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Salmon River Fly-Fishing Tales

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  • September 25, 2019
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Salmon Fly-Fishing Tales" Learning to Fly Fish for Salmon on the Salmon River

Salmon Fishing

Angling On The Fly

Salmon River Fly-Fishing Tales is a three-day account of my first-time salmon fishing in the Salmon River, Altmar, NY.
by Joan Mead-Matsui, a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer, and photographer.

If you’re looking for Salmon River fly fishing tales and stories from my freshwater fishing expedition, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s all here – the angling, flies, bait, encounter with international anglers, and the final word on my success during my first salmon-fishing trip to the Salmon River. My Salmon River fly-fishing tales are more about my experience as a whole, rather than one specific story or incident.

The primary objective for this story assignment was to arrive at the river and learn as much as I could through listening, observing, and interviews with other anglers.

Where To Stay in Altmar, NY

Keep in mind you’ll need a place to rest your weary legs after a full day on the water. My late September trip to Altmar began in Pulaski, NY, with a long-time friend who also loves fishing and culminated with an overnight travel assignment, outstanding meals, and lodging at the Tailwater Lodge.

Tailwater Lodge Exterior Photo

The Tailwater’s accommodations tie in seamlessly with my outdoor recreation travel writing assignments and that’s why I’ve been a guest writer there four times.

If you’ve never stayed at the Tailwater, it is a phenomenal home-away-from-home upscale lodge that’s an independently owned Hilton Tapestry Collection award-winning property. It’s also adjacent to the Salmon River. The decor offers a lodge-like atmosphere but the accommodations are all about comfort, exceptional casual dining, and exemplary customer service. Bright and early, you can walk out the front door, hang a left, and within 50 ft., you’re on the river’s banks.

Need Room for Fly Tying?

The guest rooms are equipped with a desk and chair so you can set up your vise and tie flies should you deplete your supply.

Now that you have a place to hang your waders at night, the experienced fisher should have no problem catching at least one Chinook, Coho, or (landlocked) Atlantic salmon. The less skilled will learn a thing or two.

Longtime Goals Met Trepidation

Salmon fishery evolved into one of my goals not long after I learned to fly fish eight years ago. Only recently, did I find the courage to schedule a trip.

Why? Because I couldn’t coax any of my trout-fishing friends to take off time from their work. As a result, solo salmon fly-fishing was my only option and synonymous with wading into foreign territory. Despite mind-boggling self-doubt that actually kept me awake for a few hours the night before I departed for Altmar, I packed my gear in my car and embarked on my travel assignment to upstate New York.

Near-Perfect Conditions

A September trip, when the water is warm, appeals to me more than steelhead fishing in late October and early November. A few years ago, on a bitterly cold November day, my friend, our fishing guide and I set out to the Douglaston Salmon Run in search of steelhead. Within an hour, my fingertips and feet were numb and I was chilled to the bone despite several layers of clothing.

In stark contrast were the recent picture-perfect not-a-cloud-in-the-sky fall days with an ideal temperature for wading. Although they set the stage for three relaxing days they aren’t the ideal conditions for salmon migration. Salmon, much like trout, is a coldwater species and the air temperature was 70 degrees or higher by mid-day. That boosted the water temperature, which slowed the relocation.

One fisherman told me to return to the river to see the mass migration in mid-October. He assured me I’d see droves of salmon coming up the river once the weather turns ugly and cold.

Learning salmon fly fishing on the Salmon River

My mood turned more serious as my trip was winding down. Keep reading for additional Salmon River Fly Fishing Tips.

Salmon Larger Than Me?

Maybe not that big but I’d heard many stories about the weight and size of an average-sized salmon caught in the Salmon River. Twenty to 30-lbs is the most common range. As a result, I wondered how someone my height and weight could reel in a 20 to 30-pound salmon.

