Category Archives: Arkansas River

Arkansas River – 07/20/2021

Time: 10:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 07/20/2021 Photo Album

Flows and fly shop reports for the upper basin of the Arkansas River were favorable, so Jane and I reserved a campsite for Monday and Tuesday night, July 19 and 20. We completed a new hike in the Arkansas River Valley on Monday afternoon after making the nearly three hour drive from Denver. After camping on Monday night, Jane and I had a light breakfast, before we completed an out and back 6.4 mile bike ride from our campground.

Upon my return to the campground, with the temperature now in the upper seventies, I prepared to fish. I chose to wear my wet wading pants and wading socks, and I was never disappointed with my decision. The river was in near perfect shape with flows in the 650 CFS range and exceptional visibility. The flows were being augmented from Twin Lakes to support the whitewater rafting operations, and us fishermen were the beneficiaries.

Side Pocket

Once my gear was in place, I hiked along the west side of the river for fifteen minutes and then cut down to the shoreline, where I tied on a peacock hippie stomper and a size 14 yellow stimulator. A fly shop report recommended golden stoneflies, yellow sallies, dark caddis, and pale morning duns: and these suggestions influenced my choice of flies at the start of the day. I persisted with the double dries for thirty minutes and landed two small brown trout while enduring several refusals.

Hello Mr. Brown

Fish Were Hanging Out at the Head of Pools Such As This

I concluded that I could do better and switched to a dry/dropper approach. My choice for this method that covered a deeper portion of the water column was a size 10 tan pool toy hopper, iron sally, and a salvation nymph. These flies proved to be winners, and I maintained their presence on my line, until I quit at 3:00PM. My net felt the sag of twenty additional brown trout, and the salvation accounted for eighty percent of them. The game on Tuesday largely centered around reading the water and not dwelling in one place too long. Productive water consisted of moderate depth and velocity, and these attributes when combined with proximity to large boulders offered a high likelihood of success.

River Beast

I returned to our campsite at 1:00PM for lunch with Jane, and the fish count was perched on sixteen. After lunch amid the threat of thunderstorms I notched an additional six fish to bring my cumulative total on the day to twenty-two. The trout on Tuesday were predominantly in the eight to eleven inch range, but three or four pushed the tape to twelve to thirteen inches.

The Sun Shines on Mt. Princeton

Tuesday was a fine day of prospecting promising lies, and steady persistence was rewarded with hard fighting wild brown trout on the Arkansas River. A return trip is not out of the question.

Fish Landed: 22

Arkansas River – 07/12/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Hayden Meadows

Arkansas River 07/12/2021 Photo Album

For the week of July 11, I faced limited opportunities to fly fish. Wednesday was a possibility, but I needed to return in the late afternoon for a dinner with friends, and that eliminated a longer trip. Monday was my one wide open opportunity on the calendar, so where should I invest my scarce available time? Originally I considered the Big Thompson River below Estes Park, but then I remembered the upper Arkansas River below Leadville. I scanned my blog posts for Hayden Meadows and found reports for 07/26/2017 and 07/12/2016. This documentation of successful outings, and the presence of strong gray drake hatches pointed me toward a day on the upper Arkansas River. Further research of fly shop river reports indicated that the section was fishing well, and gray drakes were, in fact, making an appearance.

I left the house at 8:00AM and arrived at a parking lot in the Hayden Meadows area by 10:30AM. Maintenance in the Eisenhower Tunnel forced the closure of a westbound lane, and this ill timed event added twenty minutes to my drive. Breaks were not going my way, but I persevered. Three cars preceded me to the parking lot, and two young anglers pulled in next to me just after I arrived. One was from Michigan and visiting a friend who lived in Buena Vista. They asked me which direction I planned to fish, and I told them uptream, and they favored downstream, so I assumed we had compatible objectives.

I prepared to wet wade, and I assembled my Sage four weight, but as I attached my Orvis reel, I realized that the reel base that tucked under the cork handle was loose, and my reel wobbled. I did not trust this condition to endure a day of fishing, so I switched to my Sage One five weight and a different reel that held my five weight line. The tunnel and my fly reel hindered my ability to start a day of fishing on the upper Arkansas River.

At the Start

Just before I departed, the two young men that expressed a desire to fish downstream crossed the river and continued in a northerly, upstream direction. Their presence did not deter me, but it was another roadblock to my fishing plans for the day. Finally I was prepared, and I crossed the dirt road to the bridge and dropped some casts to a small eddy on the east side of the river. I began with a size 14 gray stimulator and a size 14 green drake comparadun. During the first fifteen minutes, two fish made subtle rises, but my flies generated no interest, so I moved on. I made a few casts on the north and west side of the bridge, but again my flies were plainly ignored.

After this less than auspicious introduction to the upper Arkansas River, I walked along the road to a point where a path cut to the river. I vowed to hike for fifteen minutes to put some distance between me and the guys that parked next to me; however, I began to swat mosquitoes and decided to return to the car for insect repellent. This was yet another annoying delay in my planned day of fly fishing.

Finally I went into express mode and hiked along the western bank for fifteen minutes. I passed a solo fisherman and then circled beyond the pair of parking lot neighbors, and I began to finally fish in earnest. These early frustrations were actually a foreshadowing of my disappointing day on the Arkansas River.

Typical Section

I covered 1.3 miles of river between 11AM and 3:00PM, and I landed two brown trout in the thirteen inch range. There is no denying that Monday was a rough day. I cycled through an array of gray drake dry flies that included the gray stimulator, green drake comparadun, parachute green drake, Harrop hair wing green drake, and a May break green drake cripple. In one very appealing deep run and pool I observed three refusals to the drakes that were on my line. A short while after lunch, out of frustration, I switched to a dry/dropper configuration that included a yellow fat Albert, prince nymph and iron sally, and the prince fooled one of the brown trout that I landed. I also connected briefly with another fish. I persisted with the dry/dropper setup for thirty minutes, until I arrived at a gorgeous riffle that spread out from a deep run and current seam. I fired some long casts to the top of the riffles, and two fish slashed at but refused the fat Albert. By now I observed a few gray drakes as well as some yellow sallies, so I returned to the double dry approach with a Harrop hair wing drake and a size 14 green drake comparadun.

My First Fish

I stayed with the dry fly approach for the remainder of my time on Monday, and eventually I duped a thirteen inch brown trout with a May break green drake cripple. Catching that fish was probably the worst outcome for me. It convinced me that I could draw fish to the surface, if I found the right kind of water. Unfortunately that theory was flawed, and I never connected with another fish. I fell victim to close-minded thinking. Surely my blog reports accurately documented the abundant presence of gray drakes on July 12, 2016, and spotting several verified that they were in the air, and the trout were tuned into them. I never tested a deep nymphing approach, and I stuck with the dry/dropper for only thirty minutes or so. Insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. This angler was insane on July 12.

