Category Archives: Arkansas River

Arkansas River – 05/03/2023

Time: 10:30AM – 4:00PM

Location: Big Horn Sheep Canyon

Arkansas River 05/03/2023 Photo Album

Wednesday, May 3 marked my annual attempt to intersect with the Arkansas River caddis hatch. I am pleased to report that I found it; however, I did not succeed in finding the elusive leading edge of the emergence. In 33 years of fly fishing in Colorado, I made the journey to the Arkansas River nearly every spring, but I only hit the sweet spot of the leading edge three times. 2023 was not one of them.

The high temperature was forecast to peak at 73 degrees on Wednesday, and the fly shop reports suggested that the caddis were in the vicinity of Salida, so I made the trip to the river below the popular rafting town. I arrived at my chosen pullout by 10:00AM, and two cars preceded me to the parking area. One contained two fly fishermen, and they departed heading east along US 50, before I was ready. The other car belonged to a gentleman, who was doing some sort of maintenance to the cable that crosses the river across from where my car was parked. I planned to fish upstream, and I only encountered one other fisherman during my five plus hours of fishing. I was quite pleased with this fortunate circumstance.

This Type of Water Produced

The air temperature at the start was around sixty degrees, so I pulled on my raincoat for a bit of added warmth, but as I prepared to fish, I felt overheated, so I removed the rain shell and stuffed it in my backpack. My fly rod of choice was my Sage One five weight, as I anticipated tangling with larger fish, and I liked the additional backbone of the five weight to counter the wind and cover the large river. When I was ready, I headed down the gradual path to the river, and began my caddis hatch adventure. To begin my quest I opted for a dry/dropper configuration with an ice dub tan chubby Chernobyl, size 14 prince nymph and a bright green go2 caddis pupa. I progressed along the left bank of the river for quite a distance and through some usually productive riffles and pockets, but by the time I broke for lunch, I could only claim credit for two temporary hook ups. Along the way I swapped the prince for an ultra zug bug, but the late morning was characterized by a lot of futile casting. I tried to impart movement to the flies by swinging them, twitching the rod tip and jigging; but none of these ploys produced the steady action that I anticipated.

Big River

Before lunch I converted to a deep nymphing set up that featured a Thingamabobber, bright green go2 caddis pupa and a RS2. I drifted these flies through a prime deep run and shelf pool, but once again my efforts were stymied in spite of aggressive strips, twitches and swings. I consumed my lunch at 11:45AM, and upon resumption of fly fishing I changed out my flies. I substituted a 20 incher for the top nymph and replaced the RS2 with a bright green caddis pupa with a dubbed body. On the fourth cast to the entering riffle section of the shelf pool, a nice trout grabbed the bright green sparkle pupa, and I avoided a skunking on May 3. I was seriously starting to believe that a zero fish day was a possibility.

Lots of Caddis

Repeat Shot

As the morning developed, it was clear that I was among the epicenter of the caddis hatch. The willows and boulders along the bank were absolutely swarming with caddis, and periodically they would flutter above the water and dap. Surely this activity was attracting the attention of the trout. I decided to forsake the deep nymphing, and I adopted the double dry fly approach. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my leader as the forward fly, and then I added a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis on an eight inch 5X dropper. The hippie stomper was intended to be the indicator fly that enabled me to track the small caddis through riffles and glare.


Another Fine Arkansas River Brown Trout

These flies remained on my line for the remainder of the afternoon except for a very brief period, when I swapped the caddis for a BWO puff. I would not characterize the afternoon fishing as hot action, but I was able to inflate the fish count from one to ten. Among these nine landed fish were two stunning rainbow trout in the fourteen inch range. The remainder were wild and deeply colored brown trout ranging in length from twelve to fourteen inches. By one o’clock the caddis left their streamside perches and clustered over the water and dapped down periodically. When the wind gusted, it knocked caddis on to the surface of the river, and the trout responded. The surface eats were very subtle, but I stumbled across two areas, where multiple fish exposed themselves via dimples in the surface chop, and I was able to leverage these observations to land five trout. The other four trout resulted from persistent blind casting, and two of these net dwellers actually smashed the hippie stomper.

Targeting the Seam Below the Exposed Rock

Caddis Macro

Yikes. Surprise.

Deep slow moving pools and slicks behind large exposed rocks were not productive. My best success occurred in long choppy riffles and troughs with four feet of depth. Nine fish in three hours represents a slightly above average catch rate, but the action was steady, although it required an abundant amount of long casts into the breeze. One of the surprise eaters that resulted from prospecting was a fourteen inch brown trout, and this angler was extremely pleased to see this prize curled in his net.

