Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On 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
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
|1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 (email@example.com)
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
Headlines: Keep track of the latest
information on the above linked
fishing report. Steelhead and
salmon were being caught until the
last high water levels. You will have
to wait for the levels to drop to have
any decent fishing opportunity. It will
be good as soon as it gets low
enough. Make sure you check our
Perfect Fly Great Lakes steelhead
and salmon patterns.
10/16/15 The conditions are about the same stream level wise, but much cooler weather is in
store for the coming week. Lake snow and rain is forecast for the next six days. More Kings
and Coho have entered the river and are moving upstream. There are plenty of lake-run
browns and a few steelhead as well. Anglers are catching fish on a regular basis. The
numbers will likely increase throughout the month. Anglers are scoring well. Stream levels are
down in good shape..\\
10/25/15 During the last week a lot more steelhead are entering the river and anglers are
beginning to catch a few. They are using egg flies, swinging flies and nymphing. They are
being caught throughout the system from the mouth to the upper section. The water is just a
little low right now but there is more rain in the forecast for the middle to the end of next week.
11/01/15 Conditions are currently very good, with good stream levels and heights. It is
currently raining but should be clear for the next five days. Anglers are reporting catching
plenty of salmon and steelhead. They are scattered throughout the system. Swinging flies,
nymphing and fishing eggs are working bu eggs appear to be doing the best. Our Veiled
Beadhead Crystal egg fly is popular there.
11/15/15 Our customers caught some nice steelhead this past week. Most were using either
egg flies (our Veiled Beadhead Crystal egg fly) and nymphs like our Green Larva steelhead
fly. The water levels are good and should remain that way for a while but there is rain forecast
this week later on. The steelhead are moving through mostly at night but some are moving
upstream during the day.
11/15/15 There are plenty of steelhead in the river and our customers have been doing well
catching them. The fish are scattered throughout the system. Egg flies, nymphs and swinging
have produced some but more on the eggs and nymphs. The levels are back up normal and
swinging may be the best approach at this time. There is a good weather forecast for the week
11/22/15 It is snowing right now as I write this report but should clear up tomorrow. It will get a
little warmer by the weekend and then we can expect rain. Water temperatures are fine, in the
high forties. Most of the steelhead are being caught on egg flies and nymphs but some Spey
flies are fooling them as well. We got mixed reports from angles this past week. The upper
section is fishing the best.
11/29/15 The discharges have been low and wading possible most places but that also means
fewer steelhead for most anglers. Nymphs and egg flies still out produce swinging flies
because of the low, clear water levels. That will probably chance very soon. There is rain and
rain/snow predicted from tonight through Wednesday.
12/06/15 The weather has been nice the past couple of days and the forecast for the coming
week looks great. There is no rain or snow in the forecast. Steelhead are being caught mostly
in the upper sections of the river but that is where most anglers are fishing. A few brown trout
are still being caught. Swinging is producing some fish but nymphs are out doing the swinging
most of the time.
12/13/15 The beautiful weather is continuing and it will still be warm everyday for the next
week. There is rain coming the first of the week and then snow later but all in all, the weather
is great and going to continue to be great. Steelhead are being caught from, the lower fly zone
to the upper river. It is taking a lot of cast but the fish are there and can be caught by those
12/20/15 The discharges from the dam are up and so are the stream levels. They will need to
settle down for any wading. Anglers have been catching steelhead on a pretty regular basis.
They are using streamers, nymphs and egg flies but we are recommending swinging at this
time. There is more rain and snow in the forecast so stream levels could be high at times.
12/27/15 Stream ievels and flows are high right now and likely to remain high most of the time
this coming week. There is rain and snow forecast every day for the next seven days. This
means wading is likely out at least most of the time but of course, boats and bank anglers can
still fish. it just makes it tougher. Swinging is the way to go with the higher water levels but
make sure you get the streamers down low enough. The steelhead are unlikely to come up off
the bottom very much.
01/03/16 The stream levels have been high for the past several days and the results is few
anglers have been fishing and those that have didn't do very well. Hopefully, the higher water
levels brought more fish into the river. You will just have to keep a close check on the levels.
There is less snow and rain in the forecast for this next week, so maybe that will result in
lowering the discharges.
01/17/16 The stream level is still high and has been high for the past week. A few fish have
been caught by anglers fishing from the bank in the upper part of the river. Swing flies in the
sections adjacent to the fast water and as close to the bottom as possible. There is snow in
the forecast every day for this coming week.
01/24/16 The stream levels keep coming down and are in much better shape. The lower fly
zone is the best place to fish because it is free of ice. The water is cold there and nymphs are
the best choice. Fish the Green Sedge Steelhead larva on an indicator and you will catch
steelhead. The Giant Black stonefly has slow worked good.
