Salmon River Steelhead?

Steelhead at the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. I’m going for it and could use some advice.

First up, I’m really grateful to Joe Goodspeed at Thomas & Thomas for giving me a pro discount on their Contact 1086 #6.

PC: Adam Kautza

I love the Contact 1133 #3, and it is my favorite fly rod (review here). So, when I saw that Thomas & Thomas makes a tightlining rod ideal for steelhead, I decided to buy it sight unseen.

I’ve never fished for steelhead. But, I’m hoping to carve out some time in the next few weeks to make the drive to Pulaski.

If there’s any advice you’d be willing to give, I’d appreciate it. Some questions I have:

  • What are ideal flows?
  • If you could roll back the clock to your first trip to Pulaski, what would you do differently?
  • Is the approach for spring steelhead different from the fall run?
  • Are the tributaries worth hitting in the spring?
  • Any other advice?

Thank you!

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12 thoughts on “Salmon River Steelhead?

  1. I might suggest that you find a guide that can take you out for half day and who uses the method you want to try. Will save you a lot of wasted time.
    Maybe someone at Upcountry can point you in the right direction.

    1. Steve, that’s great advice. I’m a bit of a DIY guy unfortunately and am happy to put in the hours to learn a new fishery. I already have reached out to Torrey at UpCountry to get general advice, as well as Zach St. Amand, the well-known Farmington guide. Wish me luck!

  2. When I went mid-March two years ago the weather was horrendous, the water too high and cold, the fish few in numbers, not even a float trip guide helped. In three days we saw two steelies landed. The upper sections have fly fishing only in town of Altmar from the center of town upstream. Was crowded but accessible, especially the Church Pool. We stayed at Tailwater Lodge in Altmar. Costly but nice; good food, too. We followed one trib. from the road to the river then reversed and several huge fish in there but they spooked too easily. Enjoy!

  3. Did my first trip up there in November. Flows were super high and fishing overall was not that great, but the most productive sections tended to be the fly-fish only sections in Altmar. It’s counter-intuitive because you’ll see a million people in the Church pool and naturally want to skip over it, but it’s shoulder-to-shoulder there for a reason, and everyone tends to be pretty cordial and generally make standing around in the freezing cold catching almost no fish much more enjoyable. The first rock on the wall-side of that pool is the money spot (I don’t think I’m spilling any secrets here), I watched the 2-3 people standing on that rock hook and lose about 3-4 fish in the first hour I was there.

    In hindsight, I wish I had fought the urge to run & gun a little more. The bite was slow but it seemed to get hot for 15-30 minutes at a time, and it didn’t seem to matter whether you were alone in a spot you found away from the crowds or not.

    Personally, I had the most luck on a tributary — hooked into a steelhead sitting in barely enough water to cover him but he got downstream of me very quickly and shook the hook when he was 5 ft from the net.

    Finally, I was sort of an idiot and didn’t know about the single hook restriction on the Salmon. If I had known and planned ahead I would’ve tied heavier flies, but I ended up having to use a lot of split shot to get the flies ( and beads, was using a lot of beads that weekend) down. Also, in the fly-fish only sections, beads aren’t allowed. I also didn’t know this. Don’t be like me.

    1. Ben, thank you for the pointers. It really is a dizzying array of rules/restrictions that also change within a year!

  4. By no means an expert but if water is right good fishing throughout, if flows are high very tough going try other tribs to salmon or lake. If still slow go on to PA. Tail water best beds in the east. Nice bar Food and beer excellent. Too bad they don’t include breakfast anymore

      1. if i remember correctly flows below 750 at altmar are ideal. as i said i’m certainly no expert. fish are always there, but it can be tough going in high flows. i’ve spent days there at higher flows and not hooked up and maybe only saw one or two fish caught in three days. pay attention close to the banks and in tribs if flows are high also 6 weight might be a little light for some of the brutes in that river. good luck

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