Foam Is Home

Lovely Spot Pattern

By 4 o’clock the caddis returned to their streamside habitat, and very few adults touched the surface. I covered .5 mile of the river, and the fish count extended to double digits, so I reeled up my line and hooked the caddis adult to the hook guide. Did I achieve my goal of hitting the 2023 grannom caddis hatch? Yes I did, but it was not the crazy drag your fly and catch a fish on every cast bonanza that characterizes the leading edge emergence. Achieving double digits on Wednesday required constant upstream movement, keen observation to notice subtle rises, and solid water reading skills. I drove six hours in order to log 5.5 hours of fishing, but landing ten quality trout made it worthwhile.

Fish Landed: 10

Arkansas River – 04/07/2023

Arkansas River 04/07/2023 Photo Album

Finally an extended streak of nice weather encouraged me to seek out another day of fly fishing. High temperatures in the upper sixties on Friday, April 7, 2023 translated to fifties on the Arkansas River and South Platte River. I chose the Arkansas River because the ArkAngler’s report stated that blue wing olives were active and hatching in the Salida area.

I departed at 7:40AM, and this enabled me to pull in to my favorite pullout along US 50 by 11:15PM, and the temperature registered 46 degrees. Yes, if you do the math, you can determine that my usual 2 hour and 45 minute drive took 3 hours and 25 minutes. I sat in the first position of a long line of traffic for twenty minutes while waiting for a flagman to release us at the top of Kenosha Pass. I was not happy.

A Good Place to Start

I pulled on my North Fork light down coat and my raincoat for a windbreaker, and then I rigged my Sage R8 four weight for a day of casting. Two anglers ambled past me, while I was preparing to fish, and I held my breath that they would not head toward my chosen starting point. They did not, so I crossed the river and hiked downstream, although a guide with an inflatable raft was sitting on top of the nice deep run and shelf pool that usually serves as my starting point. I killed some time rigging my line with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, olive-black Pat’s rubberleg and sparkle wing RS2; and then I prospected a nice trough behind an exposed rock with no success.

Yielded a Trout

By the time I was ready to move on, the raft had disappeared down the river, so I circled around on the adjoining floodplain and positioned myself to fish the normally productive deep run and shelf pool. After ten minutes of unproductive casting, the indicator dipped, and I found myself attached to a feisty thirteen inch brown trout that gobbled the RS2. I snapped some photos and savored my good fortune and resumed my upstream migration.


I experienced a momentary hook up in the short run, where I began, when I lifted the flies to recast in front of a submerged rock. The wide deep run and riffles below the upstream island looked very attractive, but I was unable to generate any interest, so I continued along the main branch of the river on the south side of the island. Near the top I once again connected for a split second with a fish, but it escaped very quickly, and it almost felt like it was foul hooked.

I retreated back to the downstream point of the island, and by now I could see the two fishermen that hiked past me at the car, but they were seventy yards away. The north branch of the river next to the island was very low as a result of flows in the in the 200 CFS range, so I decided to modify my approach to a softer presentation. I removed the split shot and the two nymphs, and then I knotted an olive hippie stomper to my line and dropped the beadhead sparkle wing RS2 below it. I left the tuft of neon chartreuse yarn that served as an indicator in place, as it was near the end of the fly line, and I felt it was far enough away from my flies to not affect the trouts’ interest. The ploy worked to some degree, as I landed a second trout, when it grabbed the trailing RS2, as it drifted along the bubble line near the head of the pool. I also generated two refusals to the hippie stomper, but that was the extent of the action in the usually productive north channel.

Yucca Clump

I advanced up the river above the island and stayed with the dry/dropper for a bit, and in a relatively shallow pool along the right bank, I managed to land a small brown trout in the eight inch range. This little guy also nipped the RS2. I was gaining confidence, but then I approached a long section with faster riffles and a few pockets, and the stomper/RS2 combination did not seem appropriate for exploring the deeper and faster water, so I once again made a switch. I reverted to the indicator (which remained in place), split shot, and a 20 incher nymph and RS2.

20 Incher

Sparkle Wing RS2

With this deeper water rig I decided to cherry pick the most attractive spots that featured depth and a slower current. My strategy seemed sound, but the fish did not agree, and I moved all the way back up the river to my crossing point with nary a fish to add to the count. At this point I crossed the river and climbed the bank and then dropped down to the juicy riffle section just upriver from the high rock wall and pool below my parking space. I began covering the wide riffle over four foot of depth and a very rocky bottom, and after ten minutes the indicator paused, and I set the hook into another fine thirteen inch Arkansas River brown trout. This healthy fish nailed the 20 incher, and I was fairly confident that the promising riffles, pockets and deep runs along the left bank would produce more action.

Nice One

Alas, my confidence was misplaced. During the 2:30 to 3:30 time period two circumstances commenced. The wind, which was bothersome due to intermittent gusts up until the early afternoon, began to blast down the canyon on a more consistent basis, and this made punching casts an arm-challenging event. Also during this time frame some heavy clouds blocked the sun, and I noticed a sparse hatch of blue winged olives, as they tumbled along the surface of the river. They never rested in one spot long enough to catch the interest of the fish, and consequently, I never spotted a single rise. I was, however, convinced that my RS2 would represent a tasty subsurface treat, but that thought was misplaced.

