May 18, 2013
Saturday 5/18, 2013
Flow at Wellsville: 925 cfs
Water Temp.: 50
Clarity: Murky: 1 foot visibility
Saturday 5/18 Update - Greg Felt
The Arkansas River entered the initial stages of runoff Thursday, with all tributaries and all mainstem gauges reporting increased flows. Along with the additional water, sediment and shoreline dust from the last year is also making its way downstream. The result is visibility that varies from two feet to nothing, depending on where one stands at what point in the day. Timing is an issue - there is a daily surge to the flow that is an expression of the snowmelt from the day before (or the day before that). As that "bubble" makes its way downstream, conditions get worse. As the corresponding "divot" (an expression of the coldest part of the night and early morning up on the snowfields) makes its way downstream, there is often a moving segment of clearer water as well. One of the keys to fishing during runoff is identifying where the divot is and moving with that through the course of the day. At current flows, there are divots in the morning up in Hayden Meadows and the Granite area. There is also generally stable morning water around Howard/Coaldale as well.
Other tips for fishing in these conditions includes using large nymphs and streamers, particularly patterns with contrast such as prince nymphs, and seeking out water that does not change substantially with changes in flow. Areas with substantial structure or larger eddies will provide stability for fish and interrupt their feeding patterns less than the little shoreline pockets we often target.
It is hard to say whether this rising river will stabilize or continue to deteriorate. Today and tomorrow are slated to be warm, but then we expect some cooling weather and this may well result in a reduction or stabilization in flows. Clearing water would certainly hasten a return of feeding behavior. We will keep this updated. Call us at 719-539-4223 if a more current update is required.
Have a friend or family member who needs a proper start in the sport? Our Fly-Fishing 101 classes continue into summer and combine streamside instruction with classroom time on equipment selection and rigging, aquatic entomology, and a casting clinic. Fee of $125/person includes a $100 gift certificate good for retail purchases in either of our fly shops! New class dates are 5/25, 6/8, and 6/22. Call us at 719-539-4223 or email to email@example.com to sign up.
Salida Shop 7500 W. Highway 50, 719-539-4223 Open M-Sat 8:00-6:00, Sunday 8-5.
Buena Vista Shop 517 S. Highway 24 719-395-1796 Open Tuesday to Saturday 9-5, closed Sunday-Monday.
The Stockyard Bridge, crossing the Arkansas River just downstream of Salida, is the geographical landmark associated with the mouth of Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Crossing the bridge to the north side of the river, one can drive around behind the Stockyards and downstream to the end of the road, progressing on foot along the railroad for as much as 3.5 miles downstream. On the highway side of the river, there is an RV park below the bridge and then public water downstream to the Wellsville Bridge (3.5 miles). The public water begins with the Salida East primitive camping area (BLM). There are restrooms there and a good boat ramp with parking.
Special Regulations Apply – From Stockyard Bridge downstream 7.5 miles to confluence with Badger Creek, artificial flies and lures only, rainbow trout must be returned to the water immediately.
Current Flow rate: 659 cfs
The Wellsville Bridge crosses the Arkansas River with a county road about three miles below Salida East. Just above the bridge, the river begins a two mile passage through private land on both sides. Also above the bridge is a popular parking area for wade anglers, providing access to some excellent water. There are also numerous pullouts along the highway between there and Salida East. By crossing the Wellsville Bridge and continuing downstream on the north side of the river, one will come to the Point Barr area, where primitive BLM camping is allowed.
Current Flow rate: 722 cfs
Five miles below the Wellsville Bridge, Badger Creek feeds the Arkansas River from the north. Though not a major tributary in terms of regular flow, Badger Creek empties a vast drainage north of the river and can flashflood to massive proportions when summer thunderstorms focus their energy in its basin, making it the most frequent culprit in terms of muddy water in the lower canyon. The years of flashflood activity have pushed significant debris out into the river, creating Badger Creek rapid a short distance below the Rincon campground and launch site.
Bighorn Sheep Canyon is really a series of canyons: Salida to Howard; Coaldale to Texas Creek; and Texas Creek to Parkdale. From Howard down through Coaldale, about six miles, the river travels through a more open valley with spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and generally gentler water. There is good public access upstream of the private water above the Vallie Bridge state park site (boat launch and restrooms) and there is another state park site about five miles downstream at Canyon Trading Post. Fishing in this area is excellent due to the slower water and patchwork of private land. With the absence of canyon walls, it gets good sun exposure during the lower light of spring and fall.
The tiny community of Texas Creek is the last in Bighorn Sheep Canyon and sits at the entrance to the lower canyon. There is a bridge across the river at Texas Creek and a boat ramp and parking on the north side. The bridge road continues downstream for half a mile and one can continue downstream from there on foot. From Texas Creek to the Parkdale bridge (14 miles), the river passes through public or railroad land and there is a great diversity in types of water. The upper 5 miles, above Pinnacle Rock, are mostly gentle water with a few small rapids interspersed. As one moves downstream from there, the rapids are more common and significant. This creates a lot of excellent pocket water, particularly for fishing in the spring and fall. The water temperature tends to run high in the summer, making the upper river more productive, and in winter pack-ice build-up can make much of this water difficult or dangerous to access.
Parkdale is the southern terminus of Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the launch point for whitewater trips through the Royal Gorge. There is a boat launch, restrooms, and picnic area at the state parks site there and a fair bit of public water adjacent that fishes well in the spring and fall. Approaching the river from the east, Parkdale is the first spot where US 50 intersects the river. As a result, fishing decisions get made at Parkdale based on the appearance of the river, decisions that may not be supported by conditions upstream. In particular, murky or muddy water at Parkdale does not mean that the river is looking shabby in Salida, or even Coaldale. There are many, many tributaries and arroyos that feed into the Arkansas River – anything they discharge into the river will eventually flow past Parkdale. Cell phones don’t work well west of Parkdale - a call from there to our Salida shop, 719-539-4223, will clarify where murky water may have originated and how far an angler needs to drive in order to get upstream of it!