When I returned to the parking lot and began to pull off my wading socks, another older fisherman arrived. I passed him, while he was eating his lunch streamside. He asked how I did, and I replied, “not so well”. I returned the query, and he informed me that he had a huge day. I often take these statements with a grain of salt, as fishermen are prone to hyperbole, but in this case I believe he was telling me the truth. He related that he, likewise, began with dry flies including gray drakes that he purchased at ArkAnglers, and he actually showed me some of the flies. He told me he also tried a dry/dropper with a nymph. but that method also failed to generate action, so he resorted to an indicator nymphnig setup with a tungsten beadhead pheasant tail and a poison tung. He showed me the flies and mentioned that he added weight to get down, and caught quite a few fish in fast water with the tungsten and added weight. I never tested a deep nymphing rig, and I suspect my flies were not getting down the the level of the fish. Yes, some gray drakes made an appearance, but the hatch was very sparse, and I now suspect that the fish were not tuned in and continued to chow down on subsurface food items. I learned my lesson, and now I am debating whether to return to the upper Arkansas in search of gray drakes at a later date.

Fish Landed: 2

Arkansas River – 05/19/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Upper Basin

Arkansas River 05/19/2021 Photo Album

After two days of rain across Colorado, Wednesday was projected to be the start of a warming trend, so I decided to take advantage and log another day of fly fishing. I had my eye on the upper basin of the Arkansas River, since I drove past the area on my way to the Buena Vista section on Friday, May 14, 2021, and it reminded me of a place on my future exploration list. The high temperature in Leadville was forecast to reach 55 degrees, and this fell within my tolerance range, so I made the drive on Wednesday morning.

The temperature on the dashboard was 50 degrees, when I arrived at the small parking area at the fence opening, so I donned my North Face light down jacket and raincoat along with my billed hat with earflaps. The wind was gusting frequently, so I assembled my Sage One five weight to counter the fierce air currents. My attire proved appropriate, as I was only on the warm side a few times when the sun peeked through the heavy clouds.

Mt. Massive

The upper basin gauges of the Arkansas River posted flows in the range between 80 CFS and 235 CFS, but I was uncertain of my position relative to these two meters. Judging from the current velocity, where I fished, I can vouch for higher than ideal river flows, as I never attempted to cross the full river.

Two other vehicles preceded me to my chosen pullout, so I was conscious of their presence throughout my day on the river. Since it was my first visit to this section of the Arkansas River, I was not familiar with the structure and nuances. I did not want to fish directly behind other anglers, but I also did not wish to invade their valued space.

Typical Structure

I found the river difficult to read in this area. The terrain was mostly flat with a lower gradient than I am accustomed to in the west. The majority of the river rushed relatively full between the banks, and with few visible current breaks such as large rocks and logs, I sought places where currents shifted from one side to the other or where currents merged forming a deep V in the riverbed. Other prime targets were deep, slower moving ribbons next to the bank. I bypassed quite a few long stretches of fast riffles and runs that spanned the entire waterway.

Headed in That Direction

Normally I hike a good distance, before I wet my line, but my unfamiliarity caused me to begin casting relatively close to the parking area. I spotted another fisherman 80 yards upstream, so I decided to do some early exploration, before I interfered with his space. I knotted a yellow fat Albert to my line, and then I added a 20 incher and salvation nymph. This combination generated two temporary connections in the early going as well as a few refusals to the fat Albert. I paused for a quick lunch at noon, and after lunch I continued with the same combination for another thirty minutes. I persisted with the same flies for a longer than normal time period, because the attractive spots were so infrequent, that I was not sure that my fly selection was to blame for the lack of success.

Finally after some additional refusals, I decided that the fish were mainly looking toward the surface for their meals, so I clipped off the three fly dry/dropper and migrated to a single Chernobyl ant. The Chernobyl also generated some tantalizing swirls, and eventually I landed a small brown trout to prevent a threatened skunking, but it was getting late, and I had no answer for the infrequent surface snubs. The nymphs seemed to be more trouble than they were worth with the periodic tangles and the bothersome wind gusts. I opted for a size 10 yellow Letort hopper and trailed a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. This offering was an attempt to retain the yellow color scheme of the fat Albert but in a downsized imitation. The double dry failed to produce, but the yellow hopper did provoke a pair of heart stopping boils, but they never converted to a bite.

Narrow Band of Slow Water Along the Bank Produced

Quality Brown Trout

The refusals convinced me that the river contained some decent fish, but I was clueless over how to fool them. I returned to a dry/dropper approach with a pool toy hopper and then a different Chernobyl ant. I combined the surface foam attractors with a hares ear nymph and the 20 incher, but once again my efforts were futile. I sat down to ponder my plight next to a delightful long deep run that deflected off the opposite bank below me. This struck me as perfect deep nymphing water, so I took the plunge and rearranged my system to include a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, hares ear nymph and 20 incher. The set up failed to pay dividends in the attractive water next to me, but over the last hour I salvaged my sanity, as I landed a fifteen and thirteen inch brown trout on the 20 incher and hares ear.

Re-entry

The sudden taste of success provided a surge in optimism and focus, and I moved up the river with renewed enthusiasm to explore the deep runs and seams; but, alas, a three trout day was my ultimate fate. Of course, three landed trout was below my expectations, but I take solace in the fact that I explored new water and learned some things, that I can apply, when I visit in the future. I suspect that my dry/dropper offerings were too high in the water column, and I need to add more weight on future ventures. I clocked my return hike with my watch, and I now know that I was one mile from the parking lot, when I ended, and the more distant section seemed to offer more prime holding spots for trout. I stopped to chat with a young angler on my return hike, and he told me that he and his buddy were having success with RS2’s. I did try one briefly in my dry/dropper system, but I never added an RS2 to the indicator nymphing approach. Hopefully I can leverage this knowledge to greater success on my next visit to the upper basin of the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 3

Arkansas River – 05/14/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Above Buena Vista

Arkansas River 05/14/2021 Photo Album

My last fishing outing took place on May 5, so I spent nine days waiting for an opportunity to once again satisfy my fly fishing addiction. The nine days included a visit from my daughter, Amy; Mothers Day, two Theo Thursdays, and several rounds of bad weather on the days, when I was available to fish. In fact, it feels like the last six weeks have followed a trend, where the worst weather rolls in Sunday through Tuesday, my most available days to fish, and then nice weather arrives for Thursday through Saturday. Needless to say I was quite anxious to dip my waders in a Colorado waterway.

