Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fly Fishing on the Arkansas River 2014

Matt and I hit the Arkansas river from Salida, Co up thru Granite, Co over a four day stretch recently.  We arrived at Buena Vista, Co and quickly found a place to camp at one of the numerous camping areas along the Arkansas river, Ruby Mountain, and got an hour or so of hurried fishing in, even landing a few on nymphs.  We pitched up the tent, rearranged the gear, and quickly fell asleep after the long flight and drive from Pa.

 Early the next morning we were greeted with 40F temps and some fantastic Colorado scenery.  We fished several access points south toward Salida over the course of the day, even getting booted off some private water that we had crossed into by mistake.  The fishing was decent and we both landed several nice wild browns in the 12" range.    After cycling through many patterns and techniques, it became clear that the Ark was not going to give up any trout on the top, and nymphing was the way to go.  Stonefly nymphs, caddis nymphs, and Copper Johns were the mainstay for this first day, and the bulk of the trip really.  We racked up many miles and access points as we didn't stop fishing til dark, Big Bend, Hecla Junction, Brown's Canyon, and Rincon access points all produced fish, with the Rincon access being the hotspot for the day.

 Day 2 had us moving up to above the Granite area into the Hayden Ranch access.  The water up here was much more wadable and smaller, with a typical western meadow character.  The fishing proved equally strong, and the catching was actually a little better once we figured out to come down a size or two on our flies.  The top water action at least had a heartbeat, as I did manage a few trout along the bank with a Deer Hair Ant pattern, and one or two on the an Olive emerger.  Overall it was still a nymphing game, and as usual Matt was scoring very well using tight line tactics.  Over the course of the day we racked up several more stops, Granite SWA, Kobe, Railroad, and Champion access points were all covered.  The fishing on the Arkansas river can be summed up easily - stay on the shore, and cast no more than ten feet off the bank, if you catch some trout - great, if not keep moving until you do.  Every fish we caught was within ten feet of the bank - no kidding.  This was the overwhelming theme of fishing this river.  Cast - Good Drift - Move, no pounding holes all day here.

Day 3 started out with a bighorn sheep sighting right as we left the campground, followed by a bald eagle fighting with some other birds - all in 10 minutes of leaving camp!

We drove down to Texas Creek and began our final day's fishing, which proved very similar to the past few days, great catching on nymphs, zero dry fly action, and walking, walking, walking along the banks to keep finding the bankside honey holes.  Many more people on this day, but really we did very well fishing, keeping up with our average of at least 50 fish per day between the two of us.  That is good catching on any stream.  Texas Creek, Cotopaxi, Lone Pine, Vallie Bridge, and Stonebridge - all accesses fished on another 12 hour day of fishing.  We decided not to huddle next to the Whisperlites for dinner and chowed down at the Eddyline Brew Pub in Buena Vista, awesome wood-fired pizzas and excellent IPA and pale ales!  The next day we were off to another Colorado freestone stream further north, but had one more stop to make for breakfast at the Evergreen Cafe, also in Buena Vista, great food, service, and prices - we should of been eating there every morning!

Summing up the Arkansas is a fine fishery, but has a character all of it's own.  I've never fished anywhere that the fishing was so edge oriented, it felt like the fishing just did not even consider finding refuge anywhere but the banks.  The bug life was limited, but it was September, so things were wrapping up from summer, and the Baetis of fall weren't full bore yet.  I was slightly disappointed that the top water bite was nil, but with wild fish and water that was above average - it fits i guess.  The nymphing was great, and the pattern choice simple, Stonefly and Caddis nymphs, all day everyday.  The fish population here is fantastic, the size in the 10" - 15" range on average - which is fun, mostly browns, with rainbows showing up more frequently toward Salida.  Hopefully someday we'll be back for a hatch or two for another insight into this good trout stream.

We spent the last couple days further north, on a fantastic, under the radar trout stream!  We decided to not reveal the stream's location to respect the locals and fine fishing that we found, and to promote the spirit of adventure that all of us need.  Go out and find this gem on your own!

This stream is a fantastic freestoner, with loads of rainbows and browns to the 16" mark, and each day showed a few even fatter than that.  The water showed great riffle to pool to riffle mentality and provided fine fishing.  The fact I could spent and hour pounding a hole was a welcome relief to the billygoat fishing the Ark required. The access was improved, with much longer sections of public water.  The overall bug life seemed in tune with the Ark and time of year, meaning not much going on for the top water fisherman, but I have a feeling this was the exception to the rule, again revealing our high water on a wild trout river = no dry fly philosophy.  The nymphing was outrageous though!  Matt had stretches that he literally caught fish on every cast - awesome.  It really was a fantastic way to round out our Colorado 2014 fishing trip.

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