Ark Anglers

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Fishing Conditions

Lower Basin: Salida to Canon City

Apr 24, 2014

Wednesday 4/23, 2014
Flow at Wellsville: 1070 at 8:00 am
Water Temp.: 44
Clarity: 2 Feet

*Conditions are dynamic on the upper Arkansas River at this time of year. We will endeavor to keep this site updated daily (or hourly). You can call us at 719-539-4223 if you have specific questions that are not addressed in this report.

*Wednesday 4/23 Update 8:00 am

The river in Salida is still very murky this morning and the South Arkansas is kicking in some dirty water just above the stockyard bridge. The upper canyon may clear some later today but the big news is much improved conditions from Browns Canyon on upstream. Peak flows coming down the river should equate with yesterday but be much clearer. I think we are turning the corner upstream. The days ahead should get clearer and clearer.

Tuesday 4/22, 3:30 pm - Greg Felt

Unseasonably warm weather, low elevation snow in the north end of the valley, and an above average snowpack overall have conspired to create some unprecedented April flows on the Arkansas River. With more warm days forecast in the week ahead, we are taking the conditions one day at a time. With that said, tomorrow looks to present a higher flow than today.

For those who want to fish, the best mainstem opportunity is on the upper river in the morning and down toward Buena Vista in the afternoon. When we are dealing with snowmelt, there is a daily "bubble" (corresponding to peak melt the day before) and a daily divot (corresponding to minimum snowmelt the day before). At the flows we have now, the daily divot is in the area from Granite up through Hayden Meadows during the morning and moving down to BV in the later afternoon.

As far as hatches go, the blue wing olive (baetis) mayflies have been prolific until the recent surge in flows. We have had a few reports of caddis at the bottom of Bighorn Sheep Canyon but with the rising, cooling water I would expect that hatch to go into remission until the water rewarms. When fishing in compromised visibility, large nymphs fished along the bottom or into edgewater seams are generally the most effective. Streamers stripped through "dead" water - holding water with no current - can also be effective at this time.

Have someone in your life that you'd like to launch into the great sport of fly-fishing? Our Fly-Fishing 101 class provides a full day of instruction and demonstrations and includes a $100 gift certificate good for retail purchases in our Salida or Buena Vista shop. Cost for the class is $125 and 2014 remaining spring date is 5/17. Call us at 719-539-4223 for more information or to make reservations.

Here is a link to a recent Denver Post article about the condition of the Arkansas River fishery:

Salida Shop 7500 W. Highway 50, 719-539-4223 Open M-Sat 8:00-6:00, Sunday 8:00-5:00.

Buena Vista Shop 517 S. Highway 24 719-395-1796 Open Tuesday- Saturday 9:00-5:00. Closed Sunday-Monday.


Location Information

Stockyard Bridge

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: 1,030 cfs

Wellsville Bridge

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: 1,040 cfs

Badger Creek

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.

Coaldale & Vallie Bridge

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.

Texas Creek

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!