Shop Manager Michael Atwood with a rare Arkansas River Giant. This CutBow was caught while floating the Arkansas River near Buena Vista last week and proves that big fish do indeed live in the upper stretches of this river.
Date: 09/04/2022 @ 12:00 PM
Arkansas River Flows
Leadville (Empire Gulch): 35.7 cfs
Browns Canyon/Nathrop: 335 cfs
Wellsville: 378 cfs
Twin Lakes Release: 17.9 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.
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 #18, Frenchie #16, Beatis perdigon natural #16-18, Weiss Beatis perdigon olive #16-18. Any slim bodied perdigon style nymph with a tungsten bead in copper or silver has been a good bet fished under a large terrestrial pattern.
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. With streamers, it can be a good bet to start big with an articulated pattern that will turn heads, and size down as needed. A great rig for hooking up with aggressive fish that may not fully commit to a larger streamer is a double bugger rig. A black bugger to a Thing Mint style bugger is a staff favorite. This rig may not turn as many heads as your Sex Dungeon might, but seems to hook and land more fish.
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. The window for this type of fishing is quickly closing, so enjoy the last couple weeks of alpine fishing before it's cold and snowy.
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. Recently, afternoon storms have settled down. This makes planning a trip easier; however dry weather means that water in the river will be warmer and flows will be lower.
With the dropping flows, trout are able to occupy more areas of the river, which means more opportunities and options for the wade fisherman. As we get into more of a fall pattern, the cooler nights will fire up fish in the mornings and evenings, but warmer temps during the day may halt feeding activity. During these tougher windows, slimming up your profile with a small perdigon or baetis pattern and shifting your focus to the faster-moving, oxygenated water can be a day-saving technique.
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. Double dry flies in the mornings and evenings during a hatch window can be fun. A larger terrestrial or stimulator fished in tandem with a smaller dry fly like and elk hair caddis or Adams style mayfly can pick off those surface-eaters. most success has been on slim droppers.
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. Covering lots of water here will increase your odds at catching a trophy. Recent sources have confirmed that the seasonal fall run of fish into the system is starting up. Cover water in search of Kokanee Salmon and large, lake-run brown trout. When targeting Kokanee out of the lakes, anything in red seems to get a good bit of attention. Worms, Eggs, and small but flashy red patterns fire up these salmon. Big brown trout running into the system are pre-spawn and will be looking for big meals before doing their fall spawning ritual. Streamers and hoppers are often a good bet when targeting these migratory predators. As we move further into fall, keep an eye out for fish on exposed sections of gravel (Redds). These fish are spawning, and should be left alone in order to ensure good populations of fish for years to come.
Antero, Spinney, and Eleven-mile Reservoirs are fishing decent for the experienced stillwater angler. With recent warmer weather, fish in these lakes are settled into their typical summer behaviors and are often suspended on submerged weed beds, cruising and eating a diverse selection of 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. The primary insects we tend to see fish key into on these stillwaters are Chironomids, Damselflies, and Callibaetis mayflies. As we move into the colder months of fall, damsels and mayflies will start to diminish with chironomids, leeches, and crawfish becoming the main source of forage as fish prepare for the cold of winter.
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; however, fishing a large chubby Chernobyl as an indicator this time of year is a great way of giving the fish options. Although they aren't always willing to slurp surface flies, hoppers are very present in south park and catching big lake fish on these types of flies is always a possibility. 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 still in great condition and fishing well. 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. Many fish are starting to hunker down for the winter, or at least move deep to colder water and shelter, however there are still plenty of willing fish cruising shallow and looking up. 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. All of this being said, the conditions currently in the high country should last for the next couple weeks for those willing to send it. At this point we could see snowfall at any of these lakes above 11-12,000 feet, but haven't yet... Get out there now before it's too late and you'll likely stumble across some of the best dry fly fishing of the year.