Thursday

After watching anglers in the Sportman’s Pool the first night I arrived in Pulaski, a neighboring town, I had my doubts if I had the skills to keep a salmon on the line and reel it in.

Friday

I awakened at 6:15 a.m. on my first full day in Altmar and was ready to fish by 8 a.m. Breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts took longer than I expected and I decided to make a quick stop at a fly shop on Route 13. The sales clerk offered expert advice but my river arrival time was set back by an hour or more.

Saturday

The crowd thickened on Saturday as multiple drift boats and a large group of fishers arrived along both sides of the shoreline. More people on the water seemed to have an impact on the number of salmon I saw but a change in travel plans allowed me to stay until late afternoon.

TIP: Be sure to get your hands on a fishing map so you don’t waste your time driving. You’ll find one online beforehand or at the local tackle or fly shops when you arrive.

Fly or Spin-Fishing?

I wanted to increase my chances of catching a salmon so I brought the spin rods my friend loaned me and also rigged my fly rod with a heavier-weight line and attached weight and an egg pattern I bought at the fly shop. I’m skittish about using borrowed equipment so I tried both and eventually switched to my Orvis 9-ft, 8-wt Encounter rod. I set out down the path to the Sportman’s Pool, a popular spot along the Salmon River and joined a group between the deep pool and the riffles.

After walking around fishing gear for more than a mile along the river bank, I was relieved to find an opening spot where the riffles spilled into a calmer pool. That seemed like the ideal scenario for me, a person who doesn’t feel comfortable in water above my knees.

Salmon Fishing Tips and Lessons Learned

  • Every year, thousands of anglers toting spinner and fly rods descend on the river but not everyone leaves with a salmon. The beauty is those who don’t catch a salmon, have an opportunity to assist a fellow fisherman.
  • Throughout the day, there were times when anglers were elbow-to-elbow but folks came and went throughout the day. You’ll eventually find a vacant spot. Don’t crowd your neighbor.
Salmon fishermen should practice etiquette even when elbow-to-elbow conditions prevail.
Salmon fishermen should keep a distance even when elbow-to-elbow conditions prevail. Maintain a safe distance to avoid hooking someone or encroachment. Be polite and follow the New York State Fishing Regulations and Rules.
  • Move out of the way of an angler who has a salmon on his line. You might hear the phrases, “Coming up,” “Coming down,” or “Fish on.” As a courtesy, you should move out of the way and allow them to safely follow the salmon. You can also offer to help.
  • Female anglers are still a minority. Only a mere 10 percent of the fishermen I saw fishing were women.
This salmon fisher was calm as he waited for the Chinook salmon to tire.
  • Fewer than 40 percent of the fishermen I watched fished with fly rods.
  • Mostly everyone is willing to give advice.
  • Watch an instructional video before you go. There is an abundance of YouTube videos that will give you tips.
  • Read this Salmon River article and learn more about the salmons’ migration and spawning habits.
  • Salmon rise above the water and thrash as though theyre frolicking. Who knows? Maybe they’re celebrating their last days on earth.
  • The onset of the salmon run is similar to a silent alarm that sets off a flurry of activity that continues for months.
  • Anglers from around the world fish in the Salmon River.
  • Wear wading boots with studs to help keep you safe in the water. Salmon River rocks are slick and the current strong.
Yugoslavian Angler helps me prepare my line and bait on day three of my Salmon River fishing trip.
Salmon Season Can Bring Out the Best in Humanity. This Yugoslavian man was eager to teach me how to fish.
Don’t be shy about asking for advice from seasoned anglers.

When Does Salmon Fishing Begin?

Salmon season on the Salmon River typically begins in September, although weather plays a role in the migration. Suffice to say, schedule your trip from September to November or whenever a dorsal fin is spotted emerging from the water. Colder temps can bring on excellent conditions and you’ll be more likely to hook a salmon.