01/31/16 The weather is going to be a little warmer, bring some rain as well as rain and snow
mixtures later this coming week. There have been a few winter steelhead cuaght but most
anglers are not doing all that well. Both drift boat anglers and bank (wading) anglers are
catching a few, and it should get better this week.
02/07/16 The past few days have been good ones, with anglers catching a few steelhead.
One customer reports a 3 fish day. Nymphs are working best. The water is very cold and the
fish a little sluggish but willing to take a fly presented close to them.
02/14/16 The weather is extremely cold right now but should warm back up just a little. Our
customers have been doing well up until this last cold spell. Nymphs were more effective than
swinging but that is likely to change again when the levels subside. It is tough fishing in
sub-zero conditions and most everyone avoids it.
02/21/16 The river is flowing high right and the water still very cold, averaging about 35
degrees. There were a few steelhead caught this past week, mostly on nymphs under
indicators. The weather is going to be warmer a few days this coming week and the water
should warm up a degree or two. That should improve the fishing.
02/28/16 There was some rough weather for the past week and more to come for the next five
days. The water temperature is back down to 33 degrees and the few anglers that have been
fishing recently have blanked. The stream levels are very high and need to drop a lot.
03/06/16 The stream levels and discharges are down some but still high. The weather is going
to be much better. There is some rain forecast for three days, but clear otherwise. It is going
to be much warmer. That should help some, at least keep the anglers in good shape. Our
Spey flies and Steelhead streamers work best under these conditions.
03/13/16 There is still a lot of runoff from melting snow and lots of rain in the forecast. It has
been tough fishing conditions for the past week, with almost no reports of anyone catching
03/27/16 The past three days has been slow, with about one out of five anglers hooking up.
The weather is warm and nice, the water about 37 degrees, and the forecast not bad. No
particular method outproduced the other.
04/03/16 The discharges and stream level is low at the current time. There is going to be
snow or rain in the forecast everyday but one next week, so this is likely to change. The river
has a lot of steelhead in it. There are fish in all stages of the spawn and anglers are catching
them in fair numbers. Nymphs and swinging are working.
04/10/16 Conditions remain pretty good on the Salmon River. One of our customers caught 2
steelhead in a day of fishing. It seems the odds are running about 50%. Some are not hooking
up. Swinging, nymph fishing under indicators and egg flies all have managed to catch a few
04/24/16 Smallmouth bass are showing up in the warmer water an a few are being caught.
This should only get better this coming week. The water is about 48 degrees and that is close
to the key temperature. Steelhead fishing is also good, with two of our customers catching fish
this past week. The forecast for the next week looks good, so get off the couch and on the
05/01/16 There was a little of everything caught this past week. Smallmouth bass, brown trout
and several drop back steelhead were taken. The weather has been nice and the stream
levels in good shape. This coming week's weather forecast is showing a lot of rain, so the
conditions are likely to change soon. Right now, they are very good.
05/08/16 it is mostly smallmouth bass. The steelhead fishing is over for all practical purposes.
There have been a few brown trout caught. The weather and stream levels are good right
05/15/16 Smallmouth bass are kings right now. It is about the only thing anglers are catching
but it is good as the smallmouth catching gets. These are lake run bass that come into the
river hungry and fairly easy to catch. There will be a lag in fishing for the other species but it
will be picking back up in the near future.
05/22/16 It has been a good season for steelhead and this past week, we know of a very few
fish caught that have yet to return to the lake. Other than that, resident brown trout and some
smallmouht is about it. Few anglers are fishing.
05/29/16 The steelhead fishing is done. Smallmouth and some brown trout is keeping the few
anglers fishing the river happy. Even it is slow compared to the action most of the time. The
stream levels are low but there is some heavy rain on the way that will probably change that. It
is s good time to fish the Salmon without being in a crowd.
06/05/16 Our customers are reporting catching good numbers of smallmouth bass and brown
trout. Streamers are working best for the brown trout. Our Perfect Fly Crayfish patterns are
working best for the smallmouth bass. The weather is good and the stream levels are fine. It is
a good time to fish for these two species.
06/12/16 The weather is certainly unusual for the Salmon River. There is no rain or snow in
the forecast for the next week. Smallmouth bass fishing is great right now. We have two local
customers who are catching good numbers of them about every day.
06/19/16 The biggest advantae in fly fishing the Salmon River at this time of the year is you
can find a lot of places where you can fish alone. You can catch resident brown trout and
smallmouth bass. The weather is good and the stream levels and flows are good. Use Perfect
fly crayfish patterns for the smallmouth.
06/26/16 The river is in good shape running about 232 cfs at this time. The weather is
continuing to be very hot, with air temperatures reaching into the low to mid 90's. There are a
few brown trout being caught and a good number of smallmouth bass. Only a few anglers are
fishing and you can have a lot of water to yourself.
