Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: Below Salida at Fremont – Chafee Country line
Fish Landed: 20
It was worth the wait. I’ve lived in Colorado for 20 years, and every year I visit the Arkansas River to attempt to hit the fabled caddis hatch. I’ve often seen the massive numbers of caddis after they already hatched, but only once have I hit the front edge of the hatch where the caddis are emerging and trout are rising to dry flies. Today was a second such experience. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The online fishing reports said that the caddis hatch stalled near Texas Creek due to cool temperatures. Arkanglers predicted that the warmer temperatures early this week would cause the hatch to advance, perhaps exploding all the way up the river at once. As near as I could tell they were right.
I left the house at 7AM and took the US285 route as I was interested in fishing below Salida. The strong gusts of wind pushed the van relentlessly as I drove through the Front Range and across South Park. How could I fish in this wind?
I arrived at the pullout at the Fremont-Chafee County line and prepared to fish. I went down the cement steps, and then crossed the river at the tail of the long pool across from the pullout. I hiked down the railroad tracks on the north side of the river to a point below the small island. I rigged up with a split shot, strike indicator, prince nymph and bright green caddis pupa and began swinging the flies through the riffles at 11AM. The wind was tough, but the weight and indicator helped punch the flies into the wind. I picked up two browns fairly quickly on the prince as the flies swung at the end of the drift. When I reached the bottom of the island, I removed the split shot and adjusted the indicator down to 3-4 feet above the top fly to fish the shallow right channel. I landed a couple small browns. When I nearly reached the top of the island, I returned to the bottom and worked up the left side of the island and landed a very nice brown. These trout were all grabbing the prince.
At the top of the island I crossed over to the north bank and worked my way up the right side with the two nymphs. I picked up six more trout by prospecting the deeper pockets and runs close to the bank. Two or three of the trout took the bright green caddis pupa and the remainder fell for the prince nymph.
There was another fisherman on the south bank down the bank from my car, so I crossed the shallow tail and returned to the car for lunch. I grabbed my lunch bag and walked down to a rock high above the river and watched the water and the other fisherman. I ate my lunch around 1PM and as I finished eating, I noticed a pod of four or five fish rising along the north bank near a small rock that poked above the water a couple feet from the bank. I assumed the fisherman below me would move over and fish to the risers, but he continued struggling to punch casts into the wind below the high rock cliff where I was eating.
After lunch I waded back across the river and headed for the aforementioned rock. The fisherman moved back near shore and pulled his line in and left! I maneuvered into casting position below the rock and noticed quite a few BWO’s on the surface. Of course the wind was gusting even stronger than in the late morning. Could I cast a dry fly upstream directly into the wind? I tied on CDC olive and got within eight feet of the lowest riser below the rock. I could see that the fish was decent. I failed to get a couple flies to where the fish was as the wind blew the tiny dry back near my feet. I totally overpowered several casts almost hitting my rod tip on the water and got some drifts over the fish. On the third or fourth such cast, the brown sipped in the BWO. Next I moved a bit closer and cast upstream of the rock and two or three feet toward the middle of the river. Bam! Another brown sipped the BWO.
It is difficult for me to describe what happened over the next two hours of the afternoon. All hell broke loose. I began seeing caddis tumbling and spinning on the surface as they tried to emerge in the gusting wind. The wind picked up flies and skittered them over the surface. There were BWO’s and caddis everywhere with the wind riffling the surface and blowing so hard that I could only cast between gusts. But fish were rising pretty regularly. I decided to switch to a dark olive deer hair caddis. This worked great, when I could get a cast upstream into the wind so it drifted over risers, I hooked fish. I worked my way up along the right bank spotting risers and landing beautiful fish in between waiting out the wind. Most of the six fish I caught between the last one on a BWO and the end of the day were nice size and three of them were chunky rainbows.
At 3:30, the wind picked up even more. I could only cast sporadically and sometimes had to wait five minutes for the wind to subside before I could attempt a cast. I wasn’t seeing rising fish anymore despite the continuing presence of caddis, albeit not as dense as an hour earlier. I called it quits at 3:30 with 20 fish landed and a fantastic day.