Jul 29, 2015
Tuesday 7/28, 2015
Flow at Wellsville: 916 cfs
Water Temp.: 62
Clarity: 4 Feet
Tuesday Update - Greg Felt
Please note new Fly-Fishing 101 Dates Posted Below
(Flows continue to recede, currently below the long-term average for this date. Visibility is good throughout Bighorn Sheep Canyon.)
Bighorn Sheep Canyon is in very good condition and fishable over its entire course today. Yellow sallies, pale morning duns, caddis and midges are all in evidence and fish are taking advantage of surface feeding whenever bugs are present and/or the direct sun is off the water. At times of brighter light, expect fish to move out and down a step, positioning themselves with less vulnerability adjacent to the 700 cfs shoreline that is 1-2 feet beneath the surface. For those willing to dredge a bit, nymphing the bottom anywhere slow lanes present on the surface is a very effective strategy too. Finally, streamer fishing is excellent, particularly for those fishing the shoreline from a boat.
The second half of summer is generating some strong fishing on the Arkansas River. As of 7/28 flows are tracking well with the long term average – 233 cfs in Hayden Meadows, 775 cfs in Browns Canyon, and 916 cfs in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Though there is likelihood of some afternoon showers in the week ahead, the forecasted accumulation is light, leading us to believe that flows will generally continue their slow decline toward fall. Current insect activity includes yellow sally stoneflies, pale morning dun mayflies, caddis, midges and tricos (a very small mayfly). And, as is typical of a freestone river like the Arkansas, there are many other active bugs, both aquatic and terrestrial that can figure into a trout’s diet. As a result, though fish can key onto a bug that is active as a species at a given place and time, most Arkansas River trout spend their feeding hours in an opportunistic frame of mind. Position is more important than pattern – brown trout, in particular, will move through a series of locations during the day corresponding to availability of food, degree of exposure to predation, and water temperature/ambient lighting. A general rule would be to look for them tight to the banks in low light situations and to expect them to be further out and deeper when the sun is fully upon the water. Single or double dries are great early/late or under cloud cover; dry-dropper or nymph rigs may be of more utility in the bright heat of midday.
We will be offering our popular Fly-Fishing 101 class on 8/22, 9/12 and 9/26. This is a full day class combining classroom time, casting clinic and on-river demonstration. Course fee of $125/person includes a $100 gift certificate good for either ArkAnglers Fly Shop. Call or write for information sheet.
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: 898 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: 908 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!