Matt Dinardo, The Salmon River Flea
Posted: May 19 2015
This is my first entry as a blogger for the JP ROSS Fly Rod Company. I hope to bring you insight into one of my favorite rivers in central New York, the Salmon River.
Just a little bit of history about me and my fly fishing career. I started fishing the Salmon River in 1993, but could not really understand how to drift with a spin casting rod. I spent almost three years on that river before I put a fish on my line. I began fly fishing in 1994 and learned on the West Canada Creek in Herkimer, NY. In the fall of 1996 I brought my 5wt. fly rod to the Salmon River and worked with a guide on how to set up the line for the "High Stick" or the "Chuck and Duck" method. It literally took 3 minutes to put a fish on my line, using a fly rod. That was just the beginning. I have continued to fish that river with only fly rod since that point. While I lived in Central New York, I would be on that river every Thursday through Sunday from Labor Day to Halloween. Now, I live in central Virginia, so my trip to the Salmon River is for one solid week, and it is always the week of October that leads into the Columbus Day weekend.
I fish with the same group of guys every year, but I am always will to bring new people, serious anglers, into our group for a day or a couple of days. I fish two methods now, High Stick and Spey, which I just started about 6 years ago. I am not as proficient as I would like with my two handed spey rod, but really enjoy the style of fishing and the action that it provides. When new anglers join my group, I teach the High Stick Method and we use very little weight. It is my belief that the only weight you need is to get the fly into the strike zone, no more nor less, and that weight is going to change based on where you are fishing and the level of the water.
Let's talk about the Salmon River for a bit. The river is 13 miles long from the Upper Fly Zone to the Mouth. There are so many areas to fish and many public access sites. Do not be afraid to park your car and walk. Due to the heavy foot traffic there is an extensive trail system on both sides, north and south, of the river. The first two and a half miles of the river is owned and operated by the Barkley Family. It is known as the Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR). This is private land and there is a fee to park and fish this land. Currently the fee for 2009 is $30 per angler per day. There are many discussions on many fishing websites or forums regarding this area for fishing and the politics that surround it; I will not get into that, all I will say is that I have fished that area for many years and there are many different types of water to fish. You can find these types of water throughout the Salmon River. The Salmon River begins public access from the Black Hole all the way upstream to the Upper Fly Zone. Below is a series of maps of the Salmon River.
The Salmon River is a hydro-dam controlled river. The level of the river is dependent on the amount of gates open, or even the partial number of gates open. The simple rule thumb is every 335cfs is half a gate. There is a website that will allow you to know exactly what the planned water release schedule is, to help you plan your trip: http://www.h2oline.com/365123.asp. However, there are two smaller creeks, Trout Brook and Orwell Creek, which can add to the flow of the water downstream. There is a stream gauge located in Pineville, that will show you what the river level is, and that gauge is downstream of Orwell Creek, so that will allow you to see the added water flow of at least one of the smaller streams that lead into the Salmon River. The website for that gauge is: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?04250200.
The equipment for the Salmon River, for fly fishing, should be an 8wt. to 10wt. rod with the correct reel to match and I use the correctly sized weight forward floating line. If you are new to fishing the Salmon River, I would suggest a large arbor reel with a very good drag system. I suggest that that the majority of the money that you spend in the set up should be in the reel. As far as leader and tippet material, I will explain that in detail a little later, in another article.
Anglers who fish the Salmon River will have a chance to target four distinct species of fish during the fall and early winter. They are the Chinook (King) Salmon, the Coho Salmon, Steelhead and Brown Trout. To be truthful there are two species of steelhead, the Washington and the Skamania. So really you can target five species of fish. Some lucky anglers can have the day of their life when they get the Salmon River Grand Slam, which consists of a King, Coho, Steelhead and Brown. To date, I have never had the slam! I have always been snubbed by Mr. Steel. In my opinion the two best fish on the river to fight are the Steelhead and the Coho. The Coho is like fighting a freight train with ballistic runs upstream and downstream. Fighting steelhead is second to none. They will often make non-stop runs downstream and you will be treated to some of the greatest acrobatic maneuvers by any fish.
I am often asked: "If you had to choose only two flies to fish the Salmon River with, what would they be?" My answer is simple: The Salmon River Flea and the Freak-a-zoid. The Flea is the easiest fly to tie and using it to dead-drift everything will hit it. In my group of anglers it is our go to fly. When nothing else is producing, you put the flea on. The Freak-a-zoid is a fly that is tied in Alaska for Silvers, which is a kin to the Coho. I changed the color scheme to the most productive known colors on the Salmon River. This fly has become a deadly fly for Coho. If we see Coho in the river swimming by, a few of us will put the Freak on and before too long we start fighting Coho. We have seen Coho attack this fly the moment it hits the water.
I am in the middle of tying flies right now for my trip to the Salmon River, and I have gone through a step by step process for both of these flies for you.
The Salmon River Flea is an egg pattern, but not tied on an egg hook. It is supposed to represent a fertilized Salmon Egg.
The Salmon River Flea is tied on a size 6 or size 8 wet nymph hook.
I use 6/0 Fire Orange thread.
I then tie in a one and a half inch piece of Poly Yarn in White.
At the back of the bend I tie in a two inch piece of Fire Orange Medium Chenille.
I then bring my thread all the way forward to the eye of the hook, locking in the poly yarn along the hook shank. I trim the front edge of the poly yarn so that it is just over the eye of the hook.
Tightly wrap the Fire Orange Chenille, along the hook shank, to the eye, but do not crowd it. Then using the thread give the flea a nice "thread head" and the whip-finish and seal with cement.
The Freak-a-zoid is a Wooly Bugger using: Fire Orange thread, Fire Orange Medium Chenille for the body, Salmon Egg Orange Marabou for the tail, and Chartreuse Saddle Hackle for the wings.
It is tied on a size 6 3x long hook. Start off your thread as you would any other fly.
Tie in a generous amount of marabou for a long and fluffy tail. I personally like about a two inch tail.
Tie in a piece of the saddle hackle. I tie in the butt section, so that the hackle tapers from back to front.
Next, tie in your chenille.
Bring your thread to the front of the hook and then wrap the chenille along the hook shank, close to the eye.
Palmer the saddle hackle along the shank of the hook to the eye and tie it off, trimming any excess hackle.
Once again, I create a nice "thread head" and then whip finish and seal with cement.
In my next article, I will discuss the High Stick, Chuck and Duck, Dead Drift method and the common set up for it. I look forward to your feedback on this article and please post any comment or questions that you may have regarding Salmon fishing. If you would like to join us for a day on the river, we will be up in Pulaski from October 4th through the 9th, get in touch with me and we will make arrangements to hook up.