I narrowed my options down to three. I could return to Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River, as flows were maintained at a very favorable 55 CFS. I entertained a second option of making the two hour drive to the Eagle River in the Avon and Edwards area, since flows were in the 250 CFS range and trending downward. This suggested that run off remained in abeyance, and a short window was available to leverage in my favor. Option number three was the Arkansas River above Buena Vista. This section is relatively new to me, but I enjoyed some fine action in the vicinity over the past two seasons. The fly shop reports stated that the upstream caddis migration stalled earlier in the week due to rain and cool temperatures. My weakness for chasing the Arkansas caddis distorted my reasoning powers, and I opted for the Arkansas River with a small chance of hitting the leading edge of the resumed caddis progression.

Enticing

My maps application suggested that the quickest route to the middle Arkansas River was to head west on Interstate 70 and then south over Fremont Pass through Leadville to the turn off to my desired destination. I enjoyed driving a route that differed from the oft repeated US 285 through South Park and Fairplay. The trip was uneventful, and I arrived at the parking lot at an Arkansas River access point by 10:30AM. The temperature was 60 degrees, and I quickly donned my waders and rigged my Sage four weight, before I hiked along a path that followed the rim of the canyon for nearly .9 mile. To combat the wind and provide an element of warmth in the morning I pulled on my light raincoat. A pair of fishermen departed the parking lot ten minutes before me, and they seemed to choose the same direction, so I was on high alert to locate their position.

Quite a Setting

I never spotted another angler, so I angled down the bank at a relatively gradual location and prepared to initiate my quest for trout. The river was crystal clear and flowing at around 200 CFS, and I was tickled with the convergence of nearly perfect  weather and stream conditions. Occasional bursts of strong wind were one adverse factor. I debated whether to set up an indicator nymph system or a dry/dropper, but the clear and relatively low river convinced me to choose the dry/dropper path.

Iron Sally Working Early

Stunning Markings

I dug out an ice dub tan chubby Chernobyl as my top fly and added a go2 bright green sparkle caddis pupa and beadhead size 14 prince nymph. Neither of these flies excited the fish in the first twenty minutes, although I did experience two very brief connections. A very dark cloud rolled above me, and I noticed two small blue winged olives, so I swapped the prince nymph for a sparkle wing RS2, but this combination was equally ignored, so I paused to consider another change. In this instance I swapped the RS2 for an iron Sally, and just before I broke for lunch at 11:50AM, an eleven inch brown trout chomped the iron sally. I was on the board and very pleased with that status.

After lunch I continued upriver and explored likely holding spots with the dry/dropper. The iron Sally nabbed another pair of small brown trout, but clearly my catch rate did not match the quality of the water that I covered. I decided to extend my leader to four feet to create deeper drifts, and while I made this change, I repositioned the iron Sally as the top fly and swapped the g02 sparkle caddis pupa for a LaFontaine version with a dubbed body rather than the chartreuse micro braid. The bright green emergent sparkle pupa accounted for a pair of fish, but I remained dissatisfied with my success rate, so I once again completed a change. I knotted a 20 incher to my long dropper as the top nymph, and kept the bright green caddis pupa on the point.

Beauty

This became my combination of choice, and the fish counter elevated from five to ten over the next several hours. I was very pleased to reach double digits, as the fishing was by no means easy pickings. I covered a ton of river and executed prodigious numbers of casts to register this total. By 2:30PM the catch rate dwindled to a lackluster lull, so I dumped the bright green caddis pupa and replaced it with my old reliable beadhead hares ear nymph. Oddly the hares ear duped two rainbow trout, one in the twelve inch range. I cannot remember ever landing a rainbow trout from this stretch of water in my one previous exploration of the area.

A Rainbow Appears

By 3:30PM the hares ear lost its magnetic qualities, so I made one final adjustment to a size 16 emerald caddis pupa. During the last hour I adopted the practice of dead drifting the dry/dropper for three casts, and I followed up with some very active manipulation of the line. Frankly I felt like I was stripping a streamer rather than a chubby Chernobyl and a pair of nymphs. The aggressive line management sort of yielded positive results, as I landed a fine brown trout and witnessed several follows and a couple momentary hook ups.

These Spots Are Amazing

I desperately wanted to move beyond thirteen before quitting, but by 4PM I remained shy of the desired count, and I was bored and weary, so I tromped back to the Santa Fe and called it quits. A thirteen fish day on a freestone river on May 14 is an accomplishment to appreciate. One brown trout with very dark black spots stretched to thirteen inches, and a couple others were in the twelve inch range, but overall the size of the fish was on the small side. This was consistent with my prior experience north of Buena Vista. The thirteen fish required five hours of focused effort, and the 20 incher was the best producer, but I never stumbled on to a fly that was desired more than others. I suspect the trout were laying low and being opportunistic, and success was more about reading the water and executing solid drifts or imparting the desired movement than fly selection.

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River – 05/05/2021

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsvile

Arkansas River 05/05/2021 Photo Album

Opportunity. As an avid fly angler, all I can ask for is opportunity. If I am unable to take advantage, then the fault lies with me, but at least I encountered numerous opportunities to connect with plentiful feeding trout. Cinco de Mayo was a day that provided numerous possibilities to connect with respectable Arkansas River fish. How well did I respond? Read on.

Heavy rain on Sunday extending into Monday afternoon had an impact on the front range streams, that I reviewed on Tuesday, in preparation for a day of fishing on Wednesday. I spent Tuesday supervising the patio landscaping project, and my daughter, Amy, was due to arrive on Thursday and stay through Saturday, so I was reluctant to miss quality time with her for a day of fishing. That left Wednesday as my one day of the week to log fly fishing time, and I wanted to make sure it was a productive day. As I browsed the stream flows and fishing reports, the Arkansas River in the Salida area caught my eye. The ArkAnglers web site cited extensive caddis emergence activity throughout Big Horn Sheep Canyon. The cold weather conditions of Sunday and Monday put a hold on the progression, but the warmer weather forecast for Wednesday through Saturday portended a resumption of heavy caddis activity.

Looking for Feeding Fish

Ongoing readers of this blog know that this avid angler is a sucker for the Arkansas River caddis hatch. I am like a punch drunk boxer who continually rises from the canvas only to be struck down repeatedly. I cannot resist the siren call of the dense caddis hatch even though it generally results in frustration. Only two or three times during my entire fly fishing history in Colorado have I managed to intersect with ridiculously easy fishing to emerging caddis, and it is those few instances that tug at my sensibilities, when I read about the chance of hitting the annual trout smorgasbord. The key to outstanding fishing to the hatch is finding the leading edge of the progression. In the few instances where I achieved this elusive objective, the fish ravenously slashed at emerging adults, as they skittered across the surface or get blown down by the wind. Sloppy casting was rewarded, since drag and movement emulated the the antics of the adult caddis.

Fish Were in This Area

More often than not, however, I arrived behind the leading edge of the hatch. Most of the adults already survived the gauntlet of hungry trout, and they were resting on the riverside rocks and willow branches. This was the situation, when I arrived at the Arkansas River on Wednesday morning. I parked at one of my favorite spots, Lunch Rock, and I pulled on my waders and rigged my Sage One five weight in anticipation of a day of caddis madness. The air temperature was around 55 degrees, so I pulled on my light down coat, and I was comfortable for most of the day except for the mid to late afternoon.

Stretched Out

The caddis seemed to be resting on the rocks and branches with very little activity over the water, so I elected to go with a deep nymphing rig in the late morning. I crimped a split shot to my line and added a Thingamabobber and then attached a go2 caddis pupa and classic RS2. This approach failed to exact interest, so I pondered my options and swapped the RS2 for an ultra zug bug, prince nymph and eventually a small prince with no bead. During one of these changeovers I also replaced the Thingamabobber with a New Zealand yarn indicator. The ultra zug bug and prince experiments covered the scenario of egg laying caddis, but the resident trout failed to respond. A bit after 11:00AM a twelve inch brown trout chomped the go2 bright green caddis pupa, as I lifted to make a cast, and I was on the board. This bit of good fortune raised my hopes for caddis pupa action, so I began imparting more movement in my drifts via aggressive downstream mends and jigging the flies, as they tumbled back toward me. None of these ploys created hook ups. Some dark clouds blocked the sun periodically, and this caused the wind to kick up, thus creating the perfect conditions for blue winged olive activity, so I added a sparkle wing RS2 in place of the prince as the point fly, but this gambit was also a futile action.

Typical Brown Trout

After lunch I continued my upstream migration along the south bank, and I observed that the adult caddis on the streamside rocks and vegetation began to rouse from their dormancy. This translated into increased fluttering over the water with occasional dapping, and in one shelf pool I spotted a couple rises. The nymphing approach was proving futile, so I decided to try something different. I knotted a single olive-brown deer hair caddis to my line, and I tossed a few casts in the vicinity of one of the sighted rises. Smash. A very nice brown trout appeared from nowhere and crushed my little caddis imitation. I concluded that the trout along the bank were tuned into the adults that occasionally dapped the river for drinks, and I began to prospect the edge with the size 16 imitation.

Bank Side Pool

In spite of the abundant quantity of caddis touching the water, I did not observe many rises, and it was increasingly difficult to track the earth tone fly particularly when the clouds blocked the sun. In order to improve my fly tracking capability I added a peacock body hippie stomper in the front position and then placed the deer hair caddis on a six inch dropper. The double dry fly approach became a winner, and I persisted with it for most of the afternoon. There  was a brief period, when I reverted to a dry/dropper with a caddis pupa and prince nymph, but the subsurface experiment was an undeniable failure.

Very Nice

Another Brown Trout Caddis Eater

During the early afternoon the caddis remained mostly along the shoreline with only occasional dapping activity. It was during this period that my double dry shined. I landed four additional trout to increase the fish count to six including a very muscular rainbow. Amazingly, two of the afternoon fish crushed the hippie stomper, even though it looked nothing like the size 16 caddis adults that seemed to be everywhere. By 2:30PM the caddis activity transformed into a full blown orgy. Adults were everywhere; in the bushes, on the rocks, in large swarms above the river, bouncing off the surface, and crawling in my ears and behind my sunglasses. In spite of this preponderance of available food, rising trout were only intermittent occurrences. My catch rate lagged in spite of the ridiculous quantity of insects in attendance. It seemed like the caddis were not on the water more than a second or two, and their touch downs were so erratic, that it was difficult for the trout to anticipate where to attack. My small inanimate dry fly was one among thousands, so the chances of it being consumed were minimal. In addition to the six netted trout, I also experienced in excess of four connections that resulted in escapes, so a double digit day was certainly a missed opportunity.

Two Trout from This Area

Double Dry Delivered

In summary, I found the caddis hatch. There have been years when I missed it entirely, so actually interacting with it was a positive accomplishment. Sure, I yearned for the easy plucking that accompanies discovering the leading edge, but being in the midst of the dense hatch was superior to missing it entirely. I managed to land six very respectable trout with the opportunity to score double digits. There is that word again; opportunity. Simply being a part of the spectacular caddis emergence made Wednesday a success in my book. The weather was perfect, and the wind was mostly a nonfactor. I had the opportunity to catch a lot of fish, but my skills were a bit lacking. Hopefully my health will enable me to pursue the grannom (caddis) hatch a few more times in coming years.

Fish Landed: 6

Bubble Seam Likely Trout Home

Arkansas River – 04/27/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Down river from Salida

Arkansas River 04/27/2021 Photo Album

Predicted nasty weather in Denver and along the Front Range sent me searching for more favorable conditions to the south for a day of fishing. Weather stations near a couple of my favorite streams at Pinecliffe, CO and Lyons, CO predicted up to nine inches of snow with cold temperatures and high winds. Salida, CO on the other hand displayed a forecast with high temperatures in the low fifties with a chance of rain in the afternoon and wind in the low teens. With this contrast to nearby destinations the Arkansas River below Salida became my river of choice on Tuesday, April 27.

Productive Area on 4-14-2021

My visit of 4/14/2021 was relatively successful, as I landed thirteen respectable brown trout, and several waves of blue winged olives brought numerous trout to the surface on two separate occasions. I was hopeful that the predicted overcast conditions on Tuesday would lead to similar results. Stay tuned to see whether my expectations were met.

I departed Denver at 7:35AM, and this enabled me to arrive at my chosen pullout along US 50 by 10:30AM. I wore my light down coat with my raincoat as an outer shell windbreaker and hedged against afternoon showers. I put together my Sage One five weight and armed myself with a long stiff rod with the expectation of wind and playing trout in the thirteen to fifteen inch range. I began fishing fifty yards above my starting point on 4/14/2021 and I worked my way upstream between 11:00AM and 4:00PM.

On the Board

A yellow fat Albert, iron sally and classic RS2 occupied my line at the start of my day, and during the pre-lunch time period I landed a very nice fifteen inch brown trout that grabbed a classic RS2. After lunch I continued with the dry/dropper arrangement, and I added two more fine brown trout to the fish count. One gobbled a hares ear nymph and another snatched a sparkle wing RS2. Both of the early afternoon catches responded to swinging the flies at the end of the drift through the cushion in front of large submerged boulders.