As you wade, wait, and watch for the shockingly large salmonoids to rear their heads and make their infamous splash, look around you and admire the scenery. A Yugoslavian fisherman told me salmon fishing is his opportunity to wallow in nature and cleanse his soul.

By this time, you’re probably wondering if I caught a salmon. The answer is no and as much as I would have loved to present one to my family, I went to Altmar to learn and observe. I felt a few hefty tugs on my fishing line but to make catching any fish the ultimate goal would take away from the invaluable lessons I learned and the friends I made.

Room for Improvement

5 Improvements I Should Make (Based on a Survey of Fisherman I met)
  • According to the Yugoslavian man, the egg patterns I had were not the best for salmon fishing. He recommended a mealworm fly.
  • My line was too long
  • I needed more weight on my line.
  • The salmon ignored my fly because I didn’t move it in front of them.
  • My casting needs work.

To Eat or Not to Eat

A salmon is a salmon and they’re all edible, correct?

Not necessarily, I learned. Depending on the salmon’s age and overall condition, not all salmon flesh is pink, flaky, and delicious. One fisherman told me some can taste fishy and others are downright foul-tasting. That was a disappointment to hear, considering I practice catch and release but would have made an exception.

Read my previous Tailwater reviews and stay tuned for my upcoming Tailwater Lodge coverage. Discover Oswego County here.

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Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania

Joan Matsui Fly Fisher Travel Writer

On the Water in Northeastern Pennsylvania

A Fly-Fishing Journal by Joan Matsui Travel Writer

Fly-Fishing in Pennsylvania is a weekly summer journal that highlights my most recent efforts to learn to fly fish.

Fly fishing became one of my all-time favorite hobbies about eight years ago after my brother died. He was an avid fisherman and fly fishing brought me comfort and helped with the grieving process. Is my brother making fun of me and criticizing my cast? I’m sure he is.

The most successful anglers I know told me that fly fishing is a life-long learning process. Fly-Fishing Weekly brings you a mix of the best-of and not-so-good days on the water.

Patience is as important as skill. Fly-fishing in Pennsylvania sheds a positive light on the sport. Follow my journey here every week during the summer for tales from the water.

Several years ago, I met a seasoned angler, Jim, while I was wading in the Delaware River. Jim has fished since he was a child. I whined a bit to him that day. Afterward, I was embarrassed because I know not everyone catches fish every time but I needed to let go of my negative emotions so I could move on to a more positive attitude. Letting go was one way to remove my mental barriers.

I didn’t catch anything today, I told him.

His reply, “There are weeks when I don’t catch a fish. It’s not always a particular technique that dictates if you catch a fish. Water temperature and water level play a major role in whether the fish are biting or not. And of course, you also need to consider the fly you’re using.”

He’s correct, at least as far as I can tell. Overall, my technique has immensely improved thanks to practice, an Orvis Fly-Fishing 101 class, and guidance from my fishing friends. Almost eight years into fly fishing, I can roll cast and select a fly that’s somewhat palatable to the fish. That’s a definite improvement.

Hot summer days are problematic. Wading in cool water is a fisher’s delight but the trout, notably a cold water species don’t agree.

The last time I was out on the water – yesterday – fish were rising but unfortunately, did not take any of the flies I threw out. I began with a small nymph and three to four minutes later, I discovered my hook was caught on an underwater branch or it was stuck to the side of a rock. After breaking the line free, I noticed my fly was gone.

When in doubt, I resort to my favorite flies, an elk-hair caddis pattern or a blue-winged olive. Woolly Buggers are an option but they tend to plop, rather than quietly land on the water. I’m working on casting streamers.

Joan Matsui Fly Fisher Travel Writer
Spring is my favorite time of year to fly fish for trout. This day was a combined fly fishing and photography trip.

Two weeks ago, I brought my oldest son along on a two-hour evening trip to the Lackawanna River, a tributary to the mighty Susquehanna River. The water level had dropped significantly from last week but fishing conditions were nearly perfect. NO FISH!

