Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM
Location: Chafee-Fremont County boundary
Fish Landed: 10
With the Labor Day weekend behind me, and the fantasy football draft history, I was feeling the itch to explore some Colorado streams again. It was September 9 and the nights had grown perceptibly cooler. I checked the reports and decided to give the Arkansas River a try. Historically I’ve experienced some great September fishing on the Arkansas.
I arrived at the river and parked at the wide pullout just beyond the Chafee-Fremont county border sign, and I was ready to fish by around 10:30AM. I crossed the river (380 cfs) at the tail of the long pool beneath the pullout, and then hiked down the railroad tracks on the north side of the river to my traditional beginning point below a small island. I tied on a size 12 parahopper with a gray body and added a beadhead hares ear (BHHE) 2.5 feet below the hopper. I began prospecting a nice run and within 10 minutes landed a small rainbow on the trailing BHHE. I kept moving up the river a few feet at a time and cast the double presentation upstream. Around half way up to the island, the hopper dipped and I set the hook and played a feisty fat thirteen inch rainbow to my net.
Next I began working the right side of the island. This has traditionally been my favorite stretch of the Arkansas River. The right channel has several cascading small pools at the end before merging with the main channel, then a smooth pool that is fed by a deep run down the middle, then another series of small pools before reaching the top of the island. I began by probing the small pools at the bottom and spotted a couple fish flash toward the hopper but then drop back to a position on the bottom. I covered the three or four pools but then noticed a small one along the north bank tucked behind a tumbleweed that had become lodged against a protruding boulder. The pocket was only five feet long at most. I looped a cast around the tumbleweed into the short pocket and noticed two fish move toward my flies. I set the hook and was surprised to be attached to a beautiful 15 inch brown. The brown bolted downstream a bit then came up behind me before finally succumbing to my pressure and splashing into the net.
Next I worked the smooth pool area and again noticed a refusal or two to the parahopper. When I moved up higher in the pool and cast to the center current, a brown grabbed the BHHE and I landed another fish. Next I encountered a nice little wide but short pool with several protruding boulders that the deeper current swirled around. Initially I worked this pool and experienced a refusal, but then I created a tangle. Amazingly after I rested the water while I untangled my line, and then began casting again, the fish turned on to my BHHE. I was casting a very short line and holding my rod high with only the flies and leader touching the water. Using this technique I extracted four brown trout from the small pool in a half hour. The fish were decent size averaging around 12-13 inches and fat and chunky. Perhaps this was going to be one of those days.
Toward the top of the right channel I had several refusals to the hopper in very shallow water. I could see these were decent sized browns lurking in very shallow lies. I’d now exhausted the opportunities in the right channel, so I crossed over the river to a nice spot that is only fishable late in the season when the flows are down. The river cuts against a large vertical rock, and there are nice riffles above the rock and then a nice smooth run with some depth along the rock. I had two momentary hook ups in this area, and then decided to follow a path up along the large rock to the road and return to the minivan for lunch.
After lunch I returned to the same spot and waded back to the north side of the river. In some fairly shallow riffles along the bank where the river begins to divide around the island, after making some fairly long upstream casts, I flipped the flies into some very shallow water. As I watched with little expectation, a beautiful rainbow finned up and slurped in the hopper. This proved to be a hot fish that made numerous charges out toward the middle of the river before being subdued and cradled in my net. My expectations for the remainder of the day were now sky high.
I methodically worked my way up along the right bank and prospected all the likely pockets, pools, slots and slack areas for the next three hours. Elation transformed into frustration. I observed numerous refusals, but the fish no longer showed any interest in the beadhead nymph. I tried to analyze why fish were attracted to the parahopper but wouldn’t take it, and began switching out the top fly. I tried a yellow Letort hopper, a smaller parahopper, a small stimulator with a green body, and a royal stimulator. I also began switching the trailing nymph and eventually settled on a beadhead pheasant tail. Finally perhaps around 3PM in a short deep pocket a fish aggressively hammered the BHPT and shot toward the heavier river current. I fought this fish and eventually landed a fat 14-15 inch rainbow. That was my tenth fish and only second of the afternoon. By 4PM I was bored by the lack of action and decided to quit for the day.
I was encouraged by the number of fish I saw during the day. I believe some fantastic fishing on the Arkansas River lies ahead as the temperatures cool a bit and the fall BWO hatch develops. I was amazed at the number of large fish I spooked from extremely shallow lies along the bank. I generally fish the edges more than most fishermen, but this was water that even I wrote off as not containing fish. Visualizing these large fish sipping BWO’s in shallow lies along the edge during cool fall days gets the juices flowing.