Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Last Chance Snowshoeing

By: Spider Rybaak

Reading the Trail Guide.
This winter has been disciplined…so far. The cold and snow came when they were supposed to, and temperatures remained low enough to keep things icy for the past couple months, without benefit of a January or February thaw.  Now March is giving us the cold shoulder with a controlled melt, slowly, teasingly, letting the landscape peek through the snow.

And that’s a welcome sight for Oswego County’s walkers. While living in one of the snowiest regions of the country accustoms us to winter, the long spell of exceptionally frigid conditions we’ve just endured forced a lot of us to spend most of the past few weeks bundled up indoors.

Something we’re not used to. You see, winter’s a fact of life around here. Its patchwork of sparkling, squeaky-clean ice and snow is beautiful to behold. And when it’s so brutally cold that we’re forced to stay inside for most of the season, we miss it.

Fortunately, the way March is going we’re getting us another chance: it’s frigid enough to keep winter fresh; mild enough to let us comfortably play in the snow.

Now, I’m too old to romp around in it. But I love to admire frozen water’s handiwork. Fortunately, Oswego County is my kind’a place: loaded with natural beauty, and expert at clearing the roads leading there.

Take the Salmon River falls for instance. Towering about 100 feet high, it’s almost totally frozen, clinging to the cliff like a clump of massive, icy columns held together by welds of frozen foam.

Upstream and down below, its course is a work of art.  Shelves of ice reach out toward the middle for its entire length. In slow moving stretches, like in the village of Pulaski, a cap of ice envelops the stream, a few narrow strips of dark brown water punching through the center like monster, porpoising salmon.

All the while, life goes on: anglers climbing its snowy banks and wading its icy flow; deer drinking from its banks; steelhead breaking water while climbing the rapids.

The weatherman predicts the next few days will be unseasonably cold, promising the river’s frosty setting a short respite from its looming fate.

Better hurry, though spring is only a couple weeks away. And like all youth, it’s enthusiastic and energetic, eager for the ice and snow to go away.

Get there from I-81 exit 36 (Pulaski) by heading south on NY 13 for about 8 miles to Altmar, turn left on CR 22, travel a little over 4 miles, turn right on Falls Road and continue for 1.5 miles.

The falls, like many natural wonders, can be dangerous if you're careless. Exercise caution and common sense when admiring its beauty; and always go with a friend.

You're gonna need snowshoes; there's still 2 feet of snow at the Salmon River Falls.
Salmon River Falls from the overlook at Falls Road.
Want more information on snowshoeing in Oswego County? Visit

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Salmon River in the wake of a Record February.

By Spider Rybaak

Lawn Chair for the Weary
Folks will be talking about last February for years. The daily temperature only averaged 9 degrees Fahrenheit and the month never saw the mercury rise above freezing. Add 50-something inches of snow to the equation and you come up with the wintriest February on record.

So far, March doesn’t seem to be much better. In fact, the way it’s roaring outside the window today (March 2), you’d think it’s trying to imitate last month. But the weather forecast is calling for a couple days above freezing late this week, maybe warmer next week, making it a good bet that the month will spend some of its time luxuriating under balmy March conditions-- days in the 40s and 50s.

With all that snow piled up out there, the mild weather will unleash torrents of run-off. Fortunately, the weatherman predicts moderate warming for the near future, which will raise water levels slowly, just enough to draw steady runs of fresh steel into Lake “O’s” tributaries.

The feeder most favored by the majority of chromers is the Salmon River. The fish have been coming up all winter. But the anglers haven’t. As a result, the stream’s full of ‘em—more than usual. And their numbers are growing daily.

It ain’t all rosy, however. Shelves of ice cling to the river’s banks below Pineville, and a little further down, the ice actually crosses the river.

But it’s still a great time to go for them in Altmar. The water is at perfect levels and the river is at a constant 34 degrees; cold by our standards, heavenly to chromers. Snowpack makes getting down to the river a little challenging, but well-beaten paths lead to all the popular spots.

Better hurry, though. All the snow that’s been clobbering us is gonna melt eventually. Hopefully, it’ll do so gradually, taking  the river all month to reach spring levels. And while the fishing is sure to be great then, why wait? The slow snowmelt we’re enjoying now offers loads of opportunities, and elbow room to boot.

Egg sacs and glo bugs are the bait of choice for most anglers. Fly-fishing purists are doing well on patterns like copper Johns and black stonefly nymphs. Spey casters are getting their fair share swinging brown or chartreuse wooly buggers through the current. Spinning enthusiasts working inline spinners like Roostertails slowly through pools and deep pockets are getting fresh trout, too. Float-fishermen are catching a lot on beads and 3-inch Berkley Trout Worms.

The main thaw is still a ways off. In the meantime, the Salmon River is fat with steelies just begging for your attention. Hit the stream at your earliest convenience; you’ll be glad you did.

Salmon River set in a Crown of Ice, Pulaski, NY
Steelheading last Monday in Snowy Altmar