Typically, by the end of June, the water temperature rises as the rainy days of June disappear. Fly fishing in Pennsylvania is challenging to say the least. Here we are in July, the hottest and most humid month of the year in Northeastern Pennsylvania, with a jump in our air temps to 85 to 90 degrees for several days at a time.

Joan Matsui Travel Writer Fly Fishing
The pensive look while hoping at least one trout would take the fly. Northeastern Pennsylvania has some outstanding streams and rivers.

Today, my friend Amy and I met along the Lackawanna River. Amy arrived about an hour before me and had already moved upstream from where we planned to meet. She caught three or four fish in an hour but by 10 a.m., the sun was bright and only a few shaded areas remained along the banks. We were optimistic we’d see some fish rise and we did but again, they weren’t interested in our flies. Once Amy and I commence with fishing, we don’t want to stop.

We ended our afternoon perhaps a bit discouraged but the diehard angler never completely gives in to frustration. After all, there are six more days this week.

Fly fishing in Pennsylvania is as much about learning where to fish as it is about technique. Plan your trip with this guide to Pennsylvania waterways. Find the best places to fly fish.

Happy fishing to you!

Learn to fly fish with Orvis Fly-Fishing 101 certified instructors.

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Fly-Fishing Friday

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  • June 14, 2019
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Fly Fishing Friday Joan Matsui Travel Writer

Adventures on the Water

Weekly Summer Fly-Fishing Journal

Fly-Fishing Friday is a weekly summer journal.

Not every Friday am I able to end my work week midday but when time allows and the weather cooperates, I break loose from my laptop around 3 p.m. to fly fish. Sometimes, I might get away earlier. Fly-Fishing Friday reminds you to spend more time outdoors.

Fly Fishing is one of my all-time favorite hobbies. Give me a day without rain and I’ll head to one of our local rivers or streams for a few hours. Chances are I’ll lose track of time while I’m focusing on my casting or soaking in the sunshine. We have an abundance of pristine water and in Northeastern Pennsylvania and therefore, why waste a spectacular day?

We had a wet start to our spring with record precipitation but they gave way to one of the best summers we’ve had in years. In fact, many of the days without rain have been sunny and beautiful with ample water in our streams.

Today is one of those days when nature beckons me to spend time wading and foraging for trout. The local creek is an ideal close-to-home retreat and particularly after the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission stocks it with trout in April.

Let’s begin with last weekend. I strayed from my usual fishing hole to another one that’s located at the confluence of two creeks. I caught a fish in the pool a few weeks ago but last week was a no-show. Not one trout rose to the surface even with a dense hatch around 7 p.m.

Do you agree fishing isn’t always synonymous with the number of fish you catch?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment.

Perhaps, you also take the time to notice and appreciate your surroundings. If not, stop fishing for a moment and listen to the sounds of water as it runs over rocks and watch the birds flying overhead.

This year was outstanding. I’ve caught (and released) more trout since opening day than I expected. That’s the beauty of fly fishing. Seeing a trout rise to take a dry fly is what attracted me to fly fishing.

Learn more about the Lackawanna River here.

Let me know your favorite creek, river, or lake or share your fishing tips with my readers.

Enjoy your weekend wherever you live.

Joan Mead-Matsui

You’ll also enjoy https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com/salmon-river-fly-fishing-tales/.

Fly-Fishing Friday with Joan Matsui Travel Writer
Fly fishing is the ideal way to usher out a busy work week.

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Fly-Fishing Free Classes

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  • April 17, 2019
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Orvis Free Fly Fishing 101 classes

Fly-Fishing 101 Taught by Orvis Certified Instructors.

Orvis Free Fly Fishing 101 classes
Register for fly-fishing free classes at your local Orvis shop. Fly Fishing 101 is the perfect way to learn to fly fish. Orvis’ certified instructors will teach you everything you need to know for your first day on the water.

