Friday, March 22, 2013

Flies and beads: Pathways to a steelie heart.

By Spider Rybaak
Rick Miick (L) and Stan Oullette with a 10-pound steelie taken on a orange bead in the corner Hole.

Global warming seems to have been put on hold again. At press time, March 22, more than half a foot  of snow clings to the banks of the Salmon River, and the weather forecast calls for more snow showers over the next few days.

But what’s bad for weather forecasters is great for Salmon River anglers. Currently, Brookfield Renewable Power is releasing about 900 cfs from the lower reservoir. Despite being more than twice the level it was just a week ago, the river is running at a pace steelies find easy and safe to negotiate; a flow anglers with average skills can ply productively.

Rob, one of the owners of Fat Nancy’s Tackle Shop on NY 13, just across from the Pulaski exit of I-81 (877-801-3474), says the water is still very cold but there’s a lot of fish in the river nonetheless.

All the usual suspects are producing: Egg sacs, 3-inch Berkley floating trout worms, beads, Streamers and Spey flies.

Trout worms and eggs sacs can be chuck- ‘n-ducked, but work best when float-fished. Spinning tackle will do, but centerpinning equipment is best.

If you’re still in the dark about centerpinning, it involves a single-action reel whose spool rides on a centerpin so it to spins effortlessly, allowing your float to keep in perfect time with the current. The rod can run anywhere from 10 to 15 feet. Its length allows you to keep the line off the water--and avoid drag--for great distances, a plus if you’re into “hero casts.”

“Beads are the most productive baits in the pinhead’s arsenal,” raves Capt Rick Miick ( , 315-387-5920). The man taught me how to centerpin, and has produced a popular DVD on the subject.  “When you float fish beads, 30-hit days are common,” adds Miick.

Spey casting flies is a little less productive but so much fun, if you try it once, chances are you’ll be hooked for life.

Migell Wedderburn, a native of Pennellville, says: “I don’t do regular fishing anymore. It has to be Spey and nothing else. I have learned Spey fishing is beautiful and you can fish a rocky bottom easily and not get hung up.”

He’s even developed his own nymph he calls the Death Ray.

 “Spey casting instructor and fly-fishing guide Pat Miura (315-777-3570;, an angler respected by his peers and clients alike, says” the drug is the tug.”

And he’s right. Even a 6-inch Fallfish feels like a trophy trout when it strikes a fly swung across the current on Spey casting gear.

But you don’t need a double-handed rod to Spey cast. A regular 8-wt. reel loaded with floating fly line and a sinking leader, and a 9-foot fly rod will do in a pinch.  Simply roll cast a brown or olive wooly bugger across the current and let it swing downstream.  When  the bow in the line starts straightening out… hold on.

Migell Wedderburn's Death Ray

Migell Wedderburn, a nice steelie, and the Death Ray hanging from the roof of its mouth.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Last Call for Winter steelies

By Spider Rybaak
Sue and Tiny with the day's nicest steelie.

A famous journalist wasn’t getting the attention he felt he deserved from his Salmon River guide so he asks:  “Is the weather always this poor around here?”

“Nope,” responds the guide, “it changes sometimes.”

The noble writer turns red.

Since they hadn’t had a hit in about 30 minutes, the humble guide figures that’s the cause of his client’s antsiness and tries remedying the situation by announcing: “We’re movin’ after this cast.”

“Where to next?” asks the wordsmith.

“Glass hole.”

The writer completely loses it. “A guide’s never called me that before.  Take me back to shore this very instant,” he demands with such authoritative anger the river stops running for a split second.

So the guide takes him to the take out, passing several anglers battling steelies along the way.

Moral of the story: Listen to your guide or, don’t let the weather stop ya.

Last Sunday and Tuesday brought both points home.

February 24th found me Spey casting wooly buggers in the pool below the bridge in Pineville. Snow came and went at 10 minute intervals. An hour after starting I’m fishless and ready to leave. Seeing a guy entering the river on the other side holds me back. After all, I need affirmation that my decision to quit is a good one.

But he catches chrome.  And it didn’t take him more than 10 minutes. The most irritating thing about it is he’s Spey casting, too. But he’s using a marabou streamer and he’s hitting a seam I can’t reach from my side.

As tempted as I am to cross the bridge and fish next to him, I like my space too much and decide to go elsewhere, namely the stretch of river between the Short Bridge Pool and Long Bridge Pool in Pulaski.

Fish were there (I know because I watched a pin-head catch one floatfishing an egg sac) but they ignored my streamers.

Tuesday finds me in a drift boat with Captain Ryan “Tiny” Gilbert (One More Fish Guide Service; 315-529-6427) and Sue Bookhout, an Outdoor Communicator and Online Visibility Expert with Sue B Media (315-378-7738), a company she owns.

Launching in Pineville, our first stop is a no-name pool a couple hundred yards downstream of the first bend.

Tiny and Sue are floatfishing with beads; I’m Spey casting a wooly bugger.  Tiny suggests I floatfish, too, but I know better and keep whipping my fly.

Before long, they’re getting all kinds of action—and I can’t buy a hit. The sun’s high in an azure sky, so I whip out my cameras and, thinking I’ll show them, make like a photographer. I get some pretty good shots of an insect hatch and ice formations…but no fish.

If, as the book of fishy wisdom says, the proof is in the catch, I re-learned a valuable lesson: I don’t know it all. But the rebel in me argues: having fun Spey casting and making memories with great photos is every bit as valuable?

With an attitude like that you can’t lose, eh?

Currently, loads of overwintering steelhead are spread throughout the stream. The water’s running less than 200 cfs, a very fish-friendly rate. While the majority is enjoying success floatfishing  with beads and egg sacs, guys throwing inline spinners and streamers are catching rainbows, too.
Steelie in the snow.

Fishing from ship and shore.

Last ice.

Spots in the snow: winter hatch.