
are in the river during the Summer months
but only providing the water is suitable for
The fall run Steelhead are aggressive fish.
They feed on the plentiful salmon eggs from
October to November. Winter Steelhead
fishing begins in December and can be very
productive if you can tolerate the cold
weather. Real cold water can make the fish
activity slow down to a crawl and catching the
steelhead becomes more difficult. Steelhead
are in the river through April. Fishing can be
good after the water warms up a little. At this
time of year, the steelhead are focused on
spawning, not eating. The fish will start
moving back out of the river in late April.
Anglers fish for these steelhead they call
drop back during late April and May. They will
feed at this time of the year.
Coho Salmon, called Silver Salmon, are also
in the Salmon River from about September
through December. They are easier to catch
than the Kings because they are much more
aggressive. They will take flies readily. Pound
for pound, they fight better than the Kings
and provide a better sport on the fly than the
Kings. continued above
Fly Fishing Salmon River, continued
Lake-run brown trout are usually in the
river along with the Steelhead. The best
time for brown troutlate September
through early December. These lake-run
browns usually average from five to eight
pounds but larger ones aren't
Although most of the property adjoining
the river is privately owned, access is still
very good along the entire length with well
worn paths on both sides of the stream in
most cases. As you may expect, this river
can become crowded at times during
Salmon season. As you can see in some
of the images, at times the river can be
practically lined with anglers. Because of
that, there are some specialized
techniques used in order for everyone to
be able to fish effectively without
bothering the other anglers. These are
discussed in our fishing guide section.
The seasons depend on the section of the
river being fished and the particular species
of fish you are pursuing. Salmon River has
only three small tributaries leading into to
Beaver Creek, Orwell Creek, Trout Brook all
will hold fish during the season. When the
Salmon River is blown out 2,000+ cfs, these
streams will provide some good fishing. If they
are blown out, then there are a number of
other rivers in the area that will be fishing well.
Once the salmon and steelhead are in it is a
MONO river meaning they are spread out
throughout the entire river. The holding and
spawning spots are well know and are
pounded on a regular daily basis.
After they have spawned, the steelhead
fishing becomes very active again when the
water temperatures begin to rise and the flows
increase just before they move back into the
lake from up to the end of late May to early
July and fishing can be excellent.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Salmon River:
Steelhead can be caught throughout the
winter holding in the deeper pools of the river.
The King Salmon are in the river to spawn.
Eating is not on their minds. Even so, they are
very territorial and will strike flies purely out of
aggression. The best time to catch them is
when they first arrive in late August and early
September. After they have seen a few flies,
they become much less likely to take one.
These are very large fish, averaging between
twenty and thirty pounds. They remain in the
river until early October.
The steelhead trout are what most anglers
(key word here is “anglers” - those that come
for the salmon are a whole different breed
better known as Snaggers) visit the Salmon
River to fish for. They average from about 8 to
10 pounds but they have been caught over 20
pounds. These fish can be in the Salmon
River anytime from late September until May of
the following year. They are very aggressive
and in the river to feed on the salmon eggs
during late October and November. These fish
can also be caught during December, January
and February but the weather is usually very
cold with deep snow along the banks. The
lower part of the river is usually closed
because of ice. These winter fish are not
nearly as aggressive. They can be almost
lethargic in the cold water during the winter
months. It is best to fish the slow moving parts
of the stream in the deeper pools and holes
during the cold water. The fish want fight the
current because they can actually spend more
energy than they can find food to replace.
The steelhead can move up into some of the
small feeding or tributary streams to spawn in
March but they mainly spawn in the river. They
can still be caught during March and April and
they can be just as aggressive as they are in
the Autumn season They are feeding to add
weight after spawning, before they return to
the lake. From late May to early April, the
steelhead move back into Lake Ontario. At this
time, after the spawn, they again become very
active. They can be caught on a number of
different type of flies.