I reeled up my line and hooked the RS2 to the guide and clambered up a very steep bank to the highway at 3:30 and called it a day. Three hours and fifteen minutes of fly fishing yielded four trout. Two were fine thirteen inch chunks. I made the trip seeking the BWO hatch, and I found it, but I never intercepted the surface feeding that I was anticipating, and the nymph action was very slow. On the plus side I mostly had the river to myself, and my Sage R8 performed admirably. With another five days of nice weather ahead of me, I will continue to search for blue wing olive hatches in Colorado.

Fish Landed: 4

Arkansas River – 09/28/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Downstream from Salida

Arkansas River 09/28/2022 Photo Album

After a mildly disappointing fly fishing day on Tuesday (great wildlife viewing), I decided to make the long drive to the Arkansas River. The weather was projected to be very nice with high temperatures in the low seventies and clear skies and sunshine for most of the day. In fact, the lack of cloud cover was a concern, as I planned my fly fishing adventure. The Arkansas River is primarily a brown trout fishery, so spawning interest overshadowing feeding was another issue, but I concluded that the larger and warmer river at lower elevation meant spawning season was later in October. Being able to park next to the river, and the avoidance of a lengthy hike also appealed to my sensibilities on Wednesday.

Fish Number One Emerged Along the Right Edge in This Run

The drive to the Arkansas River took three hours and fifteen minutes, as I overcame heavy traffic on I70 in Denver and a slow moving dump truck during the early stages of my climb over Kenosha Pass. I also had the misfortune to endure two areas with road construction, where I was forced to stop and wait to funnel through one lane of traffic. A final hurdle to my arrival was a detour from Fairplay to Hartsel and then west to Trout Creek Pass. A trip that normally requires two hours and forty-five minutes extended to three hours and fifteen minutes. This angler was not happy.

Nice Shelf Pool

The dashboard digital display registered a temperature in the low sixties at the start of my fly fishing venture, and the thermometer probably peaked in the low seventies with minimal cloud cover. The flows were 352 CFS at Salida, and water clarity was excellent.

Love the Shadow

Tilted to View Spot Pattern

Two other anglers arrived at my chosen pullout before me, and as I prepared to fish, they crossed the river and headed downstream. This was my anticipated destination, and I debated hiking along the highway and crossing at a lower point above the island to cut them off, but in the end I relented and crossed the river to the north shore and worked my way upstream. I covered .8 miles between 11:15 and 3:30, and I managed to land five brown trout. The catch rate was abysmal, however, all five trout were quite nice. One was around twelve inches, but the others approximated fourteen to fifteen inches, and they were quite chunky.

Golden Brown

Perfect Trout Water

I used my Sage R8 four weight, and I cast a dry/dropper for most of my time on the water. A tan size 8 pool toy hopper was the featured surface fly, until I switched to a peacock hippie stomper for the final forty-five minutes. For nymphs I cycled through an iron sally, salvation nymph, hares ear nymph, and 20 incher. The hippie stomper was accompanied by a size 16 muggly caddis with a tannish body for the final forty-five minutes. The first trout landed grabbed the iron sally, and then the next one fell for a salvation nymph. The hares ear attracted the twelve inch brown, and the muggly caddis was the target of the final two brown trout.


Double Dry Water

I spent the day making a ridiculous number of relatively long casts, and I covered a significant amount of river in order to attain my five fish count. The double dry combination seemed to be the most effective, and I probably should have experimented with it sooner. Had I worked the north bank with the double dries and confined my casts to areas with moderate depth and medium current speed, I suspect I would have generated more success. The clear sky, bright sun and lack of any discernable insect activity probably explained my slow day.

In spite of the low catch rate, the quality of my catch was outstanding, and the warmth was a welcome change after several chilling experiences.

Fish Landed: 5

Buena Vista Pond – 07/21/2022

Time: 4:00PM – 5:00PM

Location: McPhelemy Park

Buena Vista Pond 07/21/2022 Photo Album

I met Jane on Wednesday at McPhelemy Park in Buena Vista after fly fishing on the Arkansas River, and we left her bike locked to a bike rack, while we continued on to our AirBnB. After finding our lodging for the next few nights, we returned to the park, and I suggested we do a bike ride around Buena Vista. I spotted some sections of lower Cottonwood Creek before the confluence with the Arkansas River that were marked as public on my river map, and I wanted to explore the area and accessibility to the stream. When we returned to McPhelemy Park, I cycled around the perimeter of the small pond, and I observed quite a few rising fish. I filed this observation away for future reference.

