May 06, 2016
Thursday 5/5, 2016
Flow at Wellsville: 340 cfs
Water Temp.: high 40s-50s
Clarity: Potential discoloration in waves
*Private Water Rod-Fee Fishing is now available on our private water in the Wellsville area. Cost is $80/person, full day.
*We have some pretty amazing shoreline trips going on at Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Large hungry fish working the edges for leeches, scuds and small chironomids. Priced like our normal wade trips on the Arkansas, we can meet you at the lake! Call 719-539-4223 for details.
Thursday Update - Braden Baker/Greg Felt
We will see a bubble of off-colored water move through the river today, from low and mid-elevation snow melt up north near Leadville. It hit Hayden Meadows at 2-3am, Buena Vista around 7am, and may hit Salida around noon. This may be a one-time slug of discoloration, or we may see it again tomorrow. Fishing conditions outside of that bubble should be good, so it may pay to move around a bit to avoid the dirt. We'll keep the report updated as we have information come in. Highs will be in the 70s today, and will be in the 70s til the weekend. Yesterday, float and wade trips returned with reports of many different types of active insects and rising fish during the afternoon. The blue winged olive mayflies took center stage from 12:00-3:00 (with some mayflies hatching even earlier in the morning), drawing fish into softer edges and bubble lines as they sipped emerging insects, and craneflies and caddis flies filled in the periphery in the pocket water, drawing aggressive strikes from fish during lulls in the mayfly activity. It seems that Wellsville marks the center of the caddis activity to this point, but strong hatches were observed down near Cotopaxi and below, and as high up as Big Bend. The warming water temperatures may prompt the caddis to move rapidly upstream over the next few days. By the weekend, we should see even more fish oriented toward the surface, taking realistic imitations of these three main hatches, but also moving on attractor flies late in the day.
*Caddis activity has been strongest from Howard to Salida when the weather is warm. Fish are starting to key well onto the adult bugs, though anglers need to discern when the adults are actually available to the fish and when there are just a lot of bugs in the air. Afternoon action on larvae/pupae has been good as has the continuing blue wing olive mayfly activity. Cranefly adults are on the water as well, particularly late morning, so keep your eyes open to realize what fish are actually looking for.
Nymphing with golden stones, caddis larva and pupa during non-hatch times ought to produce fish as well, particularly in the lower canyon. The fish seem to be dispersed across a broader range of water types at thos point in the spring. The dispersion of the fish population also means that the river is excellent for floating, with flows currently a little under 400 cfs. Historically, cloudy days are when one might expect the most mayflies to emerge, but we've seen a surprising number of clear days with bugs on the water and fish feeding actively on the surface. We are also seeing strong returns while nymphing golden stones, midges and caddis larvae/pupa, all of which suggests active fish seem to be fairly opportunistic in their feeding preferences in non-hatch periods of the day. Brown trout have dispersed throughout the river corridor and can be found in one-fish structure anytime there is food on the current.
Big Picture - Week of 5/1/16
Despite some inclement weather, the Arkansas River had a productive last week of April with baetis mayflies, brachycentrus caddis flies, and craneflies all emerging and bringing fish to the surface. And while the first few days of this week look to be similarly cool, the twelve days starting with Tuesday (5/3) are forecast to produce highs in the 60s and 70s.This shift back to warming weather should reignite the caddis hatch, which stalled on cooler temperatures about a week ago. If the forecast holds, we anticipate active caddis over a large area of Bighorn Sheep Canyon and beyond, perhaps reaching from Texas Creek clear upstream to the Big Bend.
In addition to afternoon caddis activity in Bighorn Sheep Canyon, expect morning emergences of craneflies and afternoon hatches of blue wing olive mayflies. It should be noted, the mayflies are actually active nearly riverwide from Texas Creek upstream to Granite. Key to distinguishing which bugs are actually feeding the fish at a given time is the riseform of the fish and an honest assessment about what is really available to them. When feeding on blue wing olives, trout will feed rather delicately on the adults, just poking their nose above the surface, and will present a porpoising back and tail when feeding on emergers. Drifting nymphs will generate good “flash” up in the riffles. The craneflies draw a very splashy rise in the mornings, as do the caddis in the afternoons and evenings. Watching the surface of the water and or seining/checking stomachs is key as well to determining the focus of fish. The fact that the air is alive with caddis adults does not necessarily mean that those bugs are actually available to the fish. One needs to keep this always in mind – it’s easy to succumb to appearances and then go about one’s day fishing under false pretenses!
With the cool weather and the high elevation of our snowpack, we do not anticipate the onset of runoff until after the weekend of 5/21. We could have some short-lived mid-elevation melt events in the wake of the recent storms, but the true runoff is probably still three weeks away. This leaves anglers with a lot of quality water and three hatches that are enhancing it!
Spring Fly-Fishing 101 Dates for 2016: 5/8 (Sunday), 5/21, & 6/4.
SALE items in Salida as of 4/11/16:
Redington Palix Wading Boot (felt) - Retail: $89.99 / Sale: $65
2015 Women's WIllow River Waders - Retail: $149.95 / Sale: $99
Call 719-539-3474 or stop by the Salida shop to check sale prices and inventories.
Salida Shop: 7500 W. Highway 50, 719-539-4223 / Open Monday-Saturday 8:00-6:00, Sunday 8:00-5:00.
Buena Vista Shop: 517 S. Highway 24 719-395-1796 / Open Tuesday-Saturday 8:30-5:30, 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: 304 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: 351 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 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!