There's also the Coho Salmon, called the
Silver Salmon by most anglers. These fish
can be found in the Salmon River during the
fall months from September to December
(On this particular day this was written, it
was reported that there were thousands of
them in the hatchery). They are very
aggressive and will take most flies much
more so than the King Salmon. The Coho
Salmon are not one of the prime reasons
the Salmon River is a destination stream,
but they do provide plenty of action. They
fight hard and often jump similar to
The brown trout can be in the river at the
same time the steelheads are there. These
are very large brown trout, averaging from
four to eight pounds. They are caught over
fifteen pounds. The best season for them is
probably from near the end of September
until early December.
Remember, the special regulation areas
have some special requirements. For
example, the gap in hooks cannot exceed a
half of an inch. The maximum length of the
leader is 15 feet. You can use weighted flies
but the maximum length between the fly and
any additional weight placed on the leader
is 4 feet. You can only use one hook.
There are several very good access points
along the river. There are designated areas
as well as plenty of places you can just pull
off the road to park and fish, as well as
State maintained parking areas at all the
major holes and pools. There are several
roads that provide access including routes
2, 11, 13, and 81. There are other
miscellaneous roads that lead to the river.
You will need to purchase a permit to fish
the Douglaston Salmon Run. A daily pass is
$30. It borders the mouth of the river for the
first two and a half miles and offers a
chance at fish that are fresh in from lake
There are some runs of Skamania
steelhead in July. There's also a small run
of brown trout. In August, off and on runs
of Coho and Chinook (King Salmon)
salmon start occurring. Atlantic Salmon
can be fore on the river at this time.
You will find the best runs of Coho and
Chinook salmon takes place in late August
and early September and continuing on
into October. There are also some brown
trout that move into the river at this time.
The best time for fly fishing the Salmon
River for steelhead is during the month of
Salmon River Fishing Report (older
11/14/13 Customer ordering flies reported
some new fresh fish entered in the river but
they are spread them out from the lower to
the upper section. Most fish taken the lower
to middle section. Reported doing well with
our egg patterns, and egg sucking leeches.
11/21/13 Customer that has been fishing the
river for the past three days reporting river
very crowded and few to no fish being caught.
Ordered more egg flies. We suggest trying
our Steelhead Green Sedge Steelhead
nymph working on other Lake Ontario
streams. Water high and clear at 43 degrees.
11/22/13 Angler reporting fish caught in both
upper and lower fly zone. Ordered Black
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
12/08/13 One of our regular customers
ordering more steelhead nymphs, Black
Stonefly, Green Sedge, Cinnamon Sedge,
Hexigenia nymphs, and others. Reported
fish are located throughout the entire river
lower, middle and upper river and anglers
12/13/13 Higher water levels has helped
the steelhead fishing. Our customers are
using nymphs mostly, a few Estaz egg flies
but two guys have done well swinging our
Spey flies. Most of the fish have been
caught in the upper section of the river.
Fishing Report Updated 11/09/14
(Bottom Of Page)
Salmon River Fishing Report - 11/09/14
Stream flows are currently in good shape. Runs of Chinooks (Kings), Cohos and steelhead
are taking place. Fish were caught last week from the bottom to the top sections.
Stream Conditions at 11/09/14:
7 Day Weather Forecast: There is a chance of rain and snow almost everyday through
next Wednesday. Highs will range from 38 to 58 degrees and lows from 29 to 40 degrees.
Recommended Steelhead Flies:
Strategies, Techniques and Tips - Salmon/Steelhead:
King (Chinook) Salmon, Coho Salmon and Steelhead are in the river from top to bottom
in good numbers. We suggest fishing for the steelhead in the lower sections since the
upper part has the most salmon. Most fisherman are after the salmon. The two fly zones
are the areas you should be fishing. Most of the steelehead are being caught on egg
flies but other flies are also working as you can see from the above list.
|1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Recommended Salmon Flies: