Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Salmon River 2011

Joe called me during the summer and asked if I wanted to help out at his 1st annual Project Healing Waters (PHWFF) Salmon River Trip. I said yes. I try to keep my volunteer work separate from my business and pleasure work, so here are the pictures from my trip. I got up there a few days before the PHWFF trip to fish and stayed a few days after to fish. If you want to see the Project Healing Waters photographs, please go to Facebook and find the Fort Drum chapter of Project Healing Waters.

The alarm was set for 0500 Monday October 10. I got up, and loaded the last of the gear into my car and headed to my boat. Of course my moron neighbors had backed their cars over the trailer hitch on my boat. I had to unlock the boat, manually pull it out from under the car, and turn it out into traffic. I then backed my car up to it and attached. I was off by 0530.

There was little if no traffic. Possibly because it was so early or a Federal holiday. The sun started to illuminate the sky by the time I go to Frederick Md and then a foggy morning turned into a brilliant sky. I had to pull over just past Big Hunting Creek to take these shots. 

 I stopped twice on the drive up. Once to gas up in Dillsburg Pa and once in Cortland Ny. I got to Pulaski around 1pm. I stopped at All Seasons to get my license and some tying material. They keep a well stocked shop. I was able to load up on chartreuse ostrich feathers. I called Joe and got no answer. Instead of looking for him, I decided to go fishing. I drove up to Altmar. I stopped in Malinda's shop and poked around. I purchased some hooks and looked around. I was in no rush to get to the river.

I drove to the Lower Fly Zone parking lot and suited up. I pulled out my 11' 8wt Orvis Helios Switch rod. My favorite rod for drifting flies. I tied on a sucker spawn on a new leader and headed up. The river was packed. It was the day off for a lot of people and they were finishing up their 3 day weekend. I drifted the fly a few times and nothing. I put on a streamers and hooked into a salmon which then threw the fly. I put on a popsicle and got into another fish. This was a brute of a king salmon and took off back to the lake. It swam into some trees and I popped it off.

I moved up to the cemetery hole. I thought I saw Joe so I moved further up. It wasn't him. Some dudes from Boston. I put my gear bag down and walked out. The river was a lot shallower here than two years ago. The floods from the past season had changed the river. I tossed out my purple egg sucking leech with the pink head. A king salmon hit it and the fight was on. I had no one to land the fish for me. I backed up to the shore to get it into the shallows. The fish tried to swim under a log. I should have let it go and popped it off. Instead, I backed up further and my rod tip touched an overhanging tree branch.

The sound I hear next is unforgettable. My rod exploded. I drove all this way up here to fish for three days before the PHWFF float and I was out of my best rod.

At least the fish was landed. I had a kid walking by take a picture. A big fish, a quality fish if I had not broken my rod.

Now that I had landed a fish and had no rod with me, I figured it was time to head back to town. I wanted to price a replacement rod. All I had were 9' and 10' rods and a 14'. Those were for the guys on Thursday and Friday.   It was around 4pm or so. I headed to Whitakers and All Seasons. I tried to convince the guy at All Sesons to let me switch out a brand new 6wt switch rod, a case of beer, and $40 for the 8wt model he had. No deal.

I called Joe when I got close to town. He said he was at the town pool. I pulled out of the All Seasons lot and headed to town. I pulled up and noticed a big bus in the lot. Turns out it was the  Kings of Leon. Joe had been guiding them the past two days. I was greeted by Joe and Smitty and the band's driver, road crew, and two members.

We all had a few beers. I was given a tour of the bus. Quite nice. Wish my digs were that nice when I was on the road. We all hung out in the lot as they cleaned up and prepared the bus to head to Canada for the night. Joe introduced me to one of his new guides, Brad. He grew up in Maryland, spends most of his year in Alaska, and the rest up in New York.

Joe finally decided it was time to head to the campsite. He has a 16 acre plot of land between Pulaski and Altmar. We got there just in time for me to set up my tent under a tarp. The daylight was fading. Brad got a campfire going. We drank beer and Joe drank 'wine'. Brad made burgers on a grate over the fire.

I'm not sure if was the fact that I was so hungry had nothing but jerky and cheese balls all day, but those were some of the best burgers I had ever had. Joe played some music on his computer, we told stories, and headed to bed around 11pm.

Joe and Brad were up early the next morning. I got up around 7. It was the first time I had slept since March.

I had not slept in a tent in some time. It was delicious. I woke up around 0300 and heard owls. Brad swears he heard a moose. Could have just been Joe snoring.

I headed to the Upper Fly Zone to meet up with Joe. The sun was just peeking over the tree tops.

 I made my way down the trail to the river. No rod or reel, just camera and cowboy hat. I wasn't sure if I wanted to fish there or not.
 The lot was full anyway. I hadn't fished this spot in a decade so couldn't remember how it was anyway.
 I walked the trail along the water. I was picking up discarded or lost flies, something I did the entire trip. I'll do a story on that one day soon.

I came across this pile of salmon eggs. Some of the females will spill eggs when you pick them up. Make mental notes when tying egg patterns.

 The Upper Fly Zone had changed dramatically from the floods of last year. The stream bed had been scoured out and the river widened in spots. Very fishing looking spots. I found Joe and his clients. One of which had just come back from Kuwait  a day or so ago. This guy was bundled up in 3 layers of clothing. It was 60 degrees out that day and 60 cooler than Kuwait. I decided to get my gear and fish. 
 I hoofed it back to the car. The woods were a golden hue from the rising sun and the changing leaves.

