Time: 11:00AM – 2:30PM; 3:30PM – 5:00PM; 8:00PM – 8:45PM
Location: Smythe Lease, Below Large Pool .5 mile below Stockyard Bridge, Vallie Bridge
A rainy morning in Denver on Tuesday morphed into a sunny and warm day on the Arkansas River. The high temperature approached 87 degrees, and flows in the Salida area were in the 800 cfs – 900 cfs range. After three decent but not outstanding outings on the run off impacted Yampa and Eagle Rivers, I had my eye on the Arkansas River. As a result of a low snow pack in the Arkansas River headwaters the flows were subsiding and already below the level, that I generally prefer, when fish are confined to bank side retreats. 1,500 cfs is the preferred level for edge fishing the Arkansas, and I was late to the party.
I parked at a wide dirt pullout before the CO 291 bridge and promptly rigged my Sage four weight. After I climbed over the wooden stairs that spanned a barbed wire fence, I walked two-thirds of the way downstream. I spotted another fisherman near the border with private land, so I reversed my direction and settled at the two-thirds point. I began my day with a yellow Letort hopper and a beadhead iron sally in an effort to imitate golden stonefly adults and yellow sally nymphs. Unfortunately the ploy did not pay off, and I converted to a yellow fat Albert, iron sally and hares ear nymph. I needed the additional buoyancy of the large foam terrestrial to support two beadhead flies.
I cycled through an ultra zug bug and salvation nymph as the point fly and eventually settled on the combination of the fat Albert, iron sally and salvation nymph. These three flies enabled me to land four brown trout between 11:00AM and 2:30PM. One brown was a gorgeous fifteen inch fish that came from a fairly deep current seam just beyond the CO 291 bridge. The other three were respectable brown trout; one twelve inches and the other two thirteen. Three of the four nabbed the iron sally, and one nipped the salvation nymph.
The fishing was far from action packed, and I covered a significant amount of river real estate, as I ended my time at the stone bridge above the rafting launch ramp. It was difficult to isolate a trend of productive water type, but deep slow slots next to large boulders or current seams at the upstream beginning of runs and riffles stood out. The river level was not high enough to confine the fish to the narrow ribbon of water along the bank, but high enough to make reading the river structure difficult.
When I reached the CO 191 stone bridge, I retreated to the Santa Fe and continued my journey through Salida and stopped at an angled pullout .5 mile below the East Salida boat ramp. A decent path followed the high bank above the river and then angled through some bushes and trees, until I met the river. I bushwhacked downstream a bit and then edge fished back upriver to a point where a vertical rock wall impeded my progress. To exit I was forced to retreat to a place where US 50 spanned a tiny tributary. I followed the narrow ribbon of water under the bridge and ascended on the south side of the highway.
During this phase of my fishing day I was fortunate to land two additional brown trout. One was less than twelve inches, and it chomped the iron sally, but the other was a very welcome fifteen inch bruiser that consumed the salvation nymph. Both fish were extracted from the pocket water stretch, that ran next to a very steep bank below where my car was parked.
I departed from my second segment below Salida at five o’clock and continued east on US 50 to the Vallie Bridge Campground, where I secured a campsite. One spot was already reserved, and an eight person group from Backcountry.com arrived, while I ate dinner. After my meal and clean up I ventured west to the Treat – Ogden State Wildlife Area, but thirty minutes of prospecting yielded nothing. This portion of my fishing day was very frustrating, as I looked directly into the low setting sun. The glare and intense light made it impossible to read the water or follow my fly. I placed my hand in an ant hill, as I scrambled down the bank to the river, and twenty tiny insects invaded my right arm and sleeve. This unfortunate errant hand placement only added to my misery at the Treat – Ogden location.
I returned to the car and drove across Vallie Bridge to the south side of the Arkansas River, and in twenty minutes of fishing at dusk I landed a nine inch brown trout on the salvation nymph. I quit at 8:45, when I realized that surface feeding on Wednesday evening was merely a wish that would never develop into reality.
Fish Landed: 7