Waiting Salmon & Cleared Heads

This past week was a strange one. By Friday I really felt the need to get out of town and clear my head. I was checking the Douglaston Salmon Run (“DSR”) report all week hoping for mass salmon migration from the estuary, but it wasn’t happening. On Friday, one of the DSR attendants reported seeing small pods of fish at a couple locations on the middle and lower sections of the run. This was enough encouragement for me to get up at 1:30am on Saturday morning and make the drive up I-81 N to Pulaski. I knew the chance of seeing a lot of fish was slim, but the reports from the lake have been that there are a lot of marked salmon waiting to run.

 Dawn breaking on I-81 N as I drove to Pulaski.

Dawn breaking on I-81 N as I drove to Pulaski.

I arrived at the DSR property around 6:30am. There were probably 15 cars in the lot. I signed in at the desk and was able to chat with Charlie for a few minutes. He confirmed that he’d seen fish the day before, but that sightings were sporadic. While not encouraged, I was still excited because when you see a 25lb. Chinook cruising a riffle, a five-hour drive for a day of fishing is worth it. I got geared up and headed down the lower trail. When I arrived at the river it was running at about 350CFS. The water was slightly off color and it was difficult to get a handle on the bottom. The water played tricks on your eyes, especially in the faster pocket water where you could’ve sworn that shadow of a rock just moved.

 The Salmon River looking upstream from the Joss Hole area.

The Salmon River looking upstream from the Joss Hole area.

I worked my way downstream to the Joss Hole. I scanned the water for any sign of fish. After walking 100 yards I didn’t see anything I could confirm was a fish. I had never walked to the lower DSR where it meets the estuary and I decided this would be the day. I worked my way down past the Clay Hole, through The Meadow, and eventually to the Lower Clay. I walked several of the small fingers of water that join the estuary, hoping I’d turn a corner and discover a hidden pod of Chinook. I never found them, in fact, I didn’t see one fish. The air temps were in the eighties and the humidity was high. Not a great day to be walking around in chest waders.

I decided that I’d spend the rest of my time walking upstream to see if I could find any of the fish that entered the river the day before. I headed back upstream and made my way to the Wall Hole and eventually all the way to the Black and Coho Holes. Along the way I crossed paths with a couple of DSR attendants who checked my day pass and talked of random fish sightings. When I arrived at the very end of the DSR property I watched a guy trying to snag a fish with his fly rod on the other side in the public water. I never saw the fish, but he was certainly chasing something with his rod.

By the time I’d reached the top of the property, I was exhausted. I headed back to the gate by early afternoon. I gave them my story, talked to Charlie and a guide for a bit, and they all had the same story. There are a whole lot of fish sitting just offshore, waiting to run up the river. It might be a sudden cold front, a good day or two of rain, but sooner or later there is going to be an epic run, it just wasn’t going to be on September 10th. I decided to call it a day, broke down my gear and made the long trek home with no fish pictures or video, just good music to listen to and a cleared head.