The worst thing about fishing in November is the extreme changes in weather. A super cold front with freezing temperatures and snow can shut the fish down. But a couple days of warm weather can start the action boiling again. This week's Indian summer promised to stir the Salmon River into the ideal temperature for browns, steelhead, rainbows, and some late salmon.
Before hitting the river on Wednesday, I stopped into Fat Nancy's on NY 13, across the road from I-81 exit 36 north, to see if I called it right, and to find out where the fish were.
"The river's loaded with fish from top to bottom," claimed Tiny, an associate of the tackle shop.
"Steelhead ranging from 5 to 10 pounds, rainbows going from 3 to 5 pounds, and browns from 3 to 12 pounds are everywhere," said the part-time fishing guide (One More Fish Guide Service, 315-529-6427).
I asked Tiny to describe any physical differences between a steelhead and rainbow.
"On rainbows the spots range further down on the body and they have a prominent pink stripe early in the season. Steelhead are green-backed and silvery on the sides and don't develop the pink until later in the season," he answered.
Egg sacs are the most popular bait. Tiny suggests carrying a mixture of colors and using bright hues on cloudy days and dark colors when it's bright outside.
"Another highly productive bait is a trout bead, especially in chartreuse, sun orange, Glo Roe and Cotton Candy Pink," he volunteered.
Warmer water seems to restore the fish's appetite for worms. Tiny prefers "baby night crawlers." However, for the squeamish, an artificial worm that's equally productive is Berkley's Gulp Alive 2" Fish Fry.
Use a float to help detect a bite. The fish are active, hanging out in the fast water. They hit quickly and often subtly, and the float reports the slightest hesitation in the bait immediately, giving you a split second longer to react, enough time to make the difference between a solid hook-up and the ol' "I think I had a hit!"
I went out for a couple hours and followed Tiny's advice. I fished the pockets at the Staircase and nailed a 6-pound brown on a Berkley Gulp Alive 2" Fish Fry.
His radiant browns and golds reflected autumn's peak. I released him and he disappeared over the spent leaves carpeting the river's floor.
Early November casts a magic spell on the river. You'll not find a more pleasant and scenic time to catch a brown or rainbow trout as large and colorful as the one swimming through your imagination.
Brown trout in autumn colors
Local guide, John Kopy, with an autumn brown.