Landed Fish Was at the Very Top of This Slick

Pleased With This Specimen

By 2:00PM some dark clouds drifted over the river from the southwest, and a few raindrops dotted the stones along the bank. I also began to notice a few sporadic rises, and since the dry/dropper lost its luster, I switched to a single CDC BWO. I persevered with the dry fly approach for the remainder of the day, and I met with limited success. I hooked and landed one fine brown, but connected with four additional trout that managed to shed my hook after brief battles. Two of the escapees were on my line long enough to make strong runs, before they twisted their mouths and caused the fly to rebound toward shore. Three of the four fish felt similar in size to the netted fish of the day. Halfway through my dry fly phase I added an olive-brown deer hair caddis as the front fly and then trailed a CDC BWO on a six inch leader. This combination made tracking the BWO much easier, and several of the afternoon escapees responded to this two dry fly offering.

Displayed for the Camera

Overall it was a rough day. The weather was much more favorable than suggested by the predictions, and I was actually somewhat overdressed. The baetis hatch was a fraction of that which I experienced on 4/14/2021. The rises I spotted were very infrequent and subtle, so I invested incremental time in surveying the surface of the river and simply observing.. The four trout that I landed were excellent, quality browns, but I must admit that I was disappointed with the catch rate, my conversion rate (four out of eight), and the light hatch, in spite of what seemed like ideal blue winged olive conditions. Perhaps the famed caddis hatch will be in play, if I return to the Arkansas River in the near future.

Fish Landed: 4

Clouds Provided Hope for Another Wave of Emergence

Arkansas River – 04/14/2021

Time: 12:00PM – 4:00PM

Location: Between Salida and Wellsville

Arkansas River 04/14/2021 Photo Album

A fly fishing adage claims that blue winged olives love weather that is miserable for fly fishermen. Wednesday, April 14 certainly reinforced this belief.

The long range weather forecast for Denver and the front range called for at least seven days with high temperatures in the upper forties to low fifties. Highs in this range translate to thirties and forties in the mountains and foothills, and this angler is not a fan of fishing in cold temperatures. I braved some rather challenging conditions on Monday, April 12, and I was hoping to avoid a repeat. Some of the best fishing of the year occurrs in the pre-runoff time period of mid-March through mid-May, and the colder than normal weather of April was causing me to miss some potentially excellent fishing.

I normally study the DWR stream flows before planning any fishing trip; however, for April 14 my main focus was the weather. I reviewed the towns and cities near potential destinations, and as expected the high temperatures were ten to fifteen degrees lower than Denver and accompanied by high wind to make the fishing option even more forbidding. Finally I checked the Arkansas River near Salida, and the small river town displayed a Weather Underground forecast high of 54 degrees with single digit wind velocity. The Arkansas River is sometimes called the banana belt, because it is far enough south to experience different weather patterns. The forecast also predicted afternoon cloud cover, so I jumped at the opportunity and made the trip on Wednesday.

Because of the cold temperatures I decided to take my time, and I departed Denver at 8:15AM for a three hour drive. As I climbed from Denver on US 285 and traveled through the small towns of Aspen Park and Conifer, snow swept across the highway from low hanging clouds. These driving conditions continued, until I advanced to the southern side of South Park beyond Fairplay, where the fog lifted, and the snow tapered off. The dashboard thermometer did not change, however, and the temperature remained in the upper twenties to just below freezing. Could the Weather Underground forecast be wrong, and was I embarking on a six hour joy rideI arrived at the wide pullout next to Lunch Rock (my name for it) a bit after 11:00AM, and, frankly, I was reluctant to fish. The banks of the river were covered with an inch or two of snow, the dashboard registered a balmy 32 degrees, and strong gusts of wind rushed up the canyon. I checked Weather Underground to determine whether they modified their forecast, but that was not the case. In fact, the weather application showed a current temperature of 40 degrees, while my car displayed 32. I was baffled by this significant disparity in temperature readings.I decided to eat my lunch in the warmth of the car at 11:30 to delay my fishing start time and to allow more time for a warming trend. The ploy worked to some degree, and the temperature climbed to 35 degrees, as I began the process of preparing to fish. I pulled on my UnderArmour long sleeved undershirt and topped it with a fishing shirt. The next layer was my fleece hoodie, and then I sealed my body heat in with my windbreaker raincoat, and the final addition was my Northface light down parka. Once again I tugged on my New Zealand billed hat, and then I pulled the fleece hood over the hat to protect my ears and neck even more. I reached in my Fishpond fishing bag and pulled out my fingerless wool gloves, and then I ripped the ends off my packet of handwarmers and stuffed them in the pockets of my light down outer layer. My Sage One five weight became the fishing tool of choice, as I planned to deal with wind throughout the day, or as long as I could endure the frigid conditions.

The river looked spectacular, as it rushed down the canyon at 330 CFS and carried a deep green color with plenty of visibility. I decided to rig my line with an indicator nymphing set up at the car in order to take advantage of some additional warmth and protection from the wind. I applied my New Zealand strike indicator and crimped a split shot above the last surgeon’s knot. For my starting flies I attached an iron sally and classic RS2. When I was ready, my fingers were stinging, so I pulled out my handwarmers and sat in the backseat to regain a level of comfort. How was I going to fish for more than a few minutes, if my fingers grew stiff and numb after ten minutes of configuring my line?

Site of Number One

I found a short steep path to the river in front of Lunch Rock, and I began to sling casts to the edge of a foam pocket next to the bank and to a nice deep trough behind a submerged boulder a bit farther out but still above the massive boulder, that I christened Lunch Rock. Miraculously on the tenth cast the indicator dipped at the downstream end of the deep slick, and I set the hook and felt the rod vibrate. Was I snagged? Absolutely not. I fought and landed a gorgeous brown trout that snatched the iron sally, and I was on the scoreboard early in the day. Needless to say my focus on the chilling weather diminished for a bit. Once the thrashing brown trout was in my net, I removed my gloves and tossed them on the bank where they would not get wet. I accurately determined that keeping my gloves dry was the key to a longer day of fishing. I removed my camera from its case and snapped a pair of photos, and then I carefully removed the hook from the lip of the trout. I released the fish and then pulled a blue cloth from my wader bibs and dried my hands thoroughly. Next I stuffed my hands in my Northface pockets and tightly clutched the handwarmers to restore feeling and warmth to my fingers, and then I finished off the routine by slipping my hands back into the dry fingerless gloves.

