Arkansas River Fishing Report - May 20 2022
Updated: Jun 16, 2022
Decent Clarity, and bank-full flows in Cottonwood Creek in Buena Vista this morning.
Date: 05/20/22 @ 10:00am
Arkansas River Flows
Leadville: 451 cfs
Browns Canyon/Nathrop: 1530 cfs
Wellsville: 1590 cfs
Twin Lakes Release: 17 cfs
After a 5-day stretch of warm and sunny weather, things are about to change in the Upper Ark valley. The weather forecast shows a high chance of several inches of snow tonight/tomorrow in Buena Vista, with much more expected in the higher elevations. Today, the river is still high and off-color (up nearly 300cfs overnight), making the fishing more challenging. Expect the cooler weather and overcast skies to slow the melt and return clarity to the river. Fishing will likely improve through the weekend and right into next week. If the hydrograph stabilizes over the weekend (it should), we expect the streamer bite to be very good! When conditions are good, our staff has had good action fishing streamers from a boat, or using a large/attractor style dry-dropper rig. We are seeing some fish come up to the attractor dries, but they aren't exactly devouring those patterns yet. Focus most of your fishing effort close to the banks where water velocity is slower.
A good approach in runoff conditions is to throw larger, flashier patterns such as; Streamers, Golden Stones, Pats, Crane Larva, and any oversized nymph patterns that'll stand out in the off- colored waters. A large attractor dry that can suspend a heavy nymph dropper will likely produce action close to the banks. With higher water like this, fish tend to seek easier lies behind rocks and up shallow on the banks. Streamers are incredibly effective for targeting fish during these transition periods containing constantly changing flows and temps.
In general, the river will fish best on days when the flows have been recently stable. This is also when you will find better water clarity. Trout don't seem to feed as actively immediately following significant changes to flow. If able, try to fish days when the hydrograph has plateaued or stabilized to have better action.
The famous “Mother’s Day caddis hatch" is right on time as well. Currently the hatch is centered around Buena Vista and is continuing to improve. Although we are in the midst of the hatch, the rise in flows has cooled the water and therefore has reduced the caddis activity. In addition to caddis and mayflies, golden stones have been moving around within the river and are always a great bet for a larger, protein-filled trout snack.
Upstream: Anticipate cooler, lower, and somewhat clearer water. Our staff has experienced quality fishing on the upper Ark lately. When flows are up this high, try working a streamer right against the bank, let it sink, then use quick strips or twitch your rod tip to create action away from the bank. Be ready!
Downstream: Expect high, off-colored water. Our float trips have had great fishing action from Buena Vista downstream, mainly focusing on streamer fishing or big bugs that will get trout's attention.
Dream Stream: Fishing on the dream stream is currently somewhat of a challenge. Plenty of quality, resident fish to be caught, but larger lake fish have mostly returned to 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. Recent success has been found using med/large streamer patterns, but you’ll have to work to spot larger fish.
Antero, Spinney, and Eleven-mile Reservoirs are open and fishing pretty well, depending on the conditions. Fish are keyed into weather patterns, and bite windows seem to be concentrated around the mid-morning, early-afternoon time frame when a light chop starts to pick up. The dreaded "W" has been a nuisance for anglers all over the state for the past month or so... when stillwater fishing, it can be daunting to try and fish through these gusty spring conditions. However, those who stick it out will eventually encounter a bite window and have the chance at crossing paths with fish in the two-foot plus range. Balanced Leeches and Chironomids fished in the chop are a good bet. Fish on drop-offs where there is an obvious color change in the water. If this isn't fruitful, take time to search the banks, fish in all of these reservoirs will cruise shallow looking for easy meals. If indicator fishing isn't productive, try stripping larger streamers, leeches, and crawfish patterns for shallow-munchin' monsters. That being said, as these lakes see continued angling pressure and warmer weather, these fish will start to move towards their summer lies. This includes drop-offs (specifically near structure), as well as shallower flats near weed-beds that are home to all their favorite food sources.
Some of the lowest elevation lakes in our area are now open! The vast majority of our quality high lakes will not open up for another few weeks. However, it is never too early to swing by the shop and talk high lakin’!