Saturday, January 1, 2011

December cold, steelies and solitude on the river

My much anticipated three day December trip to the Salmon River in Pulaski, N.Y. was the coldest temperatures I have fished in yet. I packed up as soon as Christmas dinner was over. My suitcase was jammed with multiple fleece tops and bottoms, windstopper gloves, wool socks and I don't know how many packages of body warmers, toe warmers and hand warmers I also stuffed in there. Needless to say, I was well prepared.

Which was just as good since Monday morning dawned bright and early with a 10F temperature at the start of my guided adventure. Once again I had Loren Williams from as a guide. Before heading out from Whitakers, Loren suggested I rent a pair of their Orvis boot waders which he believed would be better at keeping my feet warm. I am grateful that I followed his suggestion. I used those waders for the three days and not once did my feet get cold. So with all my fleece layers and my new Techwick base layer and my new 300 fleece jacket not only was I warm, but I swear I looked like a giant marshmallow! And there were times when I hiked along to another fishing spot when I did break out into a sweat. Any way I look at it, I was having a blast.

It was so cold that I could get maybe two or three casts before there was too much ice in my guides! Forget Stanley's Ice Off Paste, it was just too darn cold. It was so cold that I had ice form up on my waders which I didn't know about until I went to take a big step downriver. As I stretched out to move I heard a sound that was something similar to a rip. I looked down to see what on Earth was going on with my waders when I saw the ice. There must have been almost a half inch of ice that had circled each leg and then froze them together. Wicked! When I took my step I was actually breaking apart the ice. Now that was something I had not experienced before. Still makes me laugh now when I think about it.
We had some sun early on but the clouds soon moved on in along with some wind. I don't think it got much warmer than 20F but all I needed was to land a steelie to get my heart pumping and I warmed right up. The solitude of the first day was a blessing. It is a comfort to look about me while swinging flies, enjoying the beauty of the river and simply relaxing while waiting for the rip.

The first rip of the day happened that afternoon. We had moved to another spot on the river and had been there for maybe an hour when it happened. This hen took the fly right as it hit the water on the opposite bank and she gave a brief but entertaining fight. It was especially entertaining when I started to reel her in and my reel "froze". I wasn't too surprised because it was sooooo cold but when I looked down what I saw stopped my heart. Somehow the line had wrapped around reel which made me think it was frozen. Lucky for me Loren was unable to untangle the **#!@ mess and I was able to land her and take a couple of pics.

That was the fish for the day and by 4:00 (yes, I made it the entire day) I was ready for a warm room, dinner and company. I had a great dinner at Eddy's with Paul and Sue, fellow members. They were also up for a couple of days fishing for steelies. We had a great dinner along with the usual fish stories. What was really neat for me was to meet another gal who loves these fish as much as I.

Tuesday was another 8:30 am start and this time the temperature was a balmy 15F. I think it might have warmed up to 25F that day although cold is cold. And oh yeah, the wind had picked up.

Not only had the wind picked up but there was shelf ice and anchor ice and ice chunks floating down the river. I was still having a blast though. I was snugged up again in all my layers and waiting, just waiting for a grab a pluck or preferably another rip.

That morning I was lucky to land a beautiful rainbow and I marveled at the beautiful maroon stripe along her side. She had a different fight than the steelies. It was more like pulling in your line when you have snagged a tree limb in the water. Not to many swings after that I was stripping in line when the water boiled right where the fly was. Could it be? Man, it looked like a big fish. With a prayer I sent the line back out and waited, watied and then...shazam! Another rip. This guy set me up for a good fight. With rod bent he came in went out and repeated his dance until Loren got the net close enough to git him. However, the fish took one look at the net and headed right back out! So there I am, dancing in the river with a steelie who literally did circles around me until he decided he had had enough. That was, without a doubt, the best fight with a steelie I have ever had. It was a leg shaking, knee knocking heart thumping and legal high I will never forget.

On Wednesday we started earlier and hit the water by 7:30am. It was warmer in that I think the temperature was closer to 25F and may have it 30F before we fished. The wind was also absent. My God, it was almost warm enough to wet wade!! I had another fun fight with the most beautiful hen steelie (no picture) that took the fly just as it finished the swing. I had on and lost - GROAN - a fairly big brown trout as well. Oh well, the heart still got thumping but what a bummer to have lost that one. We ran into a few more anglers but all in all the river was never too crowded.

So all in all it was one of the best trips yet. I love my new Deer Creek 5-6 wt.You can feel each and every head shake and tail whip the fish can make. That along with swinging flies is, in my humble opinion, the best way to fish for steelies.

December cold, steelies and solitude on the river. Already I am looking forward to another Dec. 2011 trip but why wait till then? I am actually thinking of heading back up in Feb. which is a hell of a lot closer than 11 months!!

Here are some more pics from the trip.


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