Working the Left Bank

Not Bad at All

I am pleased to report that I repeated this routine twelve more times during my day on the big river, and I fished for four hours without returning to the car for additional warmth. I was rather pleased with this accomplishment from a wimpy fair weather angler. All the trout landed during the afternoon were browns. As described, the first fish chomped the iron sally, and the next two nipped the classic RS2. Four through eight sipped a CDC BWO dry fly, and nine through eleven fell for a sparkle wing RS2 and soft hackle emerger fished as part of a dry/dropper set up. The last two fish of the day also slurped a CDC BWO.

I worked my way upstream along the left bank with the nymph rig for an hour while probing the pockets and runs with the nymph rig. In fact, I never fished more than fifteen feet away from the bank until the final hour. By 1:00PM I began to observe some fairly regular rises in a narrow shelf pool tight to the south bank. I attempted to attract their attention by lifting my RS2 near the spots of the rises, but my lifting and mending did not generate interest. I removed all the nymphing paraphernalia and knotted a size 22 CDC BWO to my line. The move paid huge dividends, as I increased the fish count to eight by duping five very fine blue winged olive sippers to my imitation. In addition, I recorded a few temporary hook ups. I was quite impressed with the number of sizeable fish within a fairly small area.

After this session the rising fish temporarily stopped, and I was unable to locate them without the visual cue of a surface disturbance.  Rather than return to the time consuming steps to reprise my indicator technique, I decided to test a dry/dropper approach. I selected a size 8 fat Albert from my box and attached the iron sally as the top nymph and a sparkle wing RS2 on the bottom. Since the fish had been rising to the surface, I assumed that my dry/dropper with a three foot leader would drift deep enough for the trout especially given my casts to moderate depth pockets near the bank.

Zoomed a Bit

A Respectable Brown Came from This Marginal Slot Beyond the Stick

My hunch was on the mark, and the next three trout nabbed the sparkle wing RS2 on the end of my dry/dropper system. In two instances I saw a single subtle rise in relatively marginal pockets. I was skeptical that my subsurface nymph would be noticed by a rising trout, but I made some short casts, and I was surprised to land a pair of thirteen inch browns. I love catching decent fish in obscure lies that most fishermen probably pass by.

I continued my path along the left bank of the river and arrived at a wide section with a long deep center-cut run. The total length of this section was probably forty or fifty yards. I began to cast my dry/dropper and successfully hooked and landed a brown trout near the seam along the run. This was the first time all day that I actually executed some longer casts beyond the fifteen feet near the bank. I released catch number eleven, and as I scanned the area for my next move, I noticed several subtle dimples, as trout darted to the surface to grab some form of food. I watched more closely, and I spotted a few small blue winged olives fluttering on the surface and attempting to launch against the cold wind.

Wide Area with Structureless Shelf Pool

Initially I decided to remove the iron sally and sparkle wing RS2, and I substituted a soft hackle emerger without a bead on a six inch dropper behind the fat Albert. I made quite a few fruitless casts, until I shifted my attention to a recent rise no more than ten feet out and another ten feet below me. I dropped a cast across and dragged the two flies closer, so they drifted down a lane to the point of the surface disturbance, and it worked! I noted a swirl below the fat Albert and reacted with a quick hook set and landed another thirteen inch beauty. I persisted with this approach over several additional feeders, but I was unable to replicate the success.

Wide Body for Length

With fish continuing to rise, albeit a bit more sporadically, I took the final step and cut off the fat Albert and soft hackle emerger and knotted a size 20 CDC BWO to my line. The solo olive was quite difficult to track in the glare, but I did manage to fool one final brown trout on an up and across cast.

What a day! I remain a fair weather fisherman, but the steady action and mental challenge of fooling wily Arkansas River brown trout distracted me from the adverse weather conditions on Wednesday, April 14. I was also proud of my “hand preservation” system that enabled me to endure the low temperatures and wind chill. All except one of the thirteen trout landed fell within the twelve to fourteen inch range, and they were very healthy wild fish. The Arkansas River fell out of favor for me over the last several years, but this outing spurs me to plan more trips in the near term. Perhaps my mistake was to seek pleasant conditions, when the key to success is enduring suffering? I will hopefully test this theory with some visits on warm spring days for comparison.

Fish Landed: 13

Arkansas River – 04/02/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 04/02/2021 Photo Album

I enjoyed a decent early season outing on the Arkansas River on March 9, 2021, and I was quite anxious to make another trip. Unfortunately a massive snowstorm and a series of family and health commitments prevented a return until yesterday, April 2, 2021. Fortunately the stars aligned on Monday, and gorgeous spring weather combined with nearly ideal flows in the 250 CFS range to lure this avid fly fisherman to the area below Salida, CO. I arrived by 10:30AM and quickly assembled my Sage One five weight and reluctantly pulled on a light fleece. The temperature, when I began, was 53 degrees, but forecasts suggested a high in the upper sixties. By the time I assembled my gear and hiked along US 50 for .5 mile and descended to the river, my watch registered 11:00AM.

One of Two Fishermen Spotted During My Time on the River

I began my quest for hungry trout at the Fremont – Chaffee County line, and rigged my rod with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher and classic RS2. During the morning session I hooked and landed two nice brown trout in the twelve to thirteen inch range on the trailing RS2’s; the first on a classic RS2 and the second on a sparkle wing version. I also snagged bottom early in the game, and when I finally leveraged my flies free, they catapulted into a tall juniper tree directly behind me. The branch was alive and too high to reach, so I was forced to apply direct pressure and snapped off the two flies. I replaced them with a yellow-brown Pat’s rubber legs and sparkle wing RS2, and eventually the Pat’s rubber legs yielded to an iron sally.

Another Nice Brown Trout

Sparkle Wing RS2 Was a Favorite

I broke for lunch with the fly count resting on two, and after consuming my standard snack, I climbed the bank to obtain a strong satellite signal and used my new Garmin Inreach Mini to send a preset text to Jane. This was more of a test than a requirement, but it worked great, and I am now prepared with my satellite phone for hikes to more remote fishing locations.

Slack Water Along the Edge Was Productive

After lunch I continued to advance along the left bank, as I prospected the double nymph rig in likely trout holding locations. I was able to spot some very nice fish along the way, but in spite of some very focused drifts to sighted trout, I was unable to provoke a take. I debated swapping the nymph rig for a dry fly approach, but the hassle of removing the split shot and indicator dissuaded me from the necessary time commitment, and there was no guarantee that a dry fly would induce a rise; although I did see several sporadic rises during one relatively short period of time. Instead I tried to focus on riffles and runs of moderate depth, where the deep nymphing setup likely represented the appropriate method. I also tried some lifts in front of the visible trout, but this technique was ineffective. I did observe a few blue winged olive mayflies during the hour after lunch along with swarms of tiny midges. It was unclear whether the trout were attuned to the midges or mayflies.