CAUTION: FLY FISHING IS ADDICTIVE.

Fly-Fishing free classes await you. Spring is the perfect time to recharge your love for nature. Learn to fly fish at an Orvis store near you in the spring and you’ll be ready for your first adventure.

Have you dreamed of discovering a new hobby that will allow you to spend more of your free time outdoors? If you feel antsy from the long-term effects of being cooped up all winter a trip to your nearest Orvis store can help.

Shop with Confidence

Believe me — learning fly-fishing fundamentals and buying fly-fishing gear is as much fun as shopping for designer shoes. You could literally spend hours in pursuit of the perfect waders, wading boots, a vest, fly rod and reel combo, and a selection of flies.

Retail Guidance

The free Fly Fishing 101 course focuses on teaching you fly-fishing basics but you’ll also receive “retail” guidance. You’ll have everything you need to wade with confidence and possibly catch a fish on your first day out. so when you’re ready to venture to the water’s edge, I’ve already put to work the skills I learned at a free Fly Fishing 101 class at the Orvis Manchester, VT flagship store.

Use this link to shop for fly fishing gear.

Orvis

Orvis Fly Fishing 101 classes attract more than 15,000 participants each year. Men, women, and families flock to the spring classes offered at many Orvis retail outlets throughout the world.

Join the fun at your local Orvis retail store. Certified and experienced instructors teach fly-fishing fundamentals like knot tying, casting and reeling in your catch. Rest assured, you’ll leave the class with the skills you need and equipment that’s right for you.

The Family That Fishes Together…

Orvis instructors can help prepare you and your whole family for a day of fly-fishing fun. Imagine spending time together on the water. Learn how to cast, tie knots, select equipment, and protect the environment through responsible fishing.

Share Your Love for Fly Fishing

All ages are welcome to take the free Fly Fishing 101 class but children
under 16-years-old must be accompanied by an adult, so why not share your interests and bring your whole family. Most importantly, teach your children to respect and preserve our natural resources while you’re on the water. Show them why our waterways and fish are so important to the environment. A river or stream is an ideal mobile classroom for you to demonstrate stewardship.

Orvis offered its first Fly Fishing 101 class 10 years ago and to celebrate the milestone, Orvis will donate $1 to Casting for Recovery® for every student who attends a 101 class this year.

Participants receive special in-store offers they can use towards the purchase of Orvis equipment and a Free Trout Unlimited membership. ($35 value). Take a moment to watch an Orvis Fly Fishing 101 instructor teach our group to tie one of the most commonly used knots.

Learn fly-fishing basics at your local Orvis store. Classes are held on Saturday during the spring.

Register in advance to reserve your seat. Visit https://www.orvis.com/flyfishing101 to find a class near you.

Do you want to learn more about fly fishing? Read more here and be sure to click on the Orvis product links for savings and coupons.

Disclaimer:

My trip was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. Above all, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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Fly-Fishing Family Story

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  • March 8, 2019
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Down By The River

An Interview With Andrew Weiner, Author

When is the best time to teach your children and grandchildren to fly fish?

Fly-Fishing Family Story answers this question – ANYTIME your child expresses an interest.

Read my interview with Andrew Weiner, the author of “DOWN BY THE RIVER, A Family Fly Fishing Story.” Andrew crafted the perfect Young Reader tale about one family’s fly-fishing trip.

“Art,” the main character watches and listens as trout dart by in the riverbed as his mother, perhaps, unknowingly, demonstrates her perfect cast. Meanwhile, Grandpa tells stories about fishing and family that enhance an already perfect day.

DOWN BY THE RIVER CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK ANDREW WEINER
Andrew Weiner learned to fish at a very young age. His life-long love of fishing eventually led him to author “DOWN BY THE RIVER: A Family Fly Fishing Story.”
A few weeks ago, Andrew reached out to me to introduce his book “DOWN BY THE RIVER: A Family Fly Fishing Story.”

