Aug 24, 2016
Wednesday 8/24, 2016
Flow at Wellsville: 401 cfs
Water Temp.: Low 60s
Clarity: Clear to Coaldale, very dirty from burn scar runoff below that.
Wednesday Report - Greg Felt/Braden Baker
The flow of the Arkansas River through Bighorn Sheep Canyon has receded and the current velocity has dropped dramatically, the summer recreational flow augmentation period now over and the river returning to native flows. While this can be a challenging time to fish in some years, where flows drop but air temperatures remain high, NOAA forecasts below average temperatures for the next two weeks and this should keep water temperatures cool and productive. We may see some precipitation during this time too - we will try to keep this site updated with any water quality issues. As of 8/23, the main concern has been the potential for heavy rain on the burn scar from the Hayden Pass fire. There will be no impacts from this above Coaldale, but the lower river has seen a few days of off-color water. With cell service now strong in Cotopaxi, we encourage anglers coming up Highway 50 to call us at 719-539-4223 if they encounter poor water quality and need an update on conditions upstream. From Vallie Bridge up, water quality on the Arkansas River has had the best summer in years!
We are in that transitional period now between summer and fall fishing, the days still summer-like but the river starting to look more like fall. Current hatches include red quills, blue wing olives, midges, caddis, and some late golden stoneflies. The terrestrial population of hoppers, beetles and ants is also prolific. Dry fly fishing is very good, though in the bright sun of midday fish may move a little deeper off the edges, emphasizing the need for a move to dry-dropper tactics. Early and late, many browns are out in the shallows, holding in ambush lies and very open to attractor dries.
New - Fall Dates for Fly-Fishing 101: 9/3 & 9/17.
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 Monday-Saturday 8:00-6:00, Sunday 8:00-5:00.
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: 246 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: 352 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!