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Fishing Conditions

Lower Basin: Salida to Canon City

Feb 17, 2019

Friday 2/15, 2019

Flow at Wellsville: 335 cfs

Water Temp.: High 30s

Clarity: Some ice flows on the coldest mornings.  Clarity has been good upstream of Vallie Bridge, but below Coaldale, conditions are still poor following runoff from the Hayden Pass Fire burnscar.  Considerable shelf ice in the lower basin in shaded regions.


(Scroll down for New Year Sale info)


Spring Rowing School: March 27-31

Spring 101 Fly Fishing Class Dates: March 23, April 13, April 27, May 11, June 1

Call 719-539-4223 or email with questions or to make your reservation.


Friday Report - Braden Baker


Following increased project water releases from Twin Lakes to Pueblo Reservoir, we're now looking at flows around 335 cfs below Salida.  This movement of water during the winter and spring is being made in an attempt to protect the fishery during the critical months of spring, when brown trout fry emerge from the redds, several key hatches occur, and our resident trout are able to feed in preparation for the high water season of summer.  Rather than purge Twin Lakes and Turquoise Reservoir later in the spring to make room for incoming runoff and imported water, endangering that critical spring season with higher flows and over-stressing the fish, water managers move a small amount of water throughout the winter and spring to prepare for the eventual snowmelt.  With target flows for the river during the spring being between 250-400 cfs (which is the ideal flow range for the health of the local brown trout population and coincidentally ideal for spring hatches of mayflies, caddis, etc.), the gradual release will help ensure that our brown trout fry are able to get safely established, that the critical spring hatches are successful and available to the fish, and that Arkansas River trout are in peak condition heading into the stresses of runoff and summer flows.


The high in Salida today should be around 46 degrees, and following several warmer days and nights is flowing slush-free this morning.  We've had great reports from anglers the past couple of days, as the warmth has motivated fish into strong feeding activity.  The best time of day to fish is generally 10am to 3pm, during the warmest and sunniest hours.  Guide trips are reporting excellent mid-day fish feeding activity, primarily on midges, and great luck on larger attractors like stonefly nymphs.  This is the time of year when we begin to encounter molting stonefly nymphs vulnerable in the river, so stonefly nymph patterns become true forage options rather than mere attractors.  We've also had scattered reports of good success on flies imitating both caddis larva and immature baetis nymphs.  This would indicate that the spring behavioral drifts of these insect varieties are underway, and these fly imitations will be increasingly effective as we move towards the hatches of spring.



Fish are congregated together in some of the deeper runs and pools typical of winter.  However, on warmer days fish will move into the shallows to feed on daily insect drifts.  Depth is critical during these months, so cover water thoroughly by adjusting weight and depth.  A slow, methodical approach can pay big dividends.


FYI Salida East is no longer a free access point!  Prepare for day fees as you would the other recreation area sites.


Salida New Year Sale Items at 15-50% off (Discontinued or previous years models):



Freestone Z Wader

Freestone Stockingfoot Wader

Freestone Pant Wader



Freestone Felt and Vibram Boots

Vaportread Rubber Boots

Rock Creek Felt Boots



9’ 4wt. 4pc. Sage Method

9’ 6wt. 4pc. Sage Approach

9’ 4wt. 4pc. Approach Outfit w/ Sage 2230 Reel

9’ 6wt. 4pc. Scott A4

9’ 6wt. 4pc. Redington Path (Past season model)

9’ 5wt. 4pc. Redington Path (Past season model)



Ross Animas: 4/5, 5/6 (Past season model)

Ross Cimarron 2: 3/4, 4/5, 5/6

Ross Rapid 3/4


Fly Lines:

Rio Lines, Fresh and Salt (Past season models)

Scientific Anglers Sharkwave Textured

Scientific Anglers Wavelength Textured



ArkAnglers L/S logo fishing shirts

Orvis Clearwater Vests (Past season model)

Select packs from Simms, Fishpond, and Patagonia (Past season models)




(Call for specific pricing and sizes.)




Salida Shop: 7500 W. Highway 50, 719-539-4223 / Open Monday-Saturday 8:30-5:30, Sunday 8:30-3:00.

Buena Vista Shop: 517 S. Highway 24, 719-395-1796 / Open Thursday-Saturday, 9:00-5:00.


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: 283 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: 322 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 the bridge road continues downstream for half a mile and one can continue downstream from there on foot. Currently, there is no public boat launch site at Texas Creek, though Colorado Parks and Wildlife is trying to negotiate a lease for one with the railroad. 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!