Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM
Location: Salt Lick boat launch and then the area upstream of Pinnacle Rock with multiple channels
Fish Landed: 13
Arkansas River 04/07/2015 Photo Album
After two days on Front Range streams catching small trout, I was quite anxious to visit a larger river with the possibility of larger fish. However several additional reasons existed for my desire to undertake a fishing trip. A wider more open body of water would allow me to try out my new Sage One 9′ 5 weight rod that was presented to me as a retirement gift by my friends at Saddleback Design. In addition the weather forecast predicted highs in the low seventies, and this temperature range sparked feelings of spring fever.
I contacted my friend Steve Supple toward the end of the previous week and invited him to join me on a trip to the Arkansas River, and he readily accepted. The reports from ArkAnglers and Royal Gorge Anglers highlighted ideal stream flows, clear water and consistent blue winged olive hatch activities.
I picked Steve up at 7:30 at his house in Lone Tree, and we arrived at the pull out at the Salt Lick access in Big Horn Sheep Canyon between 9:30 and 10:00AM. When Steve and I opened the car doors to stretch and prepare to fish we were blown away…literally. Apparently our conversation was so engaging that we paid no attention to the blowing vegetation and bending trees along our route. The wind was continually gusting, and a cold bite made it even more unpleasant.
Near Starting Point at Salt Lick
We made the two plus hour drive so we were committed to spending some time on the river, but I have to admit that I was skeptical that we would have a productive day in the wind tunnel commonly known as Big Horn Sheep Canyon. In addition, casting into a gale force wind with a strike indicator and split shot was not exactly a true test of the casting qualities of my new Sage rod.
We tossed aside the adversity served up by Mother Nature and rigged our rods and descended the steps at the boat launch to the river. Steve claimed the nice deep run in front of the steps while I walked upstream a bit and tied on a 20 incher and pine squirrel leech. These are two large weighted flies, so I skipped adding split shot, but did loop a thingamabobber to my line just below the junction of the fly line and tapered leader.
I began casting my subsurface offerings to some attractive water with plenty of subsurface boulders, but the fish were not cooperating. Much of my time was spent turning my back to the raging wind currents to wait for conditions more suited to casting a fly. Even when the wind died back a bit, I was forced to over power my forward cast and this involved extending my stroke so that the tip almost touched the water.
An Early Brown Trout
A half hour went by with no action, so I clipped off the pine squirrel leech and replaced it with an ultra zug bug. Finally I saw the indicator dive and fought an eleven inch brown trout to my net only to discover that it was foul hooked. I wanted to count this fish as my first on the new rod, but I complied with my rule to exclude fish hooked in places other than the mouth. I released the brown and continued upstream and finally landed two fish that snatched the ultra zug bug from the swirling currents near the bank among rocky structure. At this point my upstream progression was blocked by a high vertical rock wall. I surveyed the situation and considered climbing the steep bank to circle above the structure, but then I thought better of it, and returned to the area that Steve was fishing below me.
By now it was 11 o’clock, so I told Steve that I would walk downstream along the shoulder of the highway and then fish back along the south bank and meet back with him by noon for lunch. Steve agreed with the plan, and I eagerly marched down the road for the distance of two football fields and carefully scrambled down a steep bank to the river. The next hour was the best of the day, as I moved along the bank and prospected nymphs in a series of deep slower moving side pockets where the fish could find refuge from the heavier current of the main river. I spotted two tiny BWO’s being swept from the surface of the river by the rushing wind, so I reconfigured my line to include the ultra zug bug as the top fly and added a RS2 as my point offering. Because I removed the weighted 20 incher, I crimped a split shot above the ultra zug bug.
Another Brown in the Net
The wind remained a constant adversary, but I found a bit of shelter behind boulders and made short 8-10 foot casts to the deep side pockets, and this resulted in six landed fish including one rainbow and five brown trout. All the fish were in the 9-12 inch size range, and two were fooled by the ultra zug bug with the other four snatching the RS2. I spotted several of the fish and managed to induce takes by providing movement to my flies before they reached the holding position of the fish.
This Guy a Bit Chunkier
Some juicy water remained between me and Steve at noon, but I honored my commitment and slowly negotiated the rocky bank until I reached the beach area below the parking lot. Steve and I grabbed our lunches and munched them on some large boulders that served as a barrier along the edge of the parking area along the top of the bank. We decided to move to new water after lunch, so we threw all our gear in the Kia, and drove along route 50 until we reached a pullout .5 mile above Pinnacle Rock The river in this area braids into four or five channels, and I had some success in this area in the past.
We experienced a bit of good fortune as the wind died back to a constant breeze and the air temperature was now in the low seventies. This was actually the weather I envisioned when I made plans for the trip. Steve began fishing some nice deep runs in the channel next to the highway while I hiked back along the shoulder to a spot fifty yards below the confluence of all the many branches. I began working my way along the rocky bank just below the shoulder of the highway convinced that my ultra zug bug and RS2 combination would continue to attract fish, but as is usually the case, my optimism was unfounded. I managed one brown that was actually visible as it snatched something from the surface. I had one remaining deep pool that fanned out below an overhanging tree next to the bank when Steve arrived and observed from the shoulder above me. Unfortunately this tasty stretch of Arkansas water did not produce, so I climbed the bank and joined Steve and we strode back to the car.
Steve was feeling quite tired due to some new medication, but it was 1:30, and I was still energized and anxious to try the north channel before we made the long drive back to Denver. I gave Steve the keys so he could access his water, and I set out to cross the closest channels to reach the northernmost branch of the river. Within a few minutes I reached the bottom segment of my destination, and I began to loft the tandem nymphs to some nice deep runs. The first attacker of the ultra zug bug was a ten inch brown, and then I ran the nymphs along a current seam on the north side of the river, and a feisty rainbow hammered the RS2 as it began to sweep at the end of the drift. These two fish put my fish count at ten, and I was quite pleased to reach this milestone in spite of the adverse windy conditions.
I continued upstream working the nymphs and added another brown trout, and then I reached a stretch where there was a steady riffle over moderate depth that extended for forty to fifty feet. I noticed a few sipping rises and this caused me to speculate that this water was perfect for a dry/dropper approach. I was aching to cast dry flies with my new rod, so I made the switch. I removed the split shot and indicator and tied on a tan Charlie Boy hopper and then reattached the ultra zug bug and RS2. Guess what happened? The rod cast beautifully as the wind subsided to an occasional breeze, but the trout were not impressed. I covered the entire riffle area with no fish and no refusals.
One of the Four Braids
I decided to recognize this as a failed experiment, and took the time to return to my nymph set up, and the method once again proved itself as the superior technique for April 7. I landed two more fish including the best fish of the day, a fat thirteen inch rainbow, before quitting at 3PM. Both of these fish gulped the ultra zug bug, and the afternoon fish seemed to prefer the zug bug over the RS2. I found Steve waiting by the car, so I quickly removed my waders and stowed my gear, and we were on the highway headed for Denver.
Despite the frustrating gale force wind, I had a fine day and enjoyed breaking in my new rod and landed thirteen fish. I was able to cast a dry/dropper combination for fifteen minutes in the afternoon, and I was pleased with the performance of the new rod. It was a pleasant Tuesday in April, and I’m now addicted to retirement and week day fishing.