After whitewater rafting on Thursday morning, our gang returned to the AirBnB, and Jane and Amy S. decided to take a short bike ride. I jumped on this opportunity to return to McPhelemy Park in case the trout were once again hungry. Upon my arrival I quickly assembled my Sage four weight and opted to wade wet. I marched a short distance to the western edge of the pond just below some overhanging branches from a large tree. Almost immediately I spotted several fish in a regular feeding pattern. I did not see an obvious food source responsible for the steady feeding, so I plucked a size 16 deer hair caddis with an olive-brown body from my fly box and tied it to the end of my leader.

Caddis Eater

I flicked a few casts toward the area below the trees and gradually lengthened my line, until the fly fluttered down twenty yards from the bank. Thwack! A fish rose and inhaled my tiny caddis, and an energetic fight ensued. Eventually I guided a fat thirteen inch rainbow trout into my net. The fly was taken fairly deeply, but I was able to remove it with my hemostats without injury. After I released the trout, I resumed my casting, but three young children were playing on a SUP just above the tree limb area, and their splashing and creation of waves put the fish down. I supplemented my offering with a hippie stomper trailing the adult caddis and persisted in my pursuit of trout, until I was accosted by a young man, who asked if he could borrow one of my flies.

I was quite impressed with the boldness of the youth, so I paused to examine his set up. He was slinging a spinning rod with a squirmy worm knotted to the line, but the line was not monofilament. I removed a length of tippet from my spool and extended it for twelve inches from the bend of the squirmy and then attached a bright green caddis pupa. I went back to my spot and managed to temporarily connect with another trout, but it jumped high above the surface and slid free of the small caddis. I glanced to the right and noticed that my new friend, Seth from Texas, dug into his tackle box and pulled out a small bobber. This gave me a new idea, so I asked Seth to cut off the squirmy worm and swivel, and I then proceeded to tie a surgeon’s knot that extended monofilament from the spinning line. Seth clamped the bobber to the running line, and I knotted a size 16 caddis to the end of the monofilament. Seth was now the proud owner of a bubble set up. I moved back to the area with the branches, and Seth began lobbing casts to the middle of the lake fifteen yards below me. As I executed several more casts, I watched Seth through my peripheral vision, and suddenly he lifted the rod, and I spotted some wild thrashing behind the float. Seth hooked and landed a trout on the caddis and bubble system that I set up for him. He was beyond excited, and I was admittedly a bit pumped myself.

Lots of Splashing

I decided to move north of the tree branches and the thrashing kids, so I circled around and left Seth to his solo efforts. I told him that he could keep the fly. I next perched next to the lake just below some protruding exposed dead sticks, and once again a few fish revealed their presence with some sporadic rises. A dad and three sons occupied the opposite bank and the area just above me, where Cottonwood Creek entered the pond, so I was constrained a bit in my ability to move. I remained in this general area for the remainder of my time on the lake, and I managed another temporary hook up. I also replaced the adult caddis with a zebra midge larva, beadhead hares ear, and emerald caddi pupa, but the dry/dropper ploy never produced results on the Buena Vista Pond.

Looking For Rises

I landed one nice thirteen inch rainbow in one hour of fly fishing, and it was a respectable thirteen inch fish. In addition, I hooked and failed to land three additional fish, but I assisted Seth in his foray into bubble fishing. I only had an hour to spare, and I was quite entertained by the Buena Vista pond. The small body of water was the home of multiple activities, and I was a bit frustrated by the alternative commotions, but it was fun nonetheless.

Fish Landed: 1

Arkansas River – 07/20/2022

Time: 10:00AM – 11:15AM; 12:15PM – 2:30PM

Location: The Numbers and The Tunnel area

Arkansas River 07/20/2022 Photo Album

I decided to try a new section of the Arkansas River called The Numbers on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The fishing map indicated that lots of public access was available in that area.

It was sunny and warm by 10AM, when I began to fish, but after disappointing results on Tuesday, which I attributed to hot weather, I hoped that an earlier start would increase my odds of success. I parked at a pullout where The Numbers entry road branched off to a private bridge, but another angler arrived, as I was arranging my gear. I was not keen on  a game of hopscotch, so I asked Ladd (the other man’s name) if there were parking spots along the entry road to The Numbers boat launch, and he replied that there were, but a pass was required. I told him I had a state parks pass, and he said he did not, so I departed and drove another .3 mile to a small gravel pullout.

The Numbers

I put together my Loomis five weight and hiked across some sagebrush to the edge of the river. The Arkansas was flowing along swiftly and crystal clear. I rigged with a yellow fat Albert, Pat’s rubber legs, and an iron sally and covered .8 mile of river, until I reached the parking lot at 11:15AM. Along the way I swapped the rubber legs for an emerald caddis pupa and moved the iron sally to the upper position. That combination failed to click, and eventually I traded the caddis pupa for a salvation nymph. All I had to show for my 1.25 hour morning effort was a pair of looks from some brown trout. I did not care for the river structure in the area, as it was mostly wide with uninteresting shallow riffles and long and fast sweeping glides and runs.


