Salmon Fly Fishing for the East Coast

Some of the best salmon fly fishing in the United States is relatively tough to get to by normal standards.  Two places that come to mind almost immediately are The great Northwest, and Alaska.  There are naturally many other areas in the USA as well, but those are two of the best in the world.  A little bit closer to home for those of us on the East Coast would be ideal for that fall salmon fly fishing trip.   Perhaps the best spot on this half of the United States is Pulaski, NY.  This small sleepy town in Oswego County has a population of 2,365 as of the 2010 census.  But it also has a 2 month period in September and October where the Coho and King salmon are spawning, and the fly fishing is absolutely insane.  The aptly named Salmon River is home to some of the best salmon fishing anywhere, and definitely the best on or near the eastern half of the USA.

Anglers line up shoulder to shoulder for the opportunity to catch a coho or king salmon as they make their annual run up the river.  The fish seem to mill around the estuary, and then race up the river in spurts. Some of the fish can be in excess of 40 pounds and will put up a hell of a fight. One of the best methods is to use salmon eggs because the fish are going upstream to spawn.  If they see a random egg floating in the water the natural instinct is to grab it and hold it in their mouth, which will lead to a hook set.  Hopefully.  The fish are not as aggressive in Pulaski as you would think, but there are spurts where you can barely see the river bottom because of all the salmon. These groupings of fish occur as they swim upriver from the estuary where Lake Ontario meets New York.  The king and coho salmon are not native to the area, but have thrived since their introduction into the ecosystem in the 1960’s. Now, there is a huge game fish population in this area, and the trout and salmon, as well as smallmouth bass make this a great destination for a Salmon Fly Fishing trip.

The only method of fishing that is banned on the Salmon River is snagging, because at certain points in the day, the fish are so plentiful running upstream that you can throw a treble hook of any bare hook and rip it through the water and you would probably snag something.  There is also a requirement on the way weights are tied to lines, as the authorities do not allow a sliding weight, so there is no chance of it dropping to the hook and allowing you to snag easier.  That said, the typical setup is a small weight about 48” from the hook, rigged with a salmon egg.

There are a ton of essential items to ensure safety in the cold water streams in late September and early October.  The most essential is a pair of insulated waders, as you will be spending quite a bit of time in knee to waist deep water, and it is not warm.  Gloves, and any and all other cold weather essentials will be a benefit out here.  It is also recommended that the anglers wear studded or cleated shoes to avoid slipping and falling in the river.  Polarized sunglasses are also a must, as when the river is clear, you will be able to sight fish and pick your spots.

Although spinning rods continue to dominate the day, fly fishing has been a growing segment of the angler population on the Salmon River.  Drifting streamers and egg patterns down the river during a run will inevitably lead to a hook up with some monster fish.  As you see them darting up the river in the clear water, you feel like you can dive in and bare hand them.  We will take a look at techniques and tips for both spinning and fly fishing for these monsters next, so be sure to check back with us for all your salmon fly fishing information.