 I got back to the lot. Not really a lot as the old reserved parking is now closed and people have to park on the road. I fished for a few hours with barely a strike. I filled up my waders when I slipped on a rock. I had tried to cross to the other side. One group of guys got really nasty when I tried to cross near them, fearing I would ruin the fishing. If only they knew that the only thing that stays the same on this river this time of year is where you stand. Every minute a different fish comes in. Crossing the stream wouldn't harm the fishing. If anything all of my walking would turn up nymphs and eggs and chum up the fish that were about to come into that spot. I gave up and headed to the Lower Fly.

 The salmon were stacked up. I managed to photograph this one leaping out of the water. Just above this spot is the hatchery and you can't fish there. The following images are of the fish just below or above the wire. They are staging and spawning unmolested by the anglers.
 I really like this shot. A fin sticking out of the water with changing leaves reflecting.

 This one reminds me of a Japanese wave print.

 I hooked into several fish but didn't land anything. I took a break and went to meet Joe for lunch at the Altmar Hotel. I stopped at the Altmar bridge to look around.

This guy was giving instructions to a guy below on how to snag. He was spotting the fish from above and telling the guy when to lift his rod.
 You can see the change in the river from the floods. Very skinny water on this side of the bridge. There was a girl on the other side fishing in socks. She was on a boulder with knee high 80's socks and swinging flies. I would have taken a pic put would have felt like a perv.
 I could see loads of fish stacked up in the water. I put on my polarizing lens and took a few shots:

 Time for lunch. I headed over to the hotel. Bacon cheeseburger and onion rings. Ice water. The food came and was a bit disappointing. Just a burger, cheese, bacon. Last time it had onion, pickles, tomato, lettuce, etc. The WORKs. Meh. I ate and listened to stories and shenanigans of the patrons. I went back to the lot and geared up.
 I couldn't resist this picture. A guy standing AND fishing from the bridge.
 I decided to shop instead of fish. I went into Malinda's
 Her switch rod assortment.

 I really liked this. A hook chart. Hooks on display by size, model, and brand. You can view them up close and determine which ones you want to tie with.
 Her wide selection of books and DVDs.
 Fly tying material. More than any shop around.
 Guys just hanging out and telling stories.
 One of the shop cats.
 Back to the lot, this fish was scooting through the shallows.

I strung up my Orvis Access 9' 8wt. and headed to the Lower Fly stretch. I fished for a few hours. I hooked several kings and played them close and popped off the ones that were foul hooked. I hooked into a nice steelhead and backed up to land it in the shallows. Wouldn't you know it, the rod exploded. Just where the male ferrule's insertion into the female ferrule. The rod broke in half. I took some pics of the fish and released it. The images are on my point and shoot and I have no cord to upload them. It was a nice pink and silvery steelhead. It took one of my orange sucker meth flies.

Now that I was with out rod, I headed back to camp. Brad got the fire going. We told stories, ate more burgers, drank some beers and 'wine' and laughed. It was a good time. As I work from home and only get out to be with clients, it was good to hang out and talk with some guys. I smoked a cigar and we watched the full moon rise and illuminate the woods. 

Joe by the fire.

Tuesday morning had me up around 7am again. One of Joes' guides was up at the Lower Fly so I joined them. I fished for a few hours and hooked several fish. I saw a chipmunk running up and down a tree. The little critter was eating something off the branches. It eventually fell in. I'd never seen that before. Maybe its time to start tying up some chipmunk flies. It was washed down stream with the current. I never saw it again.

This guy fell in at least 4 times and filled his waders. No polarized sunglasses, no studs on boots.
Some eggs along the shore with my sucker meth next to them for comparison.
Brad showed up and we fished together. It was nice having someone to fish with AND to net fish.
I picked this nice king salmon up on a sucker meth.
Brad was swinging streamers with his two handed fly rod. He is a fan of the Echo swtich rods.
Some more eggs spilled by a salmon. Brad commented on how they painted beads in Alaska with nail polish to make them look just like fish eggs.

Joes' guide showing off his boxes. I probably should not be showing this but oh well.

We also found someone's egg sack. A no-no in the fly stretch.
Brad got into a nice king salmon.

Back to Eric's (S.W.A.T. Fishing) for a few beers, some laundry, fly tying, and image uploading. Here is a picture of the flies form that day with a bag of beads.
I was running out of orange and yellow sucker meth's so I sat down and cranked out a handful. The edge of the kitchen table was rounded and my clamp vise would not fit. I had to sit on the floor and use the edge of a kitchen chair. I need to get a pedestal for my Regal vise. I cranked out the flies while catching up on TMOS.

I headed to the grocery store to stock up on food for dinner. I made chicken kebabs and steamed mushrooms-onions-zucchini on the camp fire. Joe and Brad got back as the rain started and we dined in the rain. We went to bed early as we had to get up early to meet the PHWFF guys and guides at the old Portly Angler lodge.

Guides up early at Timbers for breakfast. I have took a picture of the interior (on other camera) and this lady in coke bottle glasses and a Bill Cosby sweater started making kissy faces at me and posing her hair. It was creepy. Smitty got creeped out too.
The line of boats headed down river.

Dinner at the Pulaski VFW

Local Weebalos and Boy Scouts served.

Dan tying up some Tequila Sunrise flies.

I had to take Saturday off. I got sick. I spent most of the day in my tent under. Here are the pics from Sunday. The fishing got better later in the day. The crowds dwindled too as everyone had to head home. As I had a 7+ hour drive, I left around noon.

This was my first time trout fishing in over 2 years. I'm glad Joe invited me up to help on the trip. I would have not have gone up there this year. Thanks to everyone who helped organize the PHWFF trip, the vets and soldiers who came out.


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