When I climbed the bank to the parking lot, I was alerted to a storm cloud in the southwest by a flash of lightning, so I quickly hoofed back on the road to my car. I decided to head south to the tunnels area, and I encountered wet and muddy road conditions, thus evidence that the rainstorm preceded me. I parked beyond the last tunnel and ate my lunch, and then I launched my second foray on to the Arkansas River. I was perplexed by the fact that a week earlier on the same river I enjoyed a twenty-five fish day on a float trip. The section was ten river miles south, but it did not seem like that would make a huge difference.


And Another

I persisted with the fat Albert, iron sally, and salvation nymph; as these flies, particularly the nymphs, were almost the exact same flies that my guide utilized with great success a week earlier. I spent the next two plus hours prospecting the ten yards of water along the bank, and I managed to avoid a skunking by landing three brown trout in the twelve inch range. Two of the aggressive feeders nabbed the salvation, and the other grabbed the iron sally. All three fish materialized from deep and slower moving areas next to large exposed boulders, and the action occurred in the first hour of the afternoon.


The second hour could be characterized as a long period of futility. I marched along the right side of the river and dropped casts in all the likely spots, but the fish were in a state of constant lockjaw. Several brief rain showers kept the temperature somewhat in check, so I cannot blame a bright clear sky. I saw virtually no insects on the river except for some small caddis on the bushes; whereas, yellow sallies and pale morning duns were present in decent numbers during the float trip a week prior. I attribute my disappointing results on Wednesday to the lack of trout food on the Arkansas River.

Fish Landed: 3


Arkansas River – 07/19/2022

Time: 1:30PM – 4:00PM

Location: Railroad Bridge area

Arkansas River 07/19/2022 Photo Album

Jane and I reserved a campsite at Railroad Bridge and made the drive from Denver on July 19, 2022. We departed at 10:00AM and arrived at 12:30PM. The sun was bright, and it was quite warm, so after I ate my lunch, we erected the canopy to create some much needed shade. I quickly pulled together my fishing gear including my Loomis two piece five weight, and I set off down the trail to the river.

Ready to Go

During the afternoon a few passing clouds provided some breaks from the high sun, but direct sunshine mostly ruled the skies. The river was in superb condition at 700 CFS, and extreme clarity was apparent. I began with a tan size 8 pool toy hopper and then added an iron sally and salvation nymph. My first two bouts of action were refusals to the hopper, but eventually I began to connect with fish. From 1:30PM until 3:00PM I landed seven trout, all browns. One fine specimen measured twelve inches, and another pair registered eleven, while the remainder were in the six to ten inch range. The pool toy duped one trout, two favored the salvation, and the remainder grabbed the iron sally.

Not Bad

I noticed a few fluttering caddis on the streamside vegetation; but, otherwise the river seemed devoid of aquatic insect life. For the final thirty minutes I converted to a double dry that included a peacock hippie stomper and a yellow stimulator. The stimulator and stomper produced a few temporary connections, but none advanced to my net. I swapped the stimulator for a size gray deer hair caddis and a size 14 purple haze, but none of the dry flies delivered.

Pocket Water Everywhere

Seams and depth next to fast water and rocky structure provided the best results. Many promising spots failed to deliver, and the fishing was average at best. I worked hard for seven fish in 2.5 hours. At 3:50PM I stopped to deploy my stream thermometer, and after being submerged for two minutes, it registered 64 degrees. This was near the upper limit of safe fishing, and it gave me a sound reason to call it quits at 4:00PM. It also perhaps explains my lack of action during the last forty-five minutes. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I plan to fish the Arkansas again, but an earlier start is probably in my future.

Fish Landed: 7

Arkansas River – 07/12/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Location: Lower Browns Canyon

Arkansas River 07/12/2022 Photo Album

Tuesday, July 12, was the second day of my scheduled guided float trips with my friend, Dave G. Originally Dave G. and I were convinced that we would be drifting the middle section of the Colorado River; however, the water managers were holding back water in Dillon and Green Mountain Reservoirs, and this action in turn caused the Colorado River flows to shrink to the 600 CFS range. With high daytime temperatures across Colorado in the eighties, there was not enough volume to buffer the river from the heat, and afternoon temperatures climbed to unsafe levels for catching and handling fish.

Butterfly at Our Launch Point

Our guide, Reed, proposed altering our plans to float the upper Roaring Fork River or the Arkansas River. I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday morning, so I opted for the Arkansas River, as it posed fewer logistical problems for returning to Denver on Tuesday night after the float. Dave G. and I met Reed at a parking lot in Buena Vista, and he transported us the remainder of the way to our launch point.

