Time: 1:00PM – 5:00PM
Location: Lunch Rock upstream
Fish Landed: 9
On the way to camping at Alvarado Campground near Westcliffe with Jane I stopped at Royal Gorge Anglers to chat with Taylor Edrington. I asked him where I could fish, and he told me that flows at Grape Creek were 6 cfs, extremely low, and areas were closed due to forest fires. He informed me that the area south of the Arkansas River was actually in a state of drought and was vastly different from northern Colorado which is floating on snow melt. His suggestion was to try edge fishing the Arkansas below Salida. Per Taylor, “don’t even wear your waders and cast within six inches of the bank.”
Salida was too far to drive from the Alvarado Campground, so I spent Friday setting up camp, mountain biking and hiking the area. On Saturday Jane arrived and we did another mountain bike ride and then a two hour hike and cooked dinner and enjoyed the beauty of the area. On Sunday after packing up camp, we strolled around Westcliffe and explored the shops and had a tasty lunch on the patio at one of the restaurants. After lunch Jane headed back to Denver and I headed to the Salida area to try edge fishing as recommended by Taylor.
I parked at lunch rock just above the Wellsville bridge. It was extremely hot, probably in the mid-90’s so I initially took Taylor’s advice and just wore my shorts and my front pack. I assembled my Sage 4 weight and bounced down the rocks and tied on a yellow Charlie Boy hopper. I worked up the stream for a bit but didn’t have any luck with the Charlie Boy so I switched to the old standby, yellow Letort hopper. I was just hopping from rock to rock and popping the hopper within three feet of the bank, and in short order I picked up two brown trout and photographed them. After landing the first two I failed to hook one, and then I broke off the hopper on a hook set.
The hopper was producing reasonably well, but I decided to try a Chernobyl ant for more buoyancy as my next fly. This produced a third brown, and then from a position six feet above the water on some rocks I hooked and landed a nice rainbow on the Chernobyl. I had to hoist the fish up to my level and then toss it back down.
Next I reached an area where the water fanned out and was fairly slow and shallow, but there were a bunch of willows along the edge. Normally I could have walked out on a rocky gravel bar, but I couldn’t get in good position without my waders so I skipped this area. But the going was getting rough because the vegetation was tight to rapid current, and I found myself scrambling up and down the bank to get around these tough access spots. I decided to go back to the car and put on my waders. I moved the car a bit upstream to where I ended my fishing and put on my waders in the 90 degree heat and returned to the river.
Next some black clouds rolled in, and I heard some thunder so once again I returned to the car and dug out my raincoat and wrapped it around my waist under the waders. Finally I returned to the river ready to fish and started getting into a rhythm. I wasn’t catching fish in every likely sheltered lie along the bank, but frequently enough to keep me enthusiastic and moving along.
At another point I spotted a very nice brown that appeared to be in excess of 15 inches within a foot of a large rock sticking above the surface. I was careful in my approach, but he didn’t respond to the Chernobyl ant. I added a copper john dropper in hopes the big guy might grab something subsurface, but that didn’t work and the brown disappeared.
I left the copper john on as a dropper and kept working up along the bank picking up nice browns along the way. My last fish was a beautiful rainbow that grabbed the copper john. The rainbow charged out into the fast water, and I had to work him up and allow him to run several times before landing. After releasing the rainbow I looked at my watch and it was approaching 5PM, and I still had a 3 hour drive ahead of me and unpacking all the camping gear, so I quit for the day.