Time: 9:30AM – 5:00PM
Location: Between Salida and Wellsville then Wilderness Aware Rafting
Fish Landed: 8
With high temperatures forecast to spike to 80 degrees on Friday, I decided to make a trek to the Arkansas River below Salida. The reports suggested that the browns were beginning to spawn, and the BWO hatch had pretty much waned, but I decided to give it a shot. Perhaps I could still tempt some fish with BWO nymphs, and I’d caught increasing numbers of rainbows on recent trips, so maybe they would provide interest if the browns were busy spawning.
I left Denver at 6:30AM and beat the morning traffic and arrived at my chosen beginning point and was ready to fish at around 9:45AM. It was still chilly, so I wore my light fleece over my fishing shirt. I’d discovered a nice hidden path as I exited the river on one of my trips earlier in the season, so I chose to park at the top of this path. The location is three miles east of Salida just beyond the Arkansas Recreation access spot below the stockyard bridge.
I began with a hares ear nymph (no beadhead) and a beadhead pheasant tail with a strike indicator and split shot. I began working the nice riffles and deeper runs as I fished my way up along the left bank. Much to my surprise, a nice rainbow hammered the beadhead pheasant tail after I’d fished for 15 minutes or so. I landed the rainbow and photographed it and released. Within the next 15 minutes I landed a nice brown trout that was somewhat larger than the rainbow. This brown snatched the hares ear in a fairly shallow riffle as it tumbled back toward me. Two nice fish in the first half hour created some optimistic expectations.
I continued fishing in this manner and landed another nice rainbow on the beadhead pheasant tail before breaking for lunch. The rainbow was larger than the first one and probably the same size as the brown. I reached the point where the path ended at 11:30, so decided to utilize it and return to the car. I’d had some success several years ago around this time of year at a bend in the river above the stockyard bridge, so I threw my gear in the car and drove back up the river toward Salida to the stockyard bridge and ate my lunch there along the side of the river.
After lunch I took the path down to the river and then went under the bridge and up along the north side of the river to the bend. I slid down a steep bank, and when I looked up the river to the spot I had in mind, there was another fisherman and his two dogs. It was the only other fisherman I saw on the river the entire day, and he was positioned where I wanted to fish! I retreated and fished above and below the bridge a bit, but had no success, so I decided to move back down the river to a point below where I’d begun but upstream from the Fremont-Chafee County border that I fish frequently.
I went down the path at the location described and began fishing up the south (left) bank. I wasn’t having any success, but as I approached a long deep pool I noticed a man walking along the shore above me. As he got closer, he asked how I was doing, and I told him I’d caught three in the morning, but it was slow since then. Just when he’d gone below me I cast to a relatively shallow riffle at the tail of the deep pool and hooked up with a medium sized brown. I looked back at the stranger, and he gave me a thumbs up.
I moved on beyond the large pool, and as it was now early afternoon, and the air temperature was quite pleasant, I decided to switch to a parachute hopper and a beadhead hares ear. I tied this combination on and began prospecting the pockets and riffles on my side of the river. I had some occasional refusals on the parachute hopper, but by 3PM I’d landed two additional small brown trout on the trailing beadhead hares ear on a 2.5 foot dropper.
By 3PM I’d covered the new water and covered for a second time the water I’d fished in the morning. The sky was bright blue and the sun was high in the sky and warm. I debated calling it a day, but then thought about trying the river further upstream closer to Buena Vista. I needed to drive that way to return home anyway. I put all my things in the car and drove to the spot where 285/24 crosses the Arkansas River. I parked at the Wilderness Aware Rafting parking lot and headed down a road used to launch rafts in the summer time.
Towards the end of my fishing below Salida, I’d switched the parachute hopper for a
Chernobyl ant, and this remained on my line at the new location. In the first pool, a brown darted up from the lip of the pool and smashed the Chernobyl, but immediately fell off. Next a rainbow jumped on the Chernobyl, but it too released itself. As I moved upstream I began getting refusals to the Chernobyl, and the fish showed no interest in the nymph whatsoever. I’d read that attractors with some red color were working on top, so I clipped off the two flies and tied on a royal stimulator. This fly produced two hook ups in the remaining time on the water. I fished this stretch from 4-5PM. At five I was pretty weary and the fishing action had subsided so I hiked back down the irrigation ditch that paralleled the river and began the drive back to Denver.