Reed Prepares for a Float Trip

The Arkansas River flows were in the 700 CFS range and very clear. The natural volume of water was being augmented by releases from Twin Lakes to maintain favorable conditions for whitewater rafting and fishing. The high temperature on Tuesday was around eighty degrees, but decent cloud cover was present for most of our time on the river, and two brief thunderstorms cooled things down considerably.

Smooth Sailing

I manned the forward position in the raft during the morning and then switched to the back at 1:00PM, and then I switched back to the front for the final thirty minutes of our float. While I was in the front position, I fished a double dry that consisted of a tan size 12 parachute dry fly along with a rusty pale morning dun dry, and I built the fish count to eight by the time we switched positions. The first five fish landed were decent brown trout that sipped the trailing PMD.

PMD Imitation Worked All Day

After our position change at 1PM I stuck with the double dry and elevated the fish count to twelve by 2:30. At 2:30PM Reed noticed a greater density of pale morning duns fluttering up from the river’s surface. I was in the rear position, and upon Reed’s suggestion I switched to the five weight Scott with a dry/dropper rig, and the catch rate suddenly improved significantly, although it was pretty steady even before the switch.

Perhaps My Best of the Day

By the time we quit at 4:00PM, the count rested on twenty-five. Most of the afternoon fish latched on to a winged pale morning dun nymph with lots of flash. The iron sally never produced, and a pair of trout gulped the large parachute lead fly. During the 2:30 to 3:30PM time frame I enjoyed much success with lifting, jigging, and swinging the dry/dropper at the tail of runs, in front of rocks, and through riffles of moderate depth.


Our guide, Reed, worked hard to position the boat in favorable spots for the front and back fisherman. In addition, he paddled upstream in many promising spots to enable nose upstream drifts.

Tuesday was a fun and productive day on the Arkansas River. The average size of the trout was probably in the thirteen to fourteen inch range with a few smaller fish to round out the count. All but two of the landed fish were of the brown trout variety. The Arkansas River continues to be a productive destination in 2022, and I have plans to return next week.

Fish Landed: 25

Arkansas River – 07/06/2022

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Down river from Salida

Arkansas River 07/06/2022 Photo Album

In my effort to catch Colorado freestone rivers during their downward spiral in flows, I made the drive to the Arkansas River on Wednesday, July 6. I enjoyed a very successful day on 06/27/2022, when the flows were elevated at 1150 CFS, and I was anxious to sneak in another trip, before the river dropped to more normal levels. The ArkAnglers report for Monday, July 4 cited discoloration as a result of local thunderstorms, but it suggested that the river would clear by Tuesday, and I was making the trip on Wednesday. The middle section of the Arkansas was less affected by the rain, so I had a backup plan in case of too much turbidity.

Let the Fun Begin

I arrived at a dirt pullout along the Arkansas below Salida by 10:20AM, and this allowed me to be on the river ready to cast by 11:00AM. My travel time was affected significantly by some slow moving tractor/trailers from Trout Creek Pass until the turn off from US 285 to cut through Salida. I was not a happy driver. The air temperature was in the upper seventies, as I rigged Dave G.’s Scott five weight, and at least four to five feet of visibility existed along the banks  of the river. I decided to fish the section below Salida and forego a reversal to the middle section of the Arkansas River.

Three to Four Feet of Visibility

I began my quest for Arkansas River trout with a size 8 yellow fat Albert, a green-black Pat’s rubber legs, and a size 12 prince nymph. My starting point was one hundred yards down river from where I quit on Monday, June 27, and I began working my way upstream at a steady pace, while I probed all the likely fish holding locations. Between 11:00AM and noon I registered two trout including a small brown and another respectable brown trout in the fourteen inch range. The prince did not produce in the early going, so I swapped it for an iron sally and eventually a salvation nymph. The Pat’s rubber legs generated the larger of the two fish, and the salvation fooled the smaller cousin.

Early Beast

Just before lunch I set the hook on a virtual fish, and my excessive lift hurled the three fly dry/dropper into a tall tree behind me. I assessed the situation, and determined that I was unable to rescue the flies, so I exerted direct force on the line and snapped off all three. The reader would not wish to hear the string of expletives that gushed from my mouth. I used the three fly break off as an excuse to eat my lunch, and then I replaced the three flies with the same lineup. The fat Albert, Pat’s rubber legs, and salvation nymph remained on my line throughout the afternoon, and I gradually built the fish count from two to eleven. During this time the Pat’s rubber legs produced 60% of the landed trout, and the salvation nymph accounted for the remainder. My efforts during this time were plagued by a significant number of temporary hook ups, and I blamed them on the smaller salvation and the possibility of a dull hook point.

