The Arkansas at Salida 4/29/21-5/3/21

     I am going to start this out by just saying , this is all researched material , as i have not fished the Arkansas yet myself. If after reading this anyone has something to add and expand on , please get ahold of me at the email at the end of this blog . Thanks.

    The Arkansas is unlike many western rivers because it flows freely for more than 150 miles from its headwaters befor it meets it's firsat dam , in Pueblo on Colorado's eastern plain. Over the years it has suffered from abuse and pollution. Since 1993 , when a U.S. EPA Superfund clean-up project began at California Gulch , the river has rebounded and become a popular fly-fishing destination. It's a resilient freestone that is now more ecologically balanced than many people ever thought Possible.

    In the past , annual releases from resevoirs on the Arkansas tributaries blew away spring caddis hatches. Now those releases coincide with natural runoff or occur during winter, making conditions good for spring hatch matching. Simply put , the Arkansas has been transformed from a drainage that suffered from heavy metal pollution and neglect to one with good water quality and lots of attention. Along with insightful flow management ,improved water quality has led to an improved trout fishery.

    The Arkansas is primarily a brown-trout stream with a few healthy rainbows and Snake River cutthroats. In the headwaters, adventuresome anglers can find greenback cutthroat troat which were recently restored in the streams and a few high moutain lakes. Most of the browns range from 12-16 inch, but some larger ones lurk in deeper runs and remote canyon stretches. This river may not be the place for anglers who want to catch large fish , but it's definately the place for those who want lots of fish and loads of fun with dry flies.

     Twenty years ago , the river's trout fed on an aquatic base of stoneflies and caddis, along with a wonderful terrestrial buffet typical  of semi-arid enviroment. Today, this includes mayflies such as Beatis, PMD's,Red Quill, and Green Drakes. Cleaner water has certainly helped mayfly populations to soar, but big bugs and caddis are still the trout's favorite fare.

One of the finest attributes about the Arkansas is it's accessability. More than 50 per cent of it is public , and most of it is well marked along major highways, with parking available at state park day-use areas.

    The stretch that is south of Leadville stating at the highway 24 bridge marks the beginning of over 5 miles of newest public access, called the Hayde ranch. By the time the river reaches Salida, it levels out and becomes a meandering ,classic Rocky Mountain river with wide gravel bars, boulder fields, and deep runs accented with shallow pools and backwater eddies.For the next 50 milkes U.S. hHighway 50 shadows the river and provides the popular recreational access. Three fly/lure sections near Salida-Big Bend,Smith Lease and an area of downtown Salida -offer about 15 miles of special-regulation water with lower kill limits.

From Salida to Texas Creek, you can find easy access wonderful habitat and great fish populations.  From Texas Creek to Canon City , the river drops gradually to the foothills. This stretch includes the Royal Gorge , which holds some nice fish , but is extremely difficult to navigate because of it's rapids and plunge pools.

    Inflatable boats are best if you want to float this river, although not advised if flows are above 1000 cfs. Even if you use a boat , the best way to fish this river is to wade it , but again be careful with flows over 1000 cfs. Floow reports are available from www.royalgorgeanglers.com  .

The Arkansas is not an early morning river. It is best fished from 10am until 2 pm and then again from 5 pm to dark.  The best bet for big browns is in the evening and later when they come out to feed.

     The most commonly recommended gear to fish this river with is a 9ft 5 wt with a weight forward floating ling, a 7 1/2 to 9 ft leader with 4x-5x tippets.

    Some recommended flies: stonefly nymphs-  Larry kingreys Arkansas rubber leg stone

     Spent Partridge caddis #16

     Elk Hair Caddis   #14    with a peacock body

      Orange Stimulator #10

     Bead Head Prince #12

As far as camping/RV sites members are recommending the Salida East Campground at Mile Post 224 on Highway 50.

     If there are any other questions or you have some recommendations for lodging and camping that i missed let me know at trips@flyfisherscolorado.com.