What led him to create DOWN BY THE RIVER? He explains in our interview.

How closely do the characters relate to your evolution as an angler?

They don’t specifically. I grew up in NY originally, and we would take family vacations to Maine, staying in a cabin at The Five Kezar Lakes in North Waterford. We would fish every day as a family–my dad, mom, and two sisters. It wasn’t fly fishing. When we moved to California my father and I continued fishing–deep-sea fishing and some lake fishing, and then eventually some stream fishing as well. I didn’t start fly fishing until probably the early ’90s, and though I continued fishing with my dad until a few years ago, until about two years before he died in 2017, we only fly fished together once. The story evolved from when I first started writing it 15 years ago, where it was a boy who wanted to go fish with his parents, to a story about fishing with his mom and grandfather. Part of what has generated so much support for the book is the mother being such an important part of the story as an angler. Orvis’s #5050onthewater movement coincided with the lead up to publication. Women fly anglers, particularly on Instagram, have been huge fans and promoters of the book.

What led you to tell this particular story?

It was a combination of things. Part of it is my love of fly fishing, part of it is my love for children’s books. I’ve worked in publishing since 1977, and even four years prior when I worked at the local public library during my last two years of high school. I also felt that there was an opportunity to engage kids in the sport and the outdoors and conservation through the story. The story evolved from what I described above, but it was my editor Susan Van Metre who helped craft it into a publishable story. Funny story–today is International Women’s Day, and last year I posted a photo of myself with my two sisters in a boat in Maine. I mentioned where we were and Susan saw the post, and it ends up that it’s where she goes fishing with her family now. It was meant to be.

To what extent is this sport a part of your life?

I am passionate about the sport and the places it takes me. Basically, all of my vacations for the last 20 years or so have either been fully focused on fly fishing or have at least had a small opportunity to fish. It has been interesting to reach out via Instagram and Linkedin to the fly fishing community. After years of being part of the publishing community, it’s been rewarding to become a member of the fly fishing world, known and appreciated by many folks because of the book and my commitment to the sport and conservation.

What do you hope young readers will learn from your book?

Several things. First is the joy of actually fishing and catching a fish. Second is how wonderful it is to share the activity with family and loved ones. The third is the value of the places where we fish and the importance of preserving those places across the generations. My ex-wife’s sister-in-law is a teacher and she shared the book with her second-grade class, and then they all did a project answering her questions about the book. One question was what is the lesson of the book, or what they most got out of it, and so many of them talked about Art not giving up after he didn’t catch a fish right away, so I guess that’s something kids will learn from the book, too.

Did you know the book would follow a particular format/plan?

I did have a clear view of the format of the book as a picture book, and even did a version of the text with suggested illustrations. Susan told me I should just let April Chu (I was so lucky she agreed to do the book) have her way with the illustrations, and the fact is it came out almost exactly as I’d anticipated. I did always plan to have the informational backmatter. It’s something that is common in Abrams kids picture books that adds value and depth. The flies on the endpapers grew from the original concept. I gave April 24 critical flies, but she got so engaged that she ended up with almost 80 unique flies in the front and back.

Author "Down By The River"Andrew Weiner
Andrew Weiner holding “Down By The River” in At City Lights bookstore

What role does conservation play in your life and how can we teach children to responsibly enjoy our natural resources?

I’m deeply committed to conservation. These are very difficult times with so many critical environmental regulations being obliterated. I think kids being in the outdoors is vital to the conservation and environmental movements, and I’m heartened by how many are already active. I support a couple of dozen environmental organizations myself. It’s one of the most important issues for me. Bottom line–getting kids into nature will make them stewards themselves.

Author "Down By The River"Andrew Weiner
“Down By The River” author Andrew Weiner

Author Bio

Andrew Weiner is a longtime publishing professional and an avid fly-fisher. He lives in Albany, California.

Buy a Copy – Down By the River

 

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