Arkansas River Fishing Report - August 20 2022
A common sight when floating through Browns Canyon... Gorgeous views, and a bent rod.
Date: 08/20/2022 @ 4:00 pm
Arkansas River Flows
Leadville (Empire Gulch): 116 cfs
Browns Canyon/Nathrop: 467 cfs
Wellsville: 500 cfs
Twin Lakes Release: 108 cfs
Late summer conditions have arrived in the upper Arkansas valley, and has brought lots of sunny and dry afternoons with it. The water temps on the Ark have been regularly reaching the mid-60's in the warm afternoons. In general, we recommend focusing your fishing to the morning and evening hours to have the best success. Remember to land your fish quickly, and return them to the water ASAP when temps are in this range. If temps reach or exceed 68 degrees, we recommend that you stop fishing until the evening hours when things cools off a bit. There are lots of higher altitude options to go out and wet a line in cooler water.
The Voluntary Flow Program has concluded for this year as as Aug. 15th. Since then, the river has dropped by ~300cfs at the Nathrop gauge. While this makes some river sections more technical to raft through, we are still running successful float trips daily. Wade fishing just got a heck of a lot easier, as did locating where fish are holding. Fish any seams, color changes, drop offs or riffles to find some trout. A quality presentation will catch more fish than any specific fly pattern. A huge diffenece maker will be fishing 5x (or smaller) fluorocarbon tippet to any sub-surface fly. Will low flows and clear water, trout are getting a long, hard look at your fly. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible to the trout, and will help you catch more fish.
Hopper-dropper rigs with a Chubby Chernobyl or foam hopper of choice paired with a tungsten nymph have been a great choice for the Ark. Good nymphs have been: CDC pheasant-tail jig (silver bead) #16-18, Pearl Perdigon Jig #16, Spanish Bullet (Olive, Quill), Orange/pink Frenchie Jig #12-14, Try any slim-bodied nymphs with a heavy bead to get to depth.
On cloudier days when conditions are shifting and storms are rolling in/out of the valley, streamers have been a fantastic method for catching fish right now. Whether on foot or boat, black patterns as well as bright yellow and olive patterns fished singly, or in tandem have been moving a silly amount of fish, and catching plenty.
There is nothing we can do about warmer water on the Ark River, except perhaps fish elsewhere. The high-country is a great option for finding secluded fishing and willing fish. High alpine creeks have been providing great dry fly fishing for browns, rainbows, brookies and cutthroats. those willing to make the trek to some of our high lakes in the area will be rewarded with sight-fishing to cruising cutthroat trout. Check out our newest YouTube video covering how to plan and prepare for a trip like this!
Arkansas River Fishing Report:
Now is the time of year when we expect to see more terrestrial (hopper) action on the river, and the Ark River browns are always ready for that. Caddis activity remains consistent in the evenings, look for small flurries. Afternoon thunderstorms have helped keep the temps a little cooler lately, but they can sometimes cause temporary changes to water clarity. Run into dirty water? Time to head upstream until you get above the source, and keep on fishing.
With the dropping flows, trout are able to occupy more areas of the river, which means more opportunities and options for the wade fisherman. Tie on a chubby, with or without a dropper, and work all the breaks in water velocity. Focus a lot of attention to the banks where the water flows slowly, but begin to work other parts of the river where velocity looks like it could hold a trout or two. When the trout are keyed into big dries, it really might be the most exciting conditions on our beautiful river. Typically, evening hatches this time of year are thick to say the least. During these times, matching the hatch is always a good bet; however, throwing a general attractor version of whatever insect is hatching can be a better bet. These types of flies stand out to the fish instead of getting lumped in with the thousands of other bugs hatching.
Leadville Area: Fishing might be slightly more technical up here given that flows are back down and the water has cleared up significantly. This section also tends to get the most pressure from wade anglers. Try using lighter tippets, like 5x or perhaps 6x to increase your chances of hooking up. Walk lightly and keep a low profile, as these fish can spook easily in the smaller river.
Buena Vista Area: Fishing very good right now, particularly in the mornings and evenings.
Salida and Downstream: Fishing very good right now, mornings and evenings are best.
South Platte and South Park:
Dream Stream: Fishing on the dream stream is currently inconsistent but can be good at times. Plenty of quality, resident fish to be caught, but larger lake fish are mostly hanging in the reservoir. Covering water and fishing a combination of larger attractor patterns and small tailwater bugs will be your best bet for finding a trophy fish here as of now. Fishing hoppers on windier days here can be a lot of fun with fish keyed into these larger terrestrials getting pushed from the grasses into the river.
Antero, Spinney, and Eleven-mile Reservoirs are fishing decent for the experienced stillwater angler. With recent warmer weather, fish in these lakes are starting to settle into their typical summer behaviors. July is prime-time for callibaetis mayflies and damselflies. Fish seem to be suspended on submerged weed beds, cruising and eating all of these insects as they leave their vegetative home, and rise through the water column. Using a slip-strike indicator to nymph nice and deep is a good method.
In the morning and evenings, dry fly fishing to cruising fish in the back bays and flats can be an amazing experience. If the fish aren't as willing to look up, static nymph rigs with chironomids in black and green, callibaetis nymphs, and damselfly nymphs fished deep off of the bottom have been successful. In addition to this, on slower, calmer days, these same bugs fished on a slow strip have been a good bet.
High Alpine Lakes and Streams:
The high country is open and in peak condition currently. Recently, some nice Cutties have been caught shallow on standard lake patterns in larger sizes. In addition to this, when the wind was mellow, fish were taken on dry flies (anything from a size 6 Chubby Chernobyl to a size 22 midge adult). Be aware that weather in the high country this time of year can be very volatile, so be prepared for anything. The high alpine lakes around Chaffee County are absolutely there in terms of accessibility and quality fishing. Most of the cutthroat trout seem to have wrapped up their spawning rituals, and are now cruising looking for a meal. Try big fluffy dries like stimulators or elk hair caddis when there is a nice wind-chop on the water. We love to suspend a weighted chironomid 2-6 feet below a large dry if fish are feeding primarily sub-surface. Try much smaller dry patterns, like a Griffith's gnat, when the surface is calm and you can sight fish to rising trout.