Fishing report: Arkansas River offers best of both worlds for flycasters
The Arkansas River offers flycasters the best of both worlds right now: Blue Wing Olive hatches on wet, cloudy days and caddis on sunny days. Rod Patch of the Arkansas River Fly Shop in Salida says he’ll stack the Arkansas against any other river in Colorado. Greg Felt, his partner, says it is producing “some of the best dry fly fishing we have experienced in years.”
The river is clear and flowing at 250-300 cfs, ideal for wade-fishing and floatable below Salida. Water temperatures have fluctuated with changes in the weather from highs in the mid-50s to lows in the mid-40s. The best section of river to fish at present is from Coaldale to Big Bend, five miles upstream of Salida. That’s where the famed Mother’s Day caddis hatch – which actually occurs well before Mother’s Day – is thickest on warmer days.
But it’s not the windshield-splattering type of hatch that makes it difficult for anglers’ flies to compete with the profusion of natural bugs. For this hatch he recommends a soft hackle Caddis Pupa in the morning, a Black Foam Caddis during the afternoon and a Peacock or Spent Peacock Caddis in the evening, all size 16.
When colder, wet weather returns, as it has periodically in recent weeks, the Blue Wing Olives come out. They have been hatching regularly since mid-March and continue to provide excellent dry-fly fishing. Felt recommends #18 Tungsten Biot Midges, #16-18 Olive Flashback Pheasant Tails and #18-20 Tungsten WD-40s for the nymphal stage of this emergence.
All six campgrounds in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, from Railroad Bridge north of Buena Vista to Five Points west of Canon City, are open. Reservations are recommended and can be made online at http://www.parks.state.co.us or by calling (800) 678-2267.
For the complete fishing report, visit: http://wildlife.state.co.us/fishing/fishcond.asp
Clear Creek (above Hwy. 119) – Good fly fishing close to home for all four species of trout if you live in the Denver area. Use a San Juan Worm with a Stimulator and Blue Dun. Fish can be caught all day.
Clear Lake – A good trout lake not far from Georgetown. Brookies can be caught on a fly and bubble or small night crawlers; stocked rainbows on PowerBait or Zeke’s Floating Bait.
South Platte River (Waterton Canyon) – Fishing remains excellent all the way from Chatfield to below Strontia Dam. Rainbows are hitting streamers fished very slowly near the bottom. Small Rapala and Tormentor lures also are working well. Where bait can be used, small night crawlers are very effective.
Blue River (below Green Mountain Reservoir) – Flowing low and clear out of Green Mountain Reservoir and fishing very well. Mayflies and Miller Moths have been providing good surface action for flyfishers. The tailwater beneath the dam is subject to periodic security closures but there are several public accesses downriver to the confluence with the Colorado. Some of these are quite narrow and anglers are reminded to respect adjoining private property.
Blue River (Dillon to Green Mtn. Res.) – Flow from Dillon Reservoir remains at 50 cfs and caddis are starting to show on sunny days. Look for hatches to increase as the weather warms, with continuing Blue Wing Olive emergences on cloudy days. Gray WD-40s, BWO dries, beadheads are all top producers. Best fishing right now is in Silverthorne and closer to the dam. From Silverthorne to Green Mountain Reservoir, use Beadhead Pheasant Tails, Copper Johns, Hare’s Ears, Randy’s Baetis and small stonefly nymphs.
Colorado River (below Parshall) – Cold nights have helped keep this section of river reasonably clear. Fishing for rainbows and browns has been good with Blue Wing Olives emerging on cloudy days and a few gray caddis on sunny days. Use #18 Prince Nymph and Elk Hair Caddis. Some anglers also report success with small brown stoneflies and black hellgrammite patterns.
Colorado River (Glenwood to Rifle) – The river is slightly discolored but still fishable, running at 1,140 cfs near Dotsero and 2,460 cfs in Cameo downriver from Glenwood Springs. Great streamer fishing on overcast days. Use Zuddlers, Splendors or Slump Busters. Blue Wing Olives and Caddis are on the water in good numbers on hot sunny days. Flies of the moment: Princes, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tails and Electric Caddis.
