Salmon Run Falls is located in a small upstate college town, its waters feeding one of the largest freshwater lakes in the eastern U.S. Salmon Run is not the real name of this beautiful waterdrop, it’s simply a name that blossomed in my hoary skull a few days ago while looking for one of my favorite fish to capture with a fly.
Despite the recent rain from Hurricane Sandy, the creek below Salmon Run Falls remained a little low. I could tell from the start of my casting early in the day that the fishing would be a challenge. I worked my way downstream from the area of the falls to the lower bridges by the lake and saw but a single fish that breached the surface of the flow. Angling here in autumn is never an easy task, the number of spawning browns and landlocked salmon are usually minimal at best, but if you hit the water when a run is on, you can make phenomenal catches. Some of the largest browns I’ve ever caught with a fly rod have been landed here, and the nicest landlockeds I’ve ever fooled have been landed here as well.
Since nothing was occurring downstream at the deeper holes (all of them relatively shallow now), I decided to about-face and return to the stretch below the waterfall. I was casting a 6-weight line with streamers or Woolly Buggers but nothing was appearing. Several other fishermen were out on the stream; they, too, were seeing an absence of fish. One guy, who claimed to be an experienced lake fisher and who was monitoring the creek on a daily basis, hadn’t seen a spawner here since October 6th, more than a month ago. He laid the blame on the general lack of precipitation and the fact that lampreys were leaving their mark on the larger fishes of the lake. We both agreed that a good run could occur if and when the autumn rains arrive in earnest.
Approaching Salmon Run Falls from below is a humbling experience, even in November when the flow of water is relatively low. You cast into the rocky outflow of the giant plunge-pool and you feel the wind prepare to toss your fishing hat downstream. You feel the chill of a mist blown from the falls and you’re glad for the hoodie pulled up even though it’s a warm autumn day. You hope for the hook-up that may never come, for the hefty brown trout or the silvery landlocked salmon cruising upstream from the lake.
Cold deep water. Crush of rock on gravel bed. Mysterious depth and silvery sheen. This is the dead-end of a salmon’s mile run from the lake.