07/03/16 Anglers are fishing mostly for the smallmouth bass and having some success. The
Perfect fly crayfish patterns are producing well for our customers. They are using the weighted
versions and bouncing them on the bottom. July does have runs of Skamania steelhead but
none have shown as of yesterday. It is a good time to be planning that next fly fishing trip.
07/10/16 The water is getting very warm, up to 68 in places. That makes it difficult to catch the
brown trout. They almost get lethargic. The lower end of the river is turning out some
smallmouth bass for the few anglers that are fishing. Our customers have been using our
Perfect Fly Crayfish patterns. The middle and upper end is better for the Brown trout, but
watch the water temperature.
07/17/16 The weather is cooler than last week, stream levels in good shape but very few
anglers are fishing. Smallmouth bass are being caught in good numbers. Fish the Perfect fly
Smallmouth Crayfish patterns, especially those with lead dumbell eyes. They are easy to get
down and bounce on the bottom where the smallmouth are holding.
07/23/16 There is little opportunity to catch anything but smallmouth bass. Fishing for them is
good. You can use our Perfect fly crayfish patterns to do that. The ones with the dumbbell
eyes will get down to where the smallmouth are holding. Fish early and late in the day for the
best results. Few anglers are fishing.
07/30/16 Same story, second verse. That is warm water that is low. Smallmouth bass are still
being caught by the few anglers fishing. It isn't bad at all, if you like catching smallmouth. Our
Brown Sculpin and our Dumbbell eye Crayfish patterns will do that for you as well as anything.
Now is a good time to plan that next salmon and/or steelhead trip.
08/07/16 The water temperatures are reaching near 80 degrees during the afternoons. It is
far too warm for trout, salmon or steelhead. A few smallmouth bass are being caught by the
few anglers fishing. Now is the time to be planning that fall steelhead or salmon fishing trip.
08/14/16 We had one customers send us a report stating the smallmouth bass fishing was
good. He is using our crayfish patterns, mostly the one with the lead dumbell eyes. There are
a few brown trout being caught as well and by the way, they too will take the crayfish flies.
There is a lot of rain in the forecast so watch the levels. Hopefully, the water temperatures will
continue to drop.
08/21/16 Smallmouth bass are still being caught in good numbers. Our dumbbell eye Crayfish
pattern is working great. There has been some recent rain and the levels are on the way up.
That is badly needed and will help. Everyone is looking for Salmon, but so far none have been
spotted coming in. Give us a call or send us an email and let us help you. It will be cooler this
08/28/16 They are either spreading rumors about it or there are starting to be some salmon
show up in the river. No, don't plan a trip this coming week unless you just want to say you
went salmon fishing. There are plenty of smallmouth bass in the river. You either have to
weight the plain crayfish fly down with lead, or use the dumbbell eye version to get the fly
down to the depth the fish are holding.
09/04/16 There are still some smallmouth being caught in good numbers by the few anglers
fishing for them. There have been a few salmon spotted in the lower end of the river and with
the higher flows being discharged, more may well move into the river. We don't have any
reports of any caught but it should start anytime now.
09/11/16 We keep hearing reports of a few salmon spotted and reports that a few Coho and
Chinook have been caught in the lower end of the river. The run really hasn't begun.
Smallmouth bass fishing should continue to be very good but few are fishing for them. I would
be traveling very far to catch salmon just yet. We will let you know when your odds get better.
09/18/16 Kings continue to come into the river and some are being caught. Fish are being
reported in the Ballpark, DSR and Staircase. This should continue on. The water level is down
and likely to be down most of the week. It is raining now but none is predicted for the next few
days. The lower nightly temperatures is helping. Smallmouth bass can still be caught in good
09/25/16 Kings and Coho salmon are in the lower river in the flats, meadow and clay regions.
They are some being caught but this will continue to increase as the move upstream. The
weather has turned a little cooler and there is some rain in the forecast for the next few days.
Right now, stream levels are in good shape.
10/02/16 There are Coho and King salmon throughout the system and quite a few are being
caught. You don't have to be so picky about where they are. They are being caught in all
sections and there are a lot more in the lake yet to come upstream. Please check out our
Perfect Fly Great lakes salmon flies. We have several of our own patterns that have proven to
10/09/16 There are lots of King Salmon and Coho Salmon in the river but they are staying on
the bottom of the deepest water. The low, clear water is making it tough to fool them into
taking a fly. Some are still being caught, but it isn't easy. There are probably more fish in the
lower part of the river right now but some are scattered throughout the system. Little rain is in
the forecast, so this is unlikely to change.
10/16/16 The discharges and resulting stream levels are up near normal for this time of the
season and will probably continue to rise. There is a lot of rain in the forecast. This is what
everyone is waiting for. That brings a lot more fish into the river and makes it much easier to
catch them. Swinging and nymphing should both work well this coming week. Eggs, streamers
and nymphs will work. Make sure you check our Perfect Fly Great Lakes steelhead and