Next to the Rock

Seam Produced

Pleasant Surprise

By 2:30PM I was locked on eleven fish, and the catch rate slowed even more from an already average pace. I debated an early exit in order to jump start my long drive back to Denver, but I fell victim to the angler disease of “I will check out one more nice pool”. Some dark clouds moved in, and the temperature dropped, and I fished for another hour and experienced my best fishing of the day. I boosted the fish count to eighteen, before I quit, and the middle afternoon catch included two very fine rainbow trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. These fish had beautiful coloration, and surprisingly they gulped the fat Albert.  The average size of the other fish landed during this time period was also superior to my results earlier in the day.

Ready to Run

Bank Pocket

Gorgeous Spot Pattern

Wednesday evolved into a successful day in terms of both quantity and quality. The average size of the fish lagged my June 27 outing somewhat; however, I was quite pleased with the five trout in the thirteen to fourteen inch range. Between 2:00 and 2:30 PM a brief pale morning dun emergence developed, but it only lasted for twenty minutes, and I never observed a single rising fish. I did seem to enjoy more action with my salvation nymph during this time frame. and lifting and jigging seemed to generate more interest from the trout, particularly those that occupied the space in front of large subsurface and exposed rocks at the tail of a run. The Arkansas River treated me well this spring and early summer. I suspect my next visit will take me to the middle river in the Buena Vista area. Stay tuned.

Fish Landed: 18


Arkansas River – 06/27/2022

Time: 10:15AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 06/27/2022 Photo Album

Baby sitting and social commitments prevented me from revisiting a stream for five days after my wonderful outing on the South Fork of the Rio Grande on 06/21/2022. The flows on the major freestones were dropping rapidly, and I was concerned that I would miss out on my much revered edge fishing in 2022. Monday, June 27, represented a one day window to take advantage of the falling but clear conditions, and I elected to make the three hour drive to the Arkansas River. I previously committed to a trip to Eagle, CO to fish with my friend on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the drive to Salida represented back to back long journeys, but I was ready for a fly fishing blitz now that the conditions were settling into prime time.

Prime Brown Trout Habitat

The flows on the Arkansas River on Monday, June 27, were in the low 1100’s; however, the river was quite murky, perhaps due to recent rain. but I persisted, when I noted three feet of visibility along the edges. The air temperature ranged from the low sixties to the mid-seventies, and the sky was mostly clear and sunny, although there were periods of gusting wind to contend with. I planned to park at the county line along US 50, but a truck preceded me, so I jumped out of the car to scan the river, and I spotted another fisherman upriver from where I hoped to begin. After noting this circumstance I drove .3 mile back toward Salida and parked at the next wide gravel pullout.

Surprised with This Early Beauty

I strung my Sage One five weight, and once I was geared up, I walked downriver along the shoulder of the highway. When I arrived above the  place, where I originally intended to begin, I realized the truck and angler departed, so I dropped down the bank in compliance with my original plan. I began fly fishing with a size 8 amber ice dub body chubby Chernobyl, olive and black Pat’s rubber leg, and a bright green go2 sparkle caddis pupa. These flies clicked, and I began landing robust brown trout almost immediately. I should say the Pat’s rubber leg clicked, because nearly all the early brown trout grabbed the weighted chenille stonefly imitation.

Another Fine Brown Trout

I slowly worked my way upstream and fished almost entirely in the ten foot corridor along the left bank. Deep rocky pockets, seams along faster deep slots, and moderate riffles were the main productive river structures that delivered positive results. By lunch at noon the fish count rested on thirteen, and the majority of the landed fish were brown trout within the twelve to fourteen inch range, and these fish were quite healthy and chunky.

Foam Line

Black Spotted Brown

In Front of the Log Jam Produced

After lunch the same approach continued, until I quit at 3:30 PM. I swapped the go2 caddis pupa for a size 14 prince nymph, and this move paid dividends, as five trout snared the prince. Most of the prince eaters reacted to a lift toward the end of the drift in front of a submerged boulder. At one point I dropped some casts at the head of a gorgeous deep shelf pool, and my first rainbow trout thrashed and fought, until I brought it to my net. During the early afternoon, rainbows became more prevalent, and I added three more chunky fighters in the fourteen to fifteen inch range. The rainbows seemed to hold in deeper water that bordered faster runs. At some point I foul hooked a rainbow, and as it raced to escape, it broke off all three of my flies including the chubby Chernobyl, Pat’s rubber leg, and prince nymph. I replaced the chubby with another version that displayed an orange body rather than the amber ice dub. The top fly was only serving as an indicator, so why risk losing my favorite ice dub models?

Wow. Great Stripe and Speckles

Money in the Bank

The chenille on the replacement Pat’s rubber leg unraveled after a couple fish, so I gambled and replaced it with a size 14 20 incher, and after spotting a sparse emergence of pale morning duns, I experimented with a salvation nymph in the end position. I also tested an iron sally for some period of time after observing a few golden stoneflies and yellow sallies in the air. The salvation nymph produced four trout, and I built the fish count to twenty-nine, before I called it quits.

