Category Archives: Arkansas River

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

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