What if a river had a voice? If it could describe the things it has seen and heard. What if the roaring waterfall and the babbling brook could converse with those who frequented its shores? In a way… a river does possess this ability. However, it is spoken through the mouths of the anglers, shop owners, and visitors that find themselves within its waters. A river’s voice takes many forms, but in the end, the spirit is shared by all who have dipped their boots in its continuation. In this film… we hear the words, the lessons, and the voice of the Salmon River.
The voice of the Salmon River is one for all to hear. It is one that speaks with purpose, but never looks down on play. It is welcoming, but it is firm. It is one who’s seen a fair share of trials and tribulations, but speaks, today, with jubilant excitedness towards acquaintances and strangers alike. It is a voice that roars, and one that whispers. It is the culmination of the generations of anglers who have loved and lost within the confines of its banks, and one that will always remain present, should its visitors care to strike up a conversation.
About the Salmon River:
The Salmon River, located in scenic upstate New York, is a body of water whose name is as famous as the fish that inhabit its cold, flowing, currents. Stretching just over 50 miles, the Salmon river, a tributary of lake Ontario, stretches West and empties into Eastern Lake Ontario in Oswego County, NY. Since initial human habitation, the Salmon River has drawn settlers from many different cultures, generations, and various walks of life through a common force. Fishing.
Home to several, highly sought species of gamefish, such as; Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, as well as Brown trout, Steelhead*, and Smallmouth Bass, the Salmon River is nothing less than an angler’s dream come true. Fishable 8 months out of the year (depending on how brave you are), season after season, anglers can be found occupying the river’s edge with hopes of catching the fish of a lifetime, or, more commonly than not, reuniting with the one that got away…
The Changing of the Seasons:
As the summer begins to wind down and the leaves turn to decorate the northern timber with highs of gold and crimson, the Salmon River begins to reopen to its annual residents – both above and below the river’s exciting currents.
From mid-September to early November, the first of the Salmon begin to return to the river to complete their spawning runs, with the Chinook usually leading the way, tailing off around October, leading the way for incoming Coho. Being that these fish only spawn once in their lives, catching these fish presents an exciting challenge to ethically entice these fish into taking the presented tackle; whether by fly or traditional, through a provoked strike. These methods being all too well known by Steelhead anglers in the Western United States, the fishing experience can sometimes feel quite similar. However, due to their limited range, and carefully implemented conservation efforts, the success rate of actually catching one of these fish is relatively high in regard to a global standard. However, it takes a true angler’s prowess and determination to actually land one.
Winter and Spring)
As the Salmon begin to taper off in the colder months, the next wave of hungry fish move in. Coming to feed on the freshly laid eggs, the Steelhead* and Brown Trout begin their occupation of the river, and draw out the toughest of the Salmon River Crowd as the fishing progresses into the frigid winter months. During these months, far before the sun rises, the river is illuminated by the glow of dozens of angler’s headlamps as each participant waits for the morning light to entice the fish to begin to move.
Then, once these fish have had their chance to spawn, and the Spring thaws the surroundings of the river, Brown trout and Steelhead begin making their way back to Lake Ontario to occupy the depths. As they make their journey home, these fish aggressively feed, bulking up for the journey, and a summer spent occupying the depths of Lake Ontario.
If you missed the winter/ spring Steelhead* season, the Summer still presents an opportunity to hook onto a massive buck or hen, through the DNR’s summer Steelhead* stocking program. However, as the warmer months set in, most anglers turn their attention to the exhilarating tug of Smallmouth bass.
*: Using the term, “Steelhead” to refer to the giant lake-run rainbow trout in the Salmon River. In our opinion, the argument is pointless, but you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions. Here’s all the information you should need: These fish rock.
The Meaning Behind the Salmon River:
The Salmon River is not something whose ethos can be summed up in a few words. For those who have never been, the associated grit that surrounds the culture on and off the water may come off as daunting. From the frigid sub-zero mornings spent cleaning ice from your guides to the crowds of anglers that can be found occupying the shorelines day after day… some might have written off the river completely. And to those people, we thank you – as your spot will be gladly usurped by someone else. However, for those who are looking for a fishing experience that perfectly embodies the American Northeast Freshwater culture, the waters of the Salmon River might just be a place for you to focus your research.
This river is a place that year after year; rain, shine, or snow, you’ll find people making their pilgrimage back to for one reason or another. It’s a place where time has slowed down, and where the unfamiliar appearances that occupy the local restaurants, lodges, and fly-shops quickly morph to become the welcoming faces of friends. Where first casts, as well as last, are made. It’s a place where one goes to experience a true phenomenon, that can’t be matched anywhere else in the world.
To learn more about the Salmon River:
To learn more about the Salmon River, or other opportunities in Oswego county, NY. Check out their website, HERE. For regular updates, Check out their Comprehensive Fishing Report, which is updated daily.
Thank you to the team at Oswego County Tourism for making this piece possible. Additional thanks to Tailwater Lodge, Malinda’s Fly-Shop, Fran Verdoliva, Garrett Brancy, and Matt Ertzinger.