Arkansas River – 04/14/2015

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chafee County line and upstream

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River 04/14/2015 Photo Album

Five years ago I began tracking my calorie consumption and burn using an iPad app called FatSecret. I am certain that the calories burned under the activity labeled fishing presume the sedentary version of the sport such as sitting in a boat or relaxing in a chair by a lake. My fishing outing on Tuesday on the Arkansas River is testament to fly fishing representing a far different FatSecret exercise category.

Amazingly when I arrived at the pullout along route 50 at the Fremont-Chafee county line below Salida, the air was relatively calm compared to my previous April fishing experiences. The temperature was in the low fifties, so I pulled on my gray fleece cardigan and prepared to fish. I packed my lunch and water in my backpack, as I planned to cross the river and not return until the end of the day. The flows were around 300 cfs, and this level allows crossing the river safely assuming one has a wading staff and is reasonably cautious with foot placement.


Upstream From Site of Two Landed Fish

Once I crossed the wide tail out below my parking location, I decided to work my way upstream. I selected my new Sage One 9′, 5 weight rod, and seeing no insect activity at 10:30AM, I decided to set up the standard nymph configuration with a strike indicator, split shot, ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph. This set up would serve me for the remainder of my time on the Arkansas River. I switched flies infrequently, but I never deviated from the deep nymphing approach for prospecting the clear river.


Second Brown Was Nicest Fish of the Day

The first half hour failed to yield a fish, and I began to see a handful of small caddis flitting about near the surface, so I exchanged the ultra zug bug for an emerald caddis pupa and swapped the hares ear for a beadhead RS2. This change seemed to do the trick, and shortly after 11 I landed two gorgeous brown trout in the 13 to 14 inch range. Unlike most of the fish that I landed so far in 2015, these trout carried more girth. Before breaking for lunch at 12:15, I landed three additional brown trout, and my long drive to the Arkansas was beginning to pay dividends.


Nice Specimen



RS2 Also Produced Some Fish

After lunch I continued fishing the caddis pupa and RS2 with similar results to the morning. I landed an additional eight fish in the next 3.5 hours, so the catch rate was down a bit, but steady enough to prevent my thoughts from straying to baseball or food. Normally if I find myself thinking more about topics other than fishing, I view that as a sign to quit.


Lunch Spot View

My approach for Tuesday was consistent throughout the day. I lobbed the nymphing rig upstream and allowed it to drift back toward me while quickly stripping in the slack. Deep holes did not produce, and the best places tended to be the tail of long riffles and runs where the river rushed over a rocky bottom at a moderate pace with a depth of three to four feet. Not all locations with this type of structure produced, but enough yielded fish to keep my interest focused. Several of the fish grabbed the flies upon the lift to make another cast, but when I simulated the lift by jigging or bouncing my flies as they drifted toward me, I never found success.


Fine Afternoon Brown Trout

In short I covered a huge amount of water, and this entailed climbing over numerous rocks in the streambed and along the bank. In addition my shoulder endured its heaviest test of the season with repeated casting of the nymphs upstream and into the wind which kicked up in the afternoon. I’m certain that all this effort far exceeded the calorie burn incorporated into the FatSecret application.


Attractive Edge Water

From 11AM until 2PM I spotted an occasional blue winged olive, and the RS2 produced four fish during this time frame. I went through a slow spell after 2, so I tested a bright green caddis pupa and size 20 soft hackle emerger, and the bright green caddis produced two fish. Eventually I concluded that the emerald pupa was more effective than the bright green version, so I reverted, and the BWO hatch seemed to end, so I returned to the ultra zug bug. These flies produced the last two browns in the late afternoon.

I had the entire Arkansas River to myself and the weather developed into a beautiful spring day with the high temperature reaching the low seventies. I managed to land thirteen fish on my new rod, and the average size exceeded my previous 2015 efforts. It was a great day to be retired in Colorado.

2 thoughts on “Arkansas River – 04/14/2015

  1. Hi Dave,

    Obviously on this outing you did not go for a dry dropped set up, opting for the standard nymph rig. My question is this, I have been fishing for 3 years and am still struggling to consistently make dry dropper configurations work for me. How much tippet do you typically drop off of your dry to your first dropper fly?



    • Dan – Thanks for reading my blog. The short answer is 2.5 – 3 feet is my typical distance from the surface fly to the first dropper fly. If I’m fishing two droppers (a recipe for tangles), I would probably go two feet from surface to first dropper and then another foot between droppers. If I’m fishing small headwater streams, I usually go with only 1-1.5 feet depth.

      As you have probably read, dry/dropper is my favorite approach to fly fishing other than fishing a single dry fly to a hatch. I think more important than the depth is matching dry/dropper to water type. If I’m fishing this way, even on a large river such as the Arkansas, I typically fish only along the bank and then out maybe 10 feet. I also move along quickly and do not dwell at one spot. The water depth along the bank is typically ideal for dry/dropper and the dry/dropper does not disturb the water as much as plopping an indicator and split shot into these areas. If you like to fish the deep runs and pools, you are better off with a conventional nymphing rig, because dry/dropper does not get deep enough. Good luck, and let me know if you find success. Dave

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