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Daughter and Dad, Chasing Salmon in Upstate New York

My dad and I had been at the rocky financial institution of Sandy Creek once I noticed the primary salmon shut sufficient to catch. Like a phantom, it glided towards the present, its rhythm only a beat slower than the water round it. 20 years of fishing revel in vanished the instant its frame — 3 toes lengthy, a minimum of — swam in entrance of me.

I used to be as frightened and clumsy as a kid. I used to be additionally now not in Alaska, the assumed house of this prized fish; I used to be an hour north of Syracuse, N.Y.

Each and every fisherman or girl has a catch they dream of touchdown. King salmon, with its signature red streak and hooked jaw, is nearly no doubt on any angler’s checklist. Its very point out brings fantasies of deep woods and roaring streams, dammed through hordes of slick inexperienced backs begging to be hooked.

That fishermen want for salmon isn’t a surprise. The twist in that myth is that such visions don’t seem to be pipe desires limited to the West. 1000’s of coho and king salmon swim inland each autumn simply 5 hours northwest of New York Town, pouring out of Lake Ontario and into dozens of tributaries throughout Oswego County to spawn and die upstream.

They’re joined through throngs of hopeful anglers who purpose to reach in Oswego County simply because the salmon start their annual “run,” when the fish go away the lake’s relative protection and start their doomed project upstream.

My dad and I had been two of the ones hopefuls this autumn, trekking upstate with my uncle and cousins one October weekend to deliver house a fish of our personal. Either one of us had fished in numerous states and waterways, however by no means had both people landed a type of coveted trophies. My uncle, who has pulled salmon from those waters for years, predicted the week’s early rain would spur the fish upstream, towards us.

The salmon run itself is its personal ambiguous fish story. It happens yearly, someday between September and the top of November, and is in most cases spurred through the primary frost. A handful of blogs and fishing reports keep tabs on its status, as does the region’s whisper network of tackle shops and fishing lodges.

Some say Oswego County’s major run is almost always on Columbus Day, and any other weekend is a waste. Others say it can happen as late as Halloween. The fisherman on your right might say it happened last week, as the one on your left says it hasn’t happened yet.

Whichever angler you choose to believe, if you venture to an Oswego County waterway sometime between September and November, you are likely to see a salmon or one of their trout cousins, the equally coveted steelhead.

If you see them, you may be able to catch them, which is what brought us to this marshy waterway 15 miles outside Pulaski, N.Y.

I still remember the first fish I caught with my dad. I was 7, and we hooked a foot-long catfish off Lake Ontelaunee, in the middle of a Pennsylvania summer. We nailed it to a board and gutted it. Then, according to my father, I paraded around the neighborhood with a bloody fish skeleton on a two-by-four.

The debacle was the start of our own chapter in a family heritage, passed down by my grandfather who often joined our excursions. When he died, my father inherited his poles, tokens reminding us to keep that tradition alive.

Growing up and moving out has made that difficult, but still, fishing is our long-distance communion. I send my dad pictures of the trout I pull from Colorado mountain lakes, and he regales me with stories from his foray into fly fishing. To miss a weekend fishing together for king salmon would be sacrilege.

For years, my dad and my uncle have traveled to Pulaski, a tiny fishing hamlet just east of the Canadian border on Lake Ontario. The area is an angler’s Promised Land, brimming with trout, bass and pike year round.

But it is the coveted salmon and steelhead that make these streams a sort of angling Mecca for the East Coast fisherman.

If fishing requires luck, salmon fishing takes twice as much. By the time they begin their trip inland to spawn, the salmon are no longer eating. Bait is useless. Instead, a hopeful fisher must scan the waterways, look for a stray fin and cast, hoping to land their tiny hook on a fish or annoy one so much that it strikes.

Autumn anglers in these waterways are treated to double the odds. As the salmon run wanes, it is followed by a flood of steelhead trout making their own biannual trek to spawn upriver, feeding on the flesh of dying salmon as they go.

A mile into our morning trek upstream, we saw the first emerald body flop its way up a shallow chute. Anglers, like soldiers staged at the bank for battle, began furiously casting and chasing the fish, hoping their hook would be the one that snagged. My dad and I watched in awe.

A half-mile up the creek, a man jogged past us, furiously reeling a fly rod. My uncle followed and charitably offered our net — the lucky fisher pulled a stunning, 28-inch steelhead from the water.


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