Very Nice Brown Trout in the Afternoon

I added two more brown trout to the count in the hour after lunch, but then I experienced a fairly long period of futility. The sun warmed the air temperature, and I was a bit overheated in my down hoodie, and this, in turn, created a state of lethargy. I was hot and tired and bored with the lack of action. The two trout landed in the aftermath of lunch both consumed the sparkle wing RS2, as I lifted the rod to initiate a new cast.

Trough Next to Fast Water Was Prime

Rather that continue fruitless casting I decided to finally make a significant change in approach, and I switched to a dry/dropper method. I tied on a yellow size 8 fat Albert and added an emerald caddis pupa and a size 20 soft hackle emerger. I decided to focus my casts on the soft water with depth near the bank, as this was the type of structure, in which I spotted decent trout in the earlier time period. The strategy seemed applicable, but I managed one thirteen inch brown on the emerald caddis pupa, and then sank into another state of inactivity.

Healthy Arkansas River Trout

At 3PM I acknowledged the ineffectiveness of the dry/dropper method and reverted to the deep nymphing technique. For this last phase of my fly fishing day I opted for a 20 incher and a sparkle wing RS2, and I covered quite a bit of stream real estate, as I guided two more typical sized brown trout to my net. The first of the pair snatched the sparkle wing, and the second chomped the 20 incher. By 4PM I reached a section of rapids, and I was near a path that led to the highway, so I called it a day and made the .5 mile return hike.

One More in the Net

I landed seven trout on Friday, April 2, and five nipped a form of RS2, one snatched a caddis pupa, and the final one crunched a 20 incher stonefly. All but one of the landed trout measured in the twelve to thirteen inch range. My catch rate was low, and I was disappointed to not encounter a denser and more sustained blue winged olive hatch, but Friday was a stunning spring day accompanied by a brilliant, cloudless blue sky and a high temperature around seventy degrees. I doubled my cumulative fish count, and the fly fishing bug assumed a prominent position in my brain. Nice weather in the upcoming week portends a few more fly fishing outings.

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River – 03/09/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chaffee County Line

Arkansas River 03/09/2021 Photo Album

Another spring-like day with a high temperature in the upper sixties along with a significant impending snowstorm motivated me to complete a fishing trip on Tuesday, March 9. I envisioned a larger river than the front range streams within close proximity to Denver, and I considered the Arkansas River and several sections of the South Platte River. After consulting with a fishing guide, fly shop reports, and DWR flow data I decided on the Arkansas River, and I departed from my home in Denver by 7:15AM.

Arrived

Fortunately the drive was uneventful, and I arrived at my usual parking space high above the river by 10:00AM. The river was low and clear, and the air temperature was 53 degrees, as I assembled my Sage One five weight and added several layers to my upper body. The wind gusted on a regular basis in excess of 10 MPH, and this condition explained my tendency to over dress for my day on the river. I crossed the river at my usual spot and marched along the north bank, until I reached an attractive deep run that became my starting spot. I knotted a size 12 20 incher to my line, and beneath it I added a crystal stone. I read that little black stoneflies were in abundance on the South Platte River, and I concluded that they might be a tasty morsel on the Arkansas River as well. Guide Pat Dorsey’s recommended imitation for the little black stonefly was a black pheasant tail, but I did not have a dyed black pheasant tail feather in my possession, so I improvised. My size 18 black stonefly pattern contains a black crystal flash tail, wing case, and legs. The preponderance of crystal flash suggested a name that contained crystal, and, thus, the crystal stone was born.

Deep Run Did Not Produce

I thoroughly fished the double nymph combination with a thingamabobber indicator from bottom to top in the starting run, with no evidence of hungry trout. After this disappointment I continued upstream to the narrow island and then up the southern side of the island, and again my efforts to connect with a local trout were thwarted. When I returned to the downstream tip of the island, my watch displayed 11:30AM, so I found a nice flat rock and consumed my lunch. I was now positioned along the north side of the narrow island at the downstream end of the right channel. I concluded that the double weighted nymph combination would disturb the low flows excessively, so I paused to reconfigure with a peacock hippie stomper, sunken ant, and iron sally. The three fly arrangement looked great to this avid angler, but once again I found no evidence of resident fish; not even a darting spooked fish.

First Trout Came From This Bank Side Run

When I reached the top of the island and right channel, I found a spot to sit down and reverted to the indicator nymphing arrangement; however, this time I used a chartreuse yarn New Zealand strike indicator along with the 20 incher and a coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs. I hiked quite a ways to skip around a wide shallow section, and eventually began to probe the deeper runs on the north side of the river. I reached a nice deep run and trough along the right bank by 1:00PM, and my fish count was mired on zero, so I decided to make another change. I replaced the coffee/black Pat’s rubber legs with a yellow/brown Pat’s rubber legs with orange legs. This fly was a size 12 with a bead, and it was also weighted.

Numero Uno

Nice View of 20 Incher

Almost instantly I found success, when two very nice brown trout snatched the 20 incher, as the flies drifted along the deep run by the bank. After two hours of fruitless casting, I was elated to finally tally some fish and prevent an increasingly likely skunking. The sun broke through, and the air warmed up, and I was overheated in my light down coat and fleece hoodie, so when I reached my original crossing point, I moved to the south bank and climbed to my car, where I removed the down coat layer. I retrieved my phone and checked in with Jane and then advanced to the high vertical wall next to the river. Here I observed for a few minutes in an attempt to spot a fish, but the effort did not yield any targets. I made several upstream casts tight to the wall and drifted through a foam line, but this ploy proved futile.

Site of Two Landed Brown Trout

Better Light and Focus

I departed from the deep slow moving portion of the massive pool and moved to the area just above, where a nice deep riffle fed the depths. The current was moderate, the depth was three to four feet, and the river bottom contained numerous large submerged boulders. I was convinced that this was brown trout territory, and after some patient casting I was proven correct, when I landed two more respectable brown trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. The first trout gobbled the 20 incher, but I was surprised to discover the yellow/brown rubberleg in the mouth of the second netted fish.

Number Four Was a Beauty

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed along the south bank and systematically nymphed all the likely spots with the double stonefly presentation. At a spot fifty yards above the vertical wall and large pool, I scooped two more brown trout in the twelve to fourteen inch range into my net. Both savored the yellow/brown stonefly imitation, and my confidence in the fly zoomed. I tied these quite a while ago to imitate vulnerable stoneflies, after they molt. Initially I chose the fly to add weight and keep the 20 incher along the bottom of the cold flows of the Arkansas River. Who knew that the molting event truly attracted Arkansas River trout?

