Monday, March 28, 2011

There is no sand in Sandy Creek

This time last week I made a trip to Pulaski, New York with my buddy Jon. I had never fished for Steelhead and didn’t have a particular fancy for it but I had bought an eight weight switch rod and wanted lessons from a competent instructor over fish that were appropriate for this big stick. That led me to Loren Williams and the Salmon River.

So why has an eight weight rod entered my stable if I don’t intend to hammer the steel? Well, I’ve a trip planned for late summer up to the Kvichak River in Alaska and fancy swinging flies to large, eager Rainbows and Salmon. So, I need a big stick is for the task.

Of course, casting an eight weight rod is a gateway drug to Stripers when one is a short drive from Long Island Sound. And once you feel a large tug on the line, I suppose Stripers are a gateway to Steelhead. Maybe this was more than just a casting trip. Maybe I too will pine for chrome hurtling through frozen landscapes!

I’ll spare you the details of the five hour drive northward and the poor food along the way. Short story: Jon is great to sit around and BS with and thankfully the NY State thruway has plenty of Starbucks at its rest areas.

Lodgings at the Fox Hollow Lodge were quite satisfactory in a boondocks, fishing town, spartan sort of way. Dead animals and trout lined the walls including one hog of a Steelhead and a couple of bear pelts. There was a nice common room to sit around BSing in the evening and the beds weren’t awful places to collapse after a long day on the water.

I would highly recommend staying in the main lodge versus the cabins based upon Jon’s review of the latter. We had two nights where the place was all ours. The place sleeps eleven in total. Roger is quite the verbose host. If you want to know what’s going on, he’s your guy. Doesn’t fish but seems well informed.

Monday dawned cold with a combination of wind, rain, sleet and snow. It was exactly the weather I imagined for chasing Steelhead; the perfect Pulaski mojo.

Jon nymphing S. Sandy Creek
We met Loren at Whitakers and he recommended fishing the Sandys. The Sandys are a series of three creeks  – Little Sandy, South Sandy and North Sandy (called Sandy Creek on maps) – north of Pulaski that had a flow levels Loren thought were perfect for our outing.

South was where I had my first Spey casting lesson and learned the C Spey and the Downstream Poke.  I was surprised at how easy it was to actually learn to cast spey and then how erratic my performance was from that point forward.  Fortunately, I was casting successfully more often than not. I understand why this is so appealing. Thirty foot casts to the far bank were child’s play (except when the Skagit head landed in a pile at my feet). Forty foot casts not much harder (again, presuming a successful cast). I may have had a bump or two as we worked downstream but nothing on the line so we moved on.

Jon Switch-Roddin'
North Sandy was quite a treat. Like the South, its banks were a blasted landscape deeply scoured by the floods a few weeks ago. Large, twisted piles of ice that once inhabited the flood stage eddies were jammed against the banks.

This is where Jon managed a nice holdover pretty quickly to the net. The first fish of the trip!

First of the Trip!
After lunch we proceeded downstream where the most bizarre riverscape I have ever experienced greeted us. At this point the river is roughly a hundred yards wide. But it’s running over a rock ledge shelf so it’s all of three inches deep. No sand. Just rock. Rock as far as the eye could see. Walking along the riverbed gave the illusion of walking on water. If only we could manage a few fish catching miracles.

An afternoon of cold, blowing, drizzling rain dragged on and after several hours of casting practice we called it a day. Dinner at Eddy’s (we ate too much but drank the correct amount) was followed by a cigar and a collapse into bed.

Blasted Banks
No visit to Pulaski would be complete without a day on the Salmon so that was the target for day two. I think Loren would have preferred to take us elsewhere to increase the odds of fish on the line but I was determined to fish the Salmon.

We fished the DSR in a few likely spots. In one hole we lingered for a few hours working the water hard with all manner of nymph and streamer. A follow or two on the swing was all I had but John managed two bright chrome Steelies to the net.

Another bend in the rod
For the remainder of the afternoon I switched to nymphing and didn’t manage a bump though I fished a bunch of likely spots earnestly. To coin a phrase, “that’s why the call if fishing and not catching”.

All in all a good trip. Two days of no work. Spey casting learnt (barely). Chrome bodied ginormous Rainbows to the net.

If only one of those has been mine.

Looking forward to a return to Steelhead Alley in the Fall.

1 comment:

  1. Very good. My mind has been cheating me; wondering if I can get back up there in mid-April when the fish start to really eat. But there is no earthly way.

    Looks like warming trend next week for a shot at our striped friends.