Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM
Location: Below Spike Buck access area in the morning and then Five Points after lunch
Fish Landed: 13
Arkansas River 04/21/2013 Photo Album
Two weeks of winter weather in April certainly helped the snowpack and created some nice late season skiing conditions, but it did little to quench my growing desire to feel the throb of a nice fish on my fly rod. By April 21, 2012 I’d already been fishing nine times and landed 138 trout. I certainly don’t wish for another 2012 in terms of drought conditions, but I am anxious to try my new flies and experience some decent pre-snowmelt fishing. Another spring snowstorm was in the forecast for April 22-23, so Jane agreed to join me on a Sunday excursion south to Canon City and the Arkansas River to enjoy the small window of nice spring weather. High temperatures were forecast for the mid-sixties, and we were thankful for that.
Our first stop was the Spike Buck access of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. It was nice to use my Colorado State Parks pass to avoid the usual parking fee, and I quickly climbed into my waders and rigged up my four weight Sage fly rod. Jane, meanwhile grabbed the Sunday paper and set up shop at a picnic table along the south bank of the river. At 11AM it was in the high 50’s and I felt comfortable in my Columbia long sleeved shirt under my fishing shirt as I walked anxiously down the shoulder of Route 50. When I reached the large bend in the highway roughly 100 yards below the parking lot I cut down the bank to the river. I began my quest for trout with a weighted 20 incher and a bright green caddis pupa. I worked this combination as I moved upstream and experimented with dead drifting and active manipulation but failed to entice any interest. After twenty minutes or so of focused casting, I decided to make a switch and replaced the bright green caddis with a tiny RS2.
As I approached noon and moved closer to Spike Buck I finally picked up a small brown and had several momentary hook ups presumably on the RS2; however, the action was quite slow. I decided to pick up the pace and cover more water while dedicating only three casts to any target area unless it looked particularly attractive. Also the 20 incher didn’t appear to be doing anything, so I clipped it off and added a split shot and beadhead hares ear as my top fly while continuing to present the RS2 on the point. This helped quite a bit and in a short amount of time I landed another small brown on the beadhead hares ear. By 12:30PM I’d added a third small brown, and I was close to Jane and the car so I paused for lunch.
We debated whether to eat at Spike Buck or move to another location, and since I wasn’t overwhelmed with the quality of the fishing, we decided to move to the next access area up the river at Five Points. We parked along the small cul-de-sac that leads to the protruding river overlook and grabbed a picnic table under a huge cottonwood tree. More clouds began to track overhead and the breeze picked up so I decided to put on my fleece. Jane found a nice spot for her folding chair after lunch on a small beach behind a large boulder that served as a windbreaker. Meanwhile I decided to once again walk down the highway around 75 yards and then descend the steep bank to the river.
When I arrived close to the water I saw a nice 25 foot pool behind some protruding boulders and proceeded downstream a bit further to get below this enticing area. Sure enough on the first cast to the head of the pool along the left side a ten inch brown struck the RS2 as I began to lift and recast. I was encouraged by this turn of events and added another larger brown that jumped my swinging fly along the right current seam. For the next two hours I worked my way up along the left bank and prospected with my nymph combination in all the likely pockets and slots. The wind picked up off and on and periodically some clouds blocked the sun. On several occasions I spotted emerging BWO’s, but never saw any rising fish.
My fish count moved from five to ten during this stretch and most of the fish grabbed the fly on the lift or swing. As I expected the RS2 produced but I probably landed two more on the hares ear. At three o’clock I arrived at the nice pool below the large rock wall that Jane was using as a wind screen, and peered into the dark deep water. I began tossing my nymphs upstream and allowing them to drift along the long current seam that was 15 feet out from the beach where I stood. On one of these drifts the indicator dipped just as the nymphs were about to swing away from the seam and I set the hook and landed another brown in the 8-11 inch range. On two subsequent drifts higher up near the start of the pool I experienced momentary hook ups.
As I was contemplating my next move, Jane appeared on the top of the large boulder, and inquired about my plans. I told her I’d like to fish for another half hour until 3:30 and if the action didn’t pick up I’d be ready to depart. I circled around the huge boulder and dropped back down to the river to a point where there was a twenty yard stretch of pocket water. I covered the pockets next to the bank quickly using my three cast and done strategy and arrived at a sweet spot where there was a nice long slot with some fairly deep smooth water from the midpoint to the tail. As I observed a cloud blocked the sky and the wind picked up a bit and I began to notice some fairly regular rises. Perhaps I could entice some of these fish to strike my RS2 as an emerger by employing my jigging method through the slot. The area I am describing was approximately twenty-five feet long but only eight to 10 feet wide and roughly in the shape of a banana. One fairly regular riser was eight feet below the point of the slot right where the riffles smoothed out. I cast my flies and indicator above that point and as the indicator moved five feet downstream of the rise point, it suddenly darted to the side and away from me. I immediately set the hook and felt the weight of a fish that was heavier than any I’d caught so far on the day.
Unfortunately after I stopped the downstream run and turned the fish, I realized that it was foul hooked on one of the small fins along the belly behind the head. I managed to plane the fish across the surface and into my net, and it was indeed a nice rainbow probably 13-14 inches in length. I was disappointed at this turn of events, but didn’t have time to dwell on it as I realized quite a few fish continued to rise in the area. I despaired of using my nymphs for these fish and undertook the task of clipping off the nymphs, removing the spit shot and disengaging the strike indicator. I opened my foam patch in my front pack and carefully removed a size 22 CDC blue wing olive. On the third or fourth drift I spotted a rise in the approximate location of my difficult to see fly and set the hook and enjoyed the throb of a 12 inch brown. After quickly releasing the brown and sopping up the moisture absorbed by my fly on my shirt sleeve, I fluffed up the wing, and flicked another cast to an area where I’d spotted a rise. Once again after several casts and accounting for the downstream gusts of wind, I spotted a rise near the anticipated position of my fly and set the hook into another brown.
I was pretty excited with this late afternoon hatch and two bonus fish that sipped my CDC olive, but just as quickly as the action commenced, the sun reappeared and the hatch was over. There were additional clouds in the sky to the west and perhaps they would induce another flurry of hatching BWO’s, but it was now nearly 4PM, and I could tell Jane was getting anxious to make the return trip to Denver. I circled around the deep pool below the large rock and observed the water for a bit, but nothing was showing on the surface so I reeled up the fly and clipped it off and prepared for the return to Denver.
It was fun to get out after a two week postponement due to weather, but the fish were on average on the small side. I saw no signs of an imminent caddis hatch, but the fish were somewhat active on the BWO nymphs and I did experience some decent albeit brief surface action. Hopefully the next snowstorm will pass quickly and I can return to Colorado streams for addtional quality fishing.