Colorado River (near Granby) – Good flow and fishing well. Nymphs and midges are still working, but surface action is starting to pick up with Caddis, Olive Duns and Blue Wing Olives. Dry/dropper rigs, egg patterns and black or olive Woolly Buggers are most effective. Often, stormy weather increases midday action.
Elkhead Reservoir – Water is discolored and cold. Anglers are still catching a few pike but mostly stocker trout. Crappie have not started to bite yet.
Fryingpan River – Flow is up to 112 cfs and releases from Ruedi Reservoir are flushing mysis shrimp into the river. As a result, anglers are catching more big fish in the catch-and-release waters below the dam. Several 8-pounders were caught last week. Caddis and BWOs continue to hatch on the lower river. Try Bill’s Adult Midge, Parachute BWOs, Sprouts, Poxyback Baetis, Johnny Flashes and Jujubees.
Grand Lake – Trout fishing for rainbows remains good at the river inlet and near the boat ramp. Lake trout have been a little more wary but some are being caught on sucker meat and large spoons.
Green Mountain Reservoir – Cold weather slowed fishing but patient anglers are still getting them. Last week a local fisherman caught a 21-pound lake trout on 12-pound test line with a silver Flatfish. Kastmasters also work well.
Rifle Gap Reservoir – Lake is 21 feet below full and fishing has been excellent for rainbow trout using Rapalas, small spinners, worms, salmon eggs and PowerBait. For flycasters, nymphing the east inlet has been most productive. The lake also harbors sizeable perch (14-inchers are not uncommon), smallmouth bass, pike and walleyes. The bag and possession limit for smallmouths is two fish 15 inches or larger and fish caught between May 1 and June must be released. The bag and possession limit for walleyes is three fish, only one of which may be longer than 18 inches.
Roaring Fork River – Flows are 375 cfs above Carbondale and 750 cfs below the confluence with the Crystal River, which is pretty well blown out. Lower Fork is discolored but fishable with good hatches of caddis and Blue Wing Olives. Hot flies include Z-Wing Caddis, Breadcrusts, Poxyback Baetis, Buckskins, Splendors, Zuddlers, BWO Paras and Peacock Caddis.
White River – Water is off-color and river is running high, but still fishable. Some surface action with Blue Wing Olive and midge hatches but nymphing is still the most productive. Switch to streamers when runoff reduces visibility.
Williams Fork Reservoir – Water level is rising but hasn’t reached the boat ramps yet. Some people are launching from shore and fishing for pike and lake trout is excellent. Most of the lakers run 25 to 28 inches but 40-incher weighing 26 pounds was caught on sucker meat last week. Pike fishing is very good in the fingers on the west side of the lake and the flats at the south end. Use sucker meat or big red/white or yellow streamer flies. Trout fishing is consistently good with a lot of browns being caught and rainbows starting to come back on after their spawn. Use #5 Rapalas, gold-colored Super Vibrax spinners and nightcrawlers.
Williams Fork River – Running low and clear. Rainbow trout have finished spawning and are starting to hit again on Mayflies, Blue Wing Olives, Prince Nymphs and Copper Johns. Browns are also biting on nymphs and emergers such as WD-40s and RS2s. Lure casters are doing well with gold on gold Panther Martins and Honeybee Roostertails.
Yampa River – Flowing at 3,000 cfs, rising and muddy, but anglers are still catching pike in the sloughs and backwaters around Craig and downriver. Trout fishing from Steamboat Springs to Hayden can be quite good when cold nights improve water clarity. A 24-inch brown was caught near Hayden last week.
Arkansas River #3 (Through Pueblo) – Flows are high and slightly discolored. This section of river has been repeatedly stocked and fishing for 10 to 12-inch trout is good. There also are many holdover rainbows in the 2 to 3-pound class. Fishing for bass and other warm-water species has been poor but should improve as the water warms.
Arkansas River (Buena Vista to Salida) – The Arkansas River from Buena Vista to Salida is running clear and producing some great fishing. From Browns Canyon upstream through Buena Vista, there are good Blue Wing Olive hatches and caddis may appear above the canyon by the end of the week. From Stone Bridge down to Salida, caddis and BWO hatches provide outstanding fishing. Use a soft hackle Caddis Pupa in the morning, a Black Foam Caddis during the afternoon and a Peacock or Spent Peacock Caddis in the evening, all size 16.