Long Brown

Number Six

The wind was a constant nuisance, but Tuesday was a fine day for fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains. After getting skunked for two hours, I landed six twelve to fourteen inch brown trout on the double stonefly combination. These six fish came to my net in the final two hours. At 3:00PM I snagged bottom in a spot, where it was too deep to risk my life to retrieve the flies, so I broke them off and declared it a day. I will not complain about six nice fish early in the season, and I will now have to wait out the return of winter before venturing out to another trout stream in March.

Fish Landed: 6

Arkansas River – 10/05/2020

Time: 11:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Fremont – Chaffee County line

Arkansas River 10/05/2020 Photo Album

Angler ineptitude was the theme for my day on Monday, October, 5, 2020. The weather was incredible on October 5 and probably too nice for fly fishing. The temperature when I departed from my parking space along US 50 was 62 degrees, and it probably spiked in the upper seventies in the afternoon. Fortunately, before I left the car, I shed my Columbia long sleeve undershirt and pulled on a short sleeve quick-dry T-shirt. Even with this last minute change I was quite warm for much of the afternoon. The river was very clear and very low. I believe the flows were in the 280 CFS range. I was easily able to cross the river, and throughout the day very few locations were unreachable. In short, wading conditions were ideal. I selected my Sage four weight and crossed the river at the county line and then hiked the tracks, until I reached my usual path to the river.

Upriver

Tail Drag

To start my pursuit of trout I tied a tan pool toy hopper to my line and then added a size 16 salvation nymph and a classic RS2. The first fifteen minutes failed to produce any sign of fish, but then a chunky and healthy fifteen inch brown trout nipped the RS2, as I raised the flies in front of a large submerged rock. I moved upstream to the downstream tip of a small island, and some spectacular riffles yielded a look at the hopper and a very temporary connection to a small fish. In a fairly nondescript shallow run directly below the island I looked away for a split second and then raised my rod to make sure it was not snagged. I instantly felt a brief surge of heavy weight, but that was the extent of interaction with a trout, as it charged the opposite direction from my lift and snapped off all three flies. I must confess that I uttered some ugly words, before I reconfigured my line.

Left Braid

I was at the bottom of the island and anxiously anticipated fishing the small right braid on the north side of the river. The right channel is my favorite stretch of the Arkansas River, and I knew that low, clear flows dictated extra stealth. I knotted a size 14 light olive stimulator to my line and then added a RS2 on a 2.5 foot dropper. The stimulator enabled light, soft presentations, and the RS2 was insurance against an early baetis emergence. Once my fly fishing lineup was prepared I sat on some rocks at the tail of the island and chomped my lunch.

After lunch I prospected some marginal pockets downstream of the large pool on the small north braid, and then I covered the bottom half of the pool. A pair of refusals in the small marginal pockets was the only reaction, that I could muster from the wild stream residents. I was having some success with the hopper/dropper earlier, so I reverted to that approach, although in this case I opted for a pheasant tail instead of the salvation.

RS2 Victim. Look at Those Spots!

The change was rewarded, as a substantial brown trout inhaled the RS2 in the faster water at the top of the long pool. I continued prospecting the hopper/dropper through the remainder of the right braid and added a thirteen inch brown to the count. In addition I wrestled with a valiant rainbow trout that executed a quick head twist and snapped off the RS2. I replaced the small nymph with a replica, and I proceeded to the upper half of the small river branch. Amazingly in another relatively marginal narrow pocket along the right bank, I spotted a large form as it elevated to the hopper. I reacted with a swift set, and in a short amount of time I realized that I was connected to another substantial brown trout. Unfortunately, as I played the fish closer, I came to the realization that it was foul hooked along the side of the head. I attempted to plane the muscular fish above the river to my net for a quick release, but the knot on the hopper failed, and a trio of flies once again disappeared. Needless to say I was unhappy with this turn of events. I was now down two pool toy hoppers and four RS2’s and feeling unloved by the fishing gods.

Close Up of the RS2

I was forced to configure my entire line yet again, and I opted for another pool toy hopper along with a pheasant tail and yet another RS2. For the remainder of the afternoon I cherry-picked the most promising spots over .8 mile of river. In the first hour I landed a gorgeous and very fat rainbow and a brown that was less than twelve inches long. The rainbow was the best fish of the day at sixteen inches, and it displayed the RS2 tucked in the thin membrane of its jaw. I also earned quite a few temporary hook ups and a few refusals to the hopper.

RS2 in Lip

By 2:30PM I endured a long dry spell, and I decided to convert to a nymphing rig with a split shot and indicator. Given the low clear conditions, I decided to introduce my New Zealand strike indicator to the effort, as the small tuft of synthetic yarn created minimal impact upon landing on the water. My New Zealand indicator tool was knotted to a section of old fly line along with my small Swiss army knife. In the process of attempting to form the indicator loop, the old fly line knot broke, and the Swiss army knife tumbled into the river. The knife was easily retrievable from the shallow water, but the New Zealand indicator tool was a different matter. I spent fifteen minutes trying to locate the small bodkin-like device, but I eventually gave up and used a cork style indicator with a rubber band gripper. The entire indicator conversion proved to be a monumental bust, as I never experienced so much as a bump.

Another Rainbow Shot for Good Measure

After twenty minutes of fruitless casting I converted back to the dry/dropper approach, and on this go round I used a tan ice dub chubby Chernobyl along with a salvation nymph and a sparkle wing RS2. For the last hour I covered a significant amount of river, but the results were dismal, as the fish count was mired on five. During this phase of my frustrating day my knee touched some chollo cactus spines, and I may have created some slow leaks on the left leg of my waders. Also as I was wading, I noticed an object flapping below my left boot. Upon closer examination I realized that the Korker sole had separated and was only held in place by the rubber thong and rivet on the heel of the boot. I was luckily able to correct this situation without removing my boot.

Zoomed a Bit

By 4:00PM the river was dead, and I was extremely weary, so I made the .7 mile return trek. Monday was clearly not one of my better days. I lost an abundant quantity of flies along with my New Zealand indicator tool, and I may have punctured my heretofore leak-free waders. Five landed fish is a ridiculously low catch rate, but four of the fish were of excellent quality. Twenty fish days on high mountain streams are haunting my thoughts. Some clouds and overcast skies would be a major positive for fly fishing the Arkansas River. I will keep my eyes on the weather forecast.

Fish Landed: 5