20 Incher in the Mouth


On the day, I landed twenty-nine trout including five rainbows and twenty-four browns. Approximately five landed trout ate the prince nymph, four consumed the salvation nymph, and the remainder mashed the Pat’s rubber legs. Monday was easily the best day I ever enjoyed with the Pat’s rubber legs. Once it gets wet it looks like a green glob with bouncy appendages, but apparently the trout judge it to be an easy meal. Monday evolved into exactly the kind of day I expected, and that is a rarity. I confined my casting to the edges, and I stayed with a dry/dropper during my entire tenure on the river. The trout loved my rubber leg nymphs as well as the prince and salvation. I moved at a steady pace and executed three to five casts in all the likely spots, and quite often I was rewarded. I would guess that twenty of the landed trout were hardy battlers in the twelve to fifteen inch range. I love the feeling of confidence that grows from having the right flies and fishing productive spots. Edge fishing has begun in 2022.

Fish Landed: 29

Arkansas River – 10/06/2021

Time: 11:00AM – 3:30PM

Location: Below Salida

Arkansas River 10/06/2021 Photo Album

After a rough day on Monday, I decided to give fly fishing another try on Wednesday; however, I opted for a destination that was lower in elevation and a place that offered more openness for solar penetration. My choice was the Arkansas River. Flows below Salida were in the 280 CFS range, and the fly shop reports highlighted blue winged olive activity, with fish spread out across the river and ideal wading conditions.

The temperature when I arrived at a favorite pullout on Wednesday morning was 57 degrees. I chose to forego additional layers, as I viewed my raincoat in my backpack as an insurance policy. Heavy afternoon cloud cover actually forced me to cash in my insurance, and I wore the rain shell for several hours in the afternoon. The river, as expected, was exceptionally clear, and I took advantage of the low flows to wade to the shoreline away from the highway for much of my fishing day.

Early Action in This Area

I began casting at 11AM next to two very attractive deep runs with tantalizing seams along the main current line. I chose a tan pool toy hopper as my top fly and extended a long four foot leader to a 20 incher and then added a salvation nymph. I spent twenty minutes drifting this combination along the seam and shelf pools next to the deep run, but a sign of trout never appeared. I covered thirty yards of prime water with nary a sign of fish, and I knew from past experience that fish occupied this area.

Beast Mauled a 20 Incher

Good Fortune Continued

I pondered my situation and decided to probe the depths, so I converted to a nymphing rig with a New Zealand strike indicator, split shot, 20 incher, and a sparkle wing RS2. Much to my amazement I hooked an energetic fish on the first drift, but it shook free from my hook after a pair of powerful streaking runs. It was not long after this disappointment that I hooked and landed a battling sixteen inch brown trout. I quickly learned the importance of depth during fall fishing expeditions. For the next hour I progressed up the river and netted two additional brown trout, with one being a muscular thirteen inch beauty. Several additional momentary hook ups were also part of the before lunch story.

Seemed Promising

After lunch I was positioned to explore the small north braid of the river, which is one of my favorites on the entire Arkansas. The low, clear flows; however, caused me to be leery of using the deep nymphing set up, so I changed my approach to a double dry with a peacock hippie stomper and a size 16 olive-brown deer hair caddis. I probed the low, slow-moving bottom third of the braid, and I managed one look for my concentrated effort. The two flies seemed totally out of favor, and I did not wish to waste the final promising two-thirds of the braid on unproductive flies. I converted the double dry to a dry/dropper with an iron sally and a salvation nymph. The change yielded results , as two nice twelve inch brown trout nabbed the salvation in fairly obscure locations.

For the next 1.5 hours I progressed up the river along the right bank and probed likely deep runs and slower-moving small pools with the dry/dropper combination. I was confident that the same tactic that worked in the top one-half of the braid would also succeed along the bank of the large river. Alas, it did produce two additional trout in the sub twelve inch range, but I felt certain that a deep nymphing set up would have produced better results.


The reason I suspect this to be true is that I switched back to the New Zealand indicator with a split shot, 20 incher, and RS2 for the last hour, and I built the fish count to eleven. Several of these late afternoon catches were wild thirteen inch browns. All the trout landed during this time frame nabbed the size 22 RS2. Moderate riffles over a rocky bottom and depth of three to four feet produced all the brown trout. By 3:30PM I reached a nice deep eddy and pool, and after I fished it thoroughly, I decided to call it a day. I angled along a steep bank for a considerable distance, before I found some hidden stone steps that led me to the guard rail and the highway.

Big Tail

Wednesday was not a spectacular day but a success nonetheless. I achieved double digits that included five brown trout in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. I feel certain that a commitment to deep nymphing for the entire day would have elevated my fish count, but testing various approaches is an enjoyable aspect of the fly fishing game.

Fish Landed: 11