Arkansas River (Leadville to Buena Vista) – The river above Buena Vista is slowly turning on with baetis activity and midges. Try Tungsten Biot Midges in black, olive, and red; Brassies and Red Zebra Midges on this section. On cloudy days, watch for Blue Wing Olives. Use a Parachute Adams, Brooks Sprout Baetis or Gulper Special on top; Micromayflies, Olive Flashback Pheasant Tails and WD-40s underneath.
Arkansas River (Salida to Canon City) – The Arkansas River above and below Salida is running clear at 250-300 cfs and fishing great. Caddis are hatching on sunny days from Coaldale up to Big Bend and Blue Wing Olives emerge on cloudy days. For caddis, start with a soft hackle Caddis Pupa in the morning, switch to a Black Foam Caddis during the afternoon and switch again to a Peacock or Spent Peacock Caddis in the evening, all size 16. For BWOs, use a dry/dropper rig with a #18 Tungsten Biot Midge, #16-18 Olive Flashback Pheasant Tail or #18-20 Tungsten WD-40 beneath a Parachute Adams or Royal Wulff indicator.
Spinney Mountain Reservoir – Anglers are having good action along the dam and shoreline from the South Ramp to Buffalo Cove. Fish are hanging in 5 to 15-foot depths offshore, and lots of 18 to 24-inch trout are being pulled out. Top flies: green or black Woolly Buggers, gray or brown Chironomids, San Juan Worms and Blood Worms with an egg. A black Marabou Jig bounced off the bottom also works well. Early morning hours are best with action slowing down around noon before picking up again from 5 p.m. until sundown. A few pike are starting to be caught on black Woolly Buggers and medium-sized rainbow-colored Rapalas. The river above Spinney has slowed to 62 cfs.
Gunnison River (below Crystal Dam) – Flow is 311 cfs and clarity is the best since the Portal opened. Water temperature is up to 43 degrees and fishing has been good with consistent caddis and Blue Wing Olive hatches. Recommended nymphs: midges (larvae, pupa and emerger phases), Pheasant Tails, Flashback PTs, Copper Johns, RS2 emergers, Dandelions, scuds, eggs, San Juan Worms and Woolly Buggers. Dries: BWOs, Adams, Elk Hair caddis and stimulators. Call Cimarron Creek Fly Shop at 970-249-0408 for the latest conditions.
Gunnison River (through the canyon) – Flow through the canyon is still about 300 cfs and the water is fairly clear. Fishing in the Upper Gunnison to Smith Fork has been excellent. There was a huge caddis hatch last week that provided great surface action. Hot flies: #14-15 Gray Caddis, #14-16 Cutter, #8-10 Mercer Golden Stone. The Gunnison River Pleasure Park is offering ferry service across the North Fork to help fishermen access the upper Gunnison.
Gunnison River (Upper from Almont to Blue Mesa) – Flows are at 694 cfs and should rise with warmer weather this week. The river is a little off-color in the upper section due to the runoff from the East river, but Ohio creek and Tomichi Creeks have yet to muddy the lower section. Hatches include caddis, midges and Mayflies while stonefly nymphs remain active. Try an egg pattern followed by #16 Beadhead Peasant Tail or black Copper John. Streamers in black, purple and vanilla work best when the water is off-color. Vibrax spinners in gold, black and bronze #2 and #3 and black, brown or purple Marabou jigs work best for lure casters. River is floatable and uncrowded. Call Almont Anglers at (970) 641-7404 or link below for updates and float information.
Uncompahgre River in Ridgway Park – Nice fish are still being caught and released in the river below the dam. Deep water just above or just below the rock structures is where the fish hold most of the time. A bright attractor with an egg pattern dropper is quite effective. Woolly Buggers, Hare’s Ears or Muddler Minnows also work.
Field Reports Wanted – Holger Jensen, the fishing report coordinator, welcomes field reports from individual anglers and pictures of fish caught. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (303) 291-7304. Anglers are also urged to post their favorite fish recipes on DOW’s Web site at http://wildlife.state.co.us/fishing/recipes/
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