Oct 06, 2015
Sunday 10/4, 2015
Flow at Wellsville: 332 cfs
Water Temp.: 60
Clarity: Clear to green all the way to Parkdale
Sunday Update - Greg Felt
The Arkansas River is in prime fall form now. The Twin Lakes release was recently increased a bit, making the river a bit more navigable and providing a little more cover for fishermen and a little more confidence for the fish. Though we expect some cooler, damper weather over the next few days (i.e. perfect conditions for a strong blue wing olive mayfly emergence), warm days and cool nights have been maintaining some optimal conditions for active fish. There are some important aquatic insect events underway but, as is typical of our brown trout fishery, those are generally more motivational than focal for the fish, driving the trout into mid-speed lanes, broken/structured water, and out under the seam and foam lines. Once in those positions, fish are apt to eat anything plausible, especially if it is presented with a good drift. This includes large attractor dries/hoppers and smaller imitative dries like the venerable black foam caddis, parachute adams, and red quill. If there is a hatch that is generating some selective feeding, it would be the blue wing olive (baetis) mayflies. Thus far, these hatches have been light with localized surface feeding. The weather through Wednesday may generate a bit more cloud cover and induce a stronger emergence - it feels like we are overdue and there are a lot of mature nymphs waiting for the right conditions. During these stronger hatches, fish will become more selective so anglers should be prepared with size 18-22 adult and emerger patterns. This hatch is typically strongest from 1:00 to 4:00 but we have been seeing some active bugs this fall as early as 11:00.
Warm days, cool nights, and an excellent fishery flow continue to characterize this fall as one of the most productive in recent memory. The forecast for the next ten days shows highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s (Salida), and flows should continue in the lower 300 cfs range at Wellsville. Mornings are generating some good midge activity until about 10:00, and afternoons have seen consistent blue wing olive mayfly nymphal drifts on sunny days and stronger, if localized, hatches when there are clouds. We still have hoppers, caddis, red quills…so throwing dries is very effective even when surface feeders are not in evidence. As we move toward the brown trout spawn, streamers should gain in utility as well. Any one fishing dries or nymphs should trail an unweighted BWO emerger in the afternoons (Barr emerger, juju baetis, RS-II, small pheasant tail…) as fish are onto these regardless of the weather from 1:00 – 4:00.
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: 287 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: 338 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!