Friday, March 19, 2010

The DSR Provides High Quality Fishing from Salmon River Estuary to Staircase

DSR's staircase to the river

A couple of happy DSR clients

Landing a steelie

Jason, DSR's river keeper, releasing an average-size chromer

Bordering roughly 2 ½ miles of the lower Salmon River, the Douglaston Salmon Run offers the highest quality salmon and trout fishing on this world-class stream. Two factors play equally important roles in contributing to this private fishing preserve’s enviable reputation: location and philosophy.

Any realtor will tell you, location is everything. Springing from the estuary, a mild-mannered series of slow moving channels slicing through low, marshy islands a few hundred yards upstream of the stream’s mouth, the DSR is the first wadeable spot on the river to see lake-run fish. In fact, its lower reaches introduce them to the first sets of rapids. Starting out as a series of lazy currents, undercut banks and fish-friendly pools, the DSR slowly accelerates into an exciting combination of ripples, mild whitewater, angler-friendly runs and large pools before ending in the “Staircase,” a highly productive stretch of pocketwater on Pulaski’s west side.

Dedicated to responsible stewardship of the valuable natural resources in its care, the DSR manages its share of the river by adhering to the traditions of fair play and sportsmanship spawned by American transcendentalists over 100 years ago. River keepers patrol the grounds, discouraging unethical and illegal fishing practices. Essentially, the DSR’s philosophy provides clients with the most natural, fast water fishing for trophy trout in the Northeast.

My Return
I generally fish in the village of Pulaski and haven’t waded the DSR in years. I decided to give it another shot while I still can (I’m pushing retirement age) and went there last Friday.

Pulling into the main entrance on Lake Street (County Rte 5), I was immediately greeted by Phil, the assistant manager. He told me about the water conditions, what species were in the river, what they were hitting … everything I needed to know to have a successful outing.

Making it to the river's edge on the DSR’s well- maintained trail, I descended the stairs to the water. I started just upstream of the first couple of guys I met.

In no time at all, one sets his hook hard, landing a nice six-pound chromer after a respectable battle. A few minutes later, his buddy did the same. They were center-pinning with ceramic beads.

Everywhere I went the story was pretty much the same: lots of guys fishing, but no crowded spots. Everyone boasted catching at least one steelie and claiming “this is a slow day.”

Really! I thought. Any day I get a steelie is a good one. I later learned DSR clients expect numerous hook-ups each trip.

I asked Jason, DSR’s head river keeper, if the fishing was indeed slow. He admitted it was, explaining: “The snow and ice melt are acting like ice cubes in a drink, cooling the water. The fish are in, but they’re not as active as they will be as soon as the snow cap melts and the water warms up a little bit.”

That should be after the first heavy rain. If rain doesn’t come, the warm weather we're experiencing this week’ll do it.

Imagine: the DSR loaded with aggressive, spawning steelies and famished drop-backs. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The DSR offers lodging, guides, you name it. Check it out at:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Early March Drive Up the Oswego River

Sandy Creek native, Colin Kehoe, showing a perch and the rig he got it on.

When nice weather finally broke winter’s spell late last week, I found myself sitting behind my desk feeling much like a kid in school on a warm spring day. Like a youngun,’ I couldn’t just leave my desk and take off for the great outdoors. Unlike a kid, however, I couldn’t day dream about it, either. So, being a mature, responsible adult, I worked furiously and finished with enough light left to take my favorite ride: up the Oswego River.

I launched my excursion from Three Rivers. There wasn’t any ice on the water nor were there people fishing from the bank.

So I continued north to Phoenix. At the bridge I saw a guy sitting on the wall below the lower lock, pole in hand. Parking my car, I climbed up a snow bank left by a plow at the outer edge of a beauty shop’s parking lot and slipped and slid my way down a slim trail through the aging snow. The middle of the canal channel was open directly below the lock but slipped under ice a couple hundred feet downstream. Mallards sat on the edge of the hard water on the west side, Colin Kehoe, a native of Sandy Creek, sat on the canal wall across from them.

In no time flat the guy was reeling in a nice eight-inch perch.

“That’s a pretty good size perch,” I hollered as I walked toward him.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s not as big as the ones we get in Sandy Pond, and I haven’t gotten as many as I do when I fish there. But the pond is slushy and sloppy, and you need an ATV to get around. Here I can walk from the car and fish open water.”

He was still-fishing fathead minnows on bottom and had at least a dozen perch running six to eight inches in his five-gallon bucket.

As tempted as I was to drop a line, I didn’t have any minnows, and there was only about an hour of light left. So I decided to continue on to Oswego to see what I could see.

A few minutes later I rounded the turn on NY 481 just south of town and the steam plant’s stacks popped into view. Shortly afterwards, I turned into the fishing access site parking lot just before the bridge crossing the lock at Leto Island. I noticed a drift boat anchored out in the river, at the downstream end of the middle wall, and reached for my camera.

Feeling really lucky just catching sight of a drift boat in action, I rested my elbow on the railing at the top of the lock stairs to steady my arm, focused, held my breath and started squeezing the shutter. Just then, the guy holding the rod decides to set the hook…hard. I mean, he whipped his arm back so forcefully I could hear his line slicing through the air. Next thing you know, a steelie explodes out of the water like it’s auditioning for a documentary NASA moon shots. I didn’t get him in flight, but I got him being netted.

From the looks of it, the weather we’re having is more fish-friendly than normal and the denizens of the drink are celebrating ice-out the most fisherman-friendly way imaginable: with their teeth. So don’t just sit there, get out and wet a line. The Oswego River’s full of hungry fish, and promises to provide one dynamite spring for anyone willing to venture out and wet a line.

Netting a steelie at the middle wall in Oswego.

Waiting for perch to bite... and ice-out

Monday, March 1, 2010

Deep Winter Chrome

John Kopy holding a 41", 18-something pound hen steelhead caught in the Salmon River

Seen from I-81, the Salmon River looks too shallow and fast for an average boater to pay it any mind. But in the eyes of a steelheader, especially this time of year, it’s heavenly; just the right speed and depth to float a driftboat.

You see, the river’s base flow in itself is enough to carry the thing. Kick in the run-off we’re getting and the stream turns into the ideal habitat for the fine art of back-trolling. One of the most effective ways to catch steelhead, the technique involves drifting downstream, dropping a couple lines rigged with lures like Kwik Fish, Hot N Tots, Hot Shots and Rapalas off the back of the boat, and gently rowing against the current just enough for the flow to give the lures some action.

“This way you cover the entire stretch of water. Better still, you’re over the fish constantly,” claims John Kopy, a local guide who has back-trolled clients to monster steelies from here to Alaska.

It’s about the most environmentally-friendly way you can fish for these chrome beauties. The only sound you hear is the gentle tapping of the oars on the water, the waves slapping the belly of the boat. Since resident wildlife don’t have any predators that attack from the water, the critters stand there undisturbed, watching as you float by. And although you’re moving at a pretty good clip, the sight, through leafless trees, of the last vestiges of snow and ice being swept off the countryside is mesmerizing to the point of mild intoxication.

Before you can indulge too deeply in the reverie however, Kopy reads something in an approaching rapid and instructs you to reel in or release some line, to raise or lower the lure respectively. Then you sit back and continue communing with nature.

Before long, a steelhead will hit, shaking you back to the thrilling reality at hand. It reacts to the cold steel piercing its mouth like someone struck a match under its anal fin. Next thing you know, it’s heading in one direction, you’re going in the other, and all the while Kopy’s watching to determine if he should keep rowing or drop anchor and land the fish.

There are a lot of different ways to catch steelies at the end of winter but none is so peaceful. Back-trolling down a speeding stream is the perfect send-off for the year’s quietest season.

And if you release the fish, it’ll go away, and maybe come back again next year…a little bigger and a whole lot smarter.