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About the Arkansas River (Upper)

The Arkansas River in Colorado meanders through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Rocky Mountains, offering anglers a paradise for fly fishing. Beginning its journey at the Continental Divide near Leadville, it stretches southeastward for approximately 150 miles, presenting a diverse array of fishing opportunities. Renowned among fly fishermen for its abundant trout population, the Arkansas River boasts some of the finest fishing waters in the country. From its headwaters to its lower reaches, anglers can target wild brown trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout, among other species. The river's clear, cold waters, fed by snowmelt from the surrounding peaks, create ideal conditions for fly fishing year-round. Sections of the Arkansas River, such as the famed Gold Medal Waters near Salida and Buena Vista, consistently produce trophy-sized trout and provide anglers with exhilarating challenges. Whether casting dry flies, nymphs, or streamers, fly fishermen can test their skills against these wily fish while surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Beyond the thrill of the catch, the Arkansas River offers anglers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. With its pristine waters, lush riparian vegetation, and abundant wildlife, it provides a serene escape for those seeking solace in the great outdoors. For fly fishing enthusiasts, the Arkansas River stands as a premier destination, beckoning with its beauty, bounty, and boundless opportunities for memorable angling adventures.

Latest Report

March 9, 2024

The river flow is within the optimal flow range for resident trout populations (250-400 cfs at Wellsville) and is incredibly wadeable everywhere at these flows, offering tremendous access for wade fishermen.  Expect shady areas of the river to contain shelf ice; be very careful navigating the slick edges of the river.  Brown trout spawning is long over and fish have migrated to their typical lies of winter.   Colder weather will constrict productive fishing hours during the day and send fish into the slower, deeper pools and runs where they can comfortably hold without expending much energy (~4-7' deep).  11AM to 3PM is your prime time on the river, particularly in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure through the day.  Be prepared for subtle strikes, though recent warm weather has made for some more aggressive behavior from trout.

 

We're seeing most anglers switch to strictly nymph fishing with indicators and sighters but deep dry-dropper fishing continues to be productive in the lower basin, though most fish are taking subsurface food.  Midges are the predominant hatch at the moment with lots of larvae and pupae available subsurface throughout the day.  These are typically size #18-22 with adults in the #20-24 range.  Fish will still eat small baetis nymphs and caddis larvae throughout the winter.  With the year-round availability of stonefly nymphs in the river, fish will also readily take well drifted stonefly nymphs and other large attractors throughout the colder months.  Golden stonefly nymphs are molting and as such are more vulnerable to predation during this phase of life.  These can be fished in relatively large sizes, with #10-12 being common offerings.

 

Always be prepared to take time carefully releasing fish.  Minimize trouts' time out of the water and do your due diligence giving them adequate revival time before moving on.  

Seasonal Hatches and Tips

In spring, the Arkansas River near Leadville Colorado, experiences increased insect activity, making it an excellent time for fly fishing. Here are some effective fly patterns to consider during this season:

Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs): These may still be prevalent in early spring. Carry patterns like Parachute Adams, Sparkle Duns, or Pheasant Tails in sizes #18 to #22 to imitate BWOs.

Midges: Midges are consistent year-round, but their activity may increase in spring. Use patterns like Zebra Midges, RS2s (Rim's Semblance 2), Mercury Midges, or Disco Midges in sizes ranging from #18 to #24.

Caddisflies: As temperatures rise, caddis activity increases. Patterns like Elk Hair Caddis, X-Caddis, or Stimulators in sizes #14 to #18 can be effective imitations.

Stoneflies: Stonefly nymphs start becoming more active in spring. Carry patterns like Pat's Rubber Legs, Hare's Ear Nymphs, or Prince Nymphs in sizes #10 to #14.

Streamers: As the water warms up, fish become more aggressive. Woolly Buggers, Sculpin patterns, and other streamers in various sizes and colors can attract larger fish.

Attractor Patterns: Bright and flashy attractor patterns like San Juan Worms, Egg Patterns, or Rainbow Warriors can be effective in catching the attention of fish.

Remember to observe the water conditions and the behavior of the fish to determine the most effective patterns and  presentations. Also, be prepared to adjust your techniques throughout the day as conditions change.

Weather
Suggested Flies
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)
Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)

Pat's Rubber Leg Nymph - ( SOLITUDE FLY)

$2.25
Top Secret Baetis - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Top Secret Baetis - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler

Top Secret Baetis - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler

$2.85
Juju Baetis - ( UMPQUA) - Blue Quill Angler
Juju Baetis - ( UMPQUA) - Blue Quill Angler
Juju Baetis - ( UMPQUA) - Blue Quill Angler
Juju Baetis - ( UMPQUA) - Blue Quill Angler

Juju Baetis - ( UMPQUA) - Blue Quill Angler

$2.25
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler
Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler

Manhattan Midge - ( Umpqua) - Blue Quill Angler

$2.25
Darth Baetis
Darth Baetis
Darth Baetis
Darth Baetis
Darth Baetis
Darth Baetis

Darth Baetis

$2.25
Dorseys Mercury Black Beauty
Dorseys Mercury Black Beauty

Dorseys Mercury Black Beauty

$2.25
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