May 21, 2013
Tuesday 5/21, 2013
Flow at Buena Vista: 602 cfs
Water Temp.: 46
Clarity: Clear but tinted
*Flows have dropped considerably today and one can see the bottom off of Fisherman's Bridge and the foot bridge in Buena Vista. Today and tomorrow should have some of the best conditions on the Arkansas until after the runoff.
Friday 5/17 Update - Stuart Andrews
Great fishing is to be had on the upper reaches of the Arkansas this weekend! It is finally Spring on the river above Browns Canyon all the way to Leadville, and with it comes the snowmelt. With flows on the upper Ark taking a big jump in the past few days, we are seeing a significant scouring of debris from this winter and last year. The result is off color water and slightly lower water temps that will direct the trout to the edge water and newly submerged structure. With cooler weather forecast for the weekend, we should see the waterclarity stabilize and hungry fish take advantage.
Yesterday, I visited Ruby Mtn, where visibility was about 18" and the fish were tight to the bank. Sporadic caddis were active trout are looking up for their food, so a dry/dropper will work well in those tight seams. At the Buena Vista river park, clarity was about the same, but there was little sign that the caddis had hatched in good numbers yet. Here, a caddis larva/ Blue Wing emerger nymph rig was more productive when cast along the shoreline.
The further upstream I traveled, the better the clarity, especially above Pine Creek, Clear Creek and the tributaries around the Twin Lakes outlet. With flows almost doubling in the past few days, the Ark in the Granite to Hayden Meadows reach is experiencing the normal rise and fall in clarity we expect from runoff. Water clearing will be best in the afternoons, after the surge in snowmelt has passed for the day. Up here, it is barely spring and nymphing combos of stonefly/ mayfly or midge patterns will yield best results in the mornings. Afternoons, look for BWO mayfly activity to provide dryfly opportunities as the water clarity improves.
Our mid-elevation lakes like Crystal, Hayden Meadows, Clear Creek, Cottonwood, Chalk, and Wrights are all ice free and fishing well on midges and shrimp imitations. Small black or red BH midge patterns suspended under a Parachute Adams is a good early season setup for these waters.
With the heavy April snowfalls, the high lakes above 10,500' look to iced up until mid to late June.
Over in South Park, shoreline fishing at Antero has been very good using scud, leech and egg patterns. Great news that the reservoir will not be closed this Summer and all boats are allowed. Spinney, on the other hand is very low and refilling, so the action for bank anglers and hand-launched craft ( no trailered boats!) has been very spotty, so far. With water being held back in Spinney, flows on the Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area (Dream Stream) are very low and fishing there has been poor the past few weeks.
For up to date info on fly patterns and conditions, to book a trip with one of our experienced guides, or advice on that new rod you'd like, give us a call at 719-539-4223 in Salida or 719-395-1796 in Buena Vista.
ArkAnglers Buena Vista is open 8-6 Monday-Saturday, 8-3 on Sunday.
Fisherman’s Bridge is both a physical bridge over the Arkansas River (County Road 301 below Johnson Village) and the name of a state park launch point adjacent to that bridge that is the primary launch point for Browns Canyon. There is little public fishing access at the state park site but the view from the bridge offers a good look at water conditions on the upper river. Those wanting to launch heavy fishing craft for the trip through Browns Canyon may be better served by driving just north on 301 from the state park site and then taking a right on CR 300 to the Ruby Mountain site, which has an actual ramp to the water.
Browns Canyon is a fault-block formation that threads the Arkansas through a ten mile wilderness of granitic boulders and old ponderosa pines. Known as the most popular whitewater run in Colorado, it remains, in spite of that, an outstanding fishery for those willing to hike its shores or boat its rapids. Best accessed by wade anglers at the Hecla Junction state park site (County Road 194, campground and launch facilities), one can work upstream over some high bluffs and back to the river, or cross the river to the east side and hike along the railroad grade (500 cfs is probably the upper end for wading across the river at Hecla). From Hecla, there are about 8 miles of public water upstream that hold both browns and rainbows, fishing well from April into October. For more accomplished float anglers, the trip from Ruby Mt (8 miles) or Johnson Village (14 miles) offers healthy fish and bug populations, few fishermen, and about a dozen Class III rapids. Hecla Junction can also serve as a launch point for a float trip downstream toward the Big Bend and Salida. Two significant rapids about a mile downstream make this an ill-advised trip at flows above 1000 cfs.
Current Flow rate: 598 cfs
The Big Bend of the Arkansas, several miles north of Poncha Springs, is noteworthy as a landmark and as a launch point/river access. Geographically, the Big Bend is where the Arkansas River rotates its access from north-south upstream to east-west as one continues downstream. This has repercussions for the amount of sun on the water, particularly in the winter when the upstream canyons get a short window of sunlight through the middle of each day. Located just off US 285 on County Road 163, the Big Bend state park access includes a boat ramp and restrooms. It is a good take-out for trips coming down from Browns Canyon or as a put-in for a half-day float to Salida East or a full day to Rincon. Unfortunately, since the boat ramp is located on a side-channel of the Arkansas, one has to drag the boat over some shoals to get into the main channel at flows below 500 cfs or so.
The Big Bend is also the upstream approach to the many State Wildlife Areas and fishing easements held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife upstream of Salida. Following CR 163 and 160 downstream, one will pass many well-marked parking areas for wade fishing access to this gentle section of the Arkansas.
There is considerable public access above and below Salida, as well as along the railroad tracks on the north side of the river through town. There is also a municipal boat ramp downtown at the Salida Whitewater Park. The Arkansas River through Salida is probably the best shaded segment on the entire river, making it a nice place to fish in the summer. It also has a lot of good structure as the size of the rocks in the channel varies quite a bit. From the Parks and Wildlife fish hatchery upstream of the Highway 291 bridge