Colorado: Arkansas River Fishing Report

Arkansas River – Leadville to Buena Vista

As of 4/7/2022, Braden Baker with Ark Anglers writes, “Upper Arkansas is starting to go spring
mode, and although fish may still be near winter waters, recent midge activity, moulting of the golden stonefly and maturing blue-winged olive nymphs are beginning to encourage fish dispersal in slightly shallower and varied waters and the occupation of a greater part of the northern corridor. With cooler nighttime temperatures here than elsewhere in the valley, expect a slightly smaller window of opportunity, with your prime time being 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. With midges the predominant food source, a midge larva or pupa in #16-20 is a must in your setup. We saw heavy midge outbreaks north of BV, strong enough to cause surface feeding and provide opportunities for dry flies. Blue-winged olive hatches could start here any day. Mayfly nymphs and emergents are best imitated by models in #16-20
range and are most active from midday to early afternoon. Pair these smaller designs with an attractive nymph like a golden sandfly in a #10-12 and you’ve got an effective “burger and fries” combination for spring; big fly, little fly. It is advisable to work the deeper, slower waters in the morning and concentrate on the shallow rapids and nearby runs as the day heats up.

Flow: 75 CFS at Hayden Meadows, 90 CFS at Granite (4/7/2022)

Arkansas River – Buena Vista to Salida

As of 07/04/2022 Braden Baker with Ark Anglers writes: “Forecast has improved tremendously over Salida since the excessive wind on Tuesday. Today will be warmer and sunny, although a bit windy at times. The week produced excellent mayfly hatching in the lower end of the middle basin, with great surface feeding across and above Salida. Expect the strongest mayfly outbreaks on cloudy days, but be prepared to face them no matter what the forecast. Even with the breeze we encountered, there were windows of opportunity for dry fly anglers in the early afternoon to take advantage of surface-oriented trout chasing emerging mayflies. Interest in goldenflies is also high as we are now in the historic window of spring moult activity. You’ll still likely find fish in deeper water at times, but warmer conditions and expanding food options are causing trout to spread out and occupy more water types throughout the corridor. The shallower sluffs and rapids are becoming very productive as the warming trend continues.

In early spring, we usually rely on the nymph as our primary approach to Arkansas, running flies under an indicator, sight, or even a large dry fly. Besides the nymphs of mayflies and mayflies, midges are the most abundant food and can be effective as larvae, nymphs or even adults throughout the day depending on conditions. Often we will fish a midge from a larger attractive nymph, such as a large pheasant tail, hare ear or copper jeans. Golden stonefly nymphs can be fished in the #10-14 range and smaller midges should be in the #16-20 range. To imitate blue-winged olive nymphs, a pheasant’s tail, a two-bited prostitute, a micro mayfly, a French pheasant’s tail, etc. definitely worth wrapping in a #16-18 as we move forward into March. Free-living and cased caddis larvae should also be in your box as we are seeing more of them
caddis activity intensifies ahead of the caddis hatches in late April.

Flow: 190 CFS at Hecla Junction (07/04/2022)

Arkansas River – Salida at Canon City

As of 07/04/2022, Braden Barker of Ark Anglers writes: “The forecast is still windy today, but has improved significantly from Tuesday’s weather. You may still work a little to find sheltered areas from the wind at times, but conditions improve as the week progresses. Flows are now at their original levels as the release from Twin Lakes has been gradually reduced over the past 10 days. This leaves us with low flows for our spring rainbow trout spawn and for our active and pending spring hatches with a lean river for spring boating. Even anglers with significant experience on low-flow Arkansas may have to drag their boat here and there in shallow areas. Plan accordingly.

Every day this week we have had reports of quality hatches of blue-winged spring mayflies in the lower basin and across Salida, even with sunny and windy conditions. Wind permitting, dry fly fishing has been very good during these times. Focused, confident climbs are the norm, as fish that were recently wary and skeptical of early spring clear low flows now see enough food to throw caution to the wind as they follow emerging nymphs to the surface to capture
as they ascend or rest on the surface of the water fanning their wings before flight. When the riptides and scum lines are blanketed by these tiny little sailboats and a brown trout hover just inches below the surface waiting to intercept these vulnerable duns, it’s truly a sight to behold. to see. Having the privilege of throwing a little hand imitation of the naturals into the mix and being rewarded with a confident catch is the fuel that carries many anglers through the cold winter months.

Now is the time to dust off the dry fly box and freshen up your stockpile of tippets, because the next six weeks may offer some of the best fishing Arkansas has to offer. Warmer water temperatures and increasing abundance of food are beginning to cause the spring dispersal of fish out of their winter holding waters and into nearby streams and
rapids with a slightly faster current and a more constant flow of food. Although we generally expect cloudy weather to encourage anglers to hatch the strongest, they should be prepared each day they set out to encounter hatchlings on the water at this time of year. These mayflies can hatch year-round, but we’re seeing them in their highest concentrations over the next 4-5 weeks in Arkansas. Interest in golden stonefly nymphs is also high as we are now in the midst of spring molting activity. Strikes can still be subtle at times, but warmer conditions encourage more aggressive feeding and convey more obvious strikes.

In early spring, we recommend fishing for several nymphs under an indicator, sight or even under a large floating dry fly.

Believe it or not, we see fish sporadically hitting indicators on the surface during winter and spring, so why not use a grasshopper to hang your nymphs? If you encounter a blue-winged olive hatch, a dry dropper setup with a dun mayfly as an indicator fly followed by a light emergence pattern will be a great approach. Golden stonefly nymphs are a large meal size and can be fished in #8-14. The nymphs of mayflies like a Pheasant’s Tail, Double Bit Harlot, Micro Mayfly, French Pheasant’s Tail, etc. are worth wrapping in a #16-18. Don’t forget the gnats; they are still one of the most available food sources by volume and will continue to be an important factor throughout the spring. Think #18-20 most of the time
time for these little larvae, pupae and adults.

Flow: 239 in Wellsville (07/04/2022)