Time: 11:00AM – 4:30PM
Location: Fremont – Chafee County Line
I contacted my friend, Danny Ryan, after returning from Pennsylvania, and he indicated an enthusiastic interest in fishing the Arkansas River on October 23 and 24. I was considering a trip to the South Platte River, but Danny informed me that his Facebook sources lamented the crowds and combat fishing on the popular fishery south of Denver. Danny suggested the Arkansas River as an alternative, as he sought a larger river with more elbow room. I quickly agreed to the excursion, and I offered to pay for a hotel room in Salida on Sunday night.
I picked Danny up at 6:30, and we arrived at the Fremont – Chafee county line pullout at 10:30. By the time we assembled our gear and waded across the river and hiked downstream, it was 11:00AM when our flies hit the water. I began fishing farther downstream than normal where the main current created a large foam pool. I was certain that a deep nymphing rig would extract some sizable fish, but my 20 incher and ultra zug bug failed to interest the Arkansas River fish. I continued to advance with the nymph offerings, until I reached the downstream tip of the island, but the only evidence of fish was a foul hooked fourteen inch brown trout. This was a beautiful deeply colored fish, but the ultra zug bug was embedded in the belly, and I do not count or photograph snagged fish. I exchanged the ultra zug bug for a salad spinner and a soft hackle emerger along the way, but these flies were equally unproductive.
When I approached the right braid at the bottom of the long narrow island, I switched to a peacock body size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle and retained the soft hackle emerger as a dropper. Given the relatively low flows of autumn, I was cognizant of the clear and technical nature of the small right channel, so I did not wish to scatter the resident fish with a splashy cast of a large fly. I probably over analyzed the situation, as I covered the entire right braid without landing a fish. My only action was a refusal to the beetle in a small pocket at the very bottom of the right branch. Danny, meanwhile, experienced some decent success with several nice brown trout in the fourteen to fifteen inch range.
After finishing the right channel I prospected the right bank through the wide shallow area above the island. This proved to be a futile exercise, so I stopped for lunch at 12:45, and my fish count remained locked on zero. After lunch I converted to a tan Charlie boy hopper trailing an ultra zug bug and soft hackle emerger. Within thirty minutes a thirteen inch brown trout that was located tight to an exposed rock grabbed the soft hackle emerger, and I registered my first and only fish of the day.
I continued my progress through the pockets between the top of the island and our crossing point beneath the long pool, and I managed a couple long distance releases. For some inexplicable reason the fish seemed dormant, and neither Danny nor I could unlock the secret code to the Arkansas River trout. I attempted a modification to my approach by swapping the ultra zug bug for a hares ear, but the variation in offering made no difference to the fish. I observed very little insect activity with only a couple random blue winged olives sighted. The sky was largely devoid of clouds and the temperature peaked at the eighty degree mark. It felt like August in late October.
When I reached our crossing point, I skipped around the long pool and proceeded to the faster water where the river entered the large deep slow moving section. The wind kicked up a bit, and I began to see more BWO’s as they were tumbled and skittered across the river. This observation prompted me to convert back to nymphing. I hoped that the added weight of the indicator and split shot would enable me to more easily punch casts into the wind. In addition I theorized that the split shot would sink my flies deeper and allow me to better mimic a nymph or emerger, as it spurted from the river bottom to the surface. My theory worked, sort of, as I temporarily hooked a brown trout in a deep trough near the middle of the river.
Alas that was the extent of the payback on the nymphing ploy. I continued my progress along the north bank, but the remainder of the afternoon evolved into futile casting. At three o’clock I reversed my course and crossed at the bottom of the long pool, and then I walked east along US 50 until I was above Danny. I was rather frustrated and bored at this point, so I experimented with a slumpbuster for the remainder of the afternoon, and surprisingly I connected with a decent fish on an upstream cast and strip during this time period. Typical of my day, however, the deep bend in the rod did not last very long, and my slumpbuster fancier was gone.
Near 4:30 I encountered a place where I had to exit the river in order to circle around some thick bushes where the river ran with strong velocity tight to the bank. As I attempted to battle through some dense shrubs to return to the rivers edge, my rod tip apparently dug into a stiff branch, and I was shocked to discover that I broke three inches off my tip.
This last unfortunate event ended a frustrating day that was characterized by long distance releases, a near fall, a broken tip and one landed fish. Quite possibly Sunday October 23 was the worst day of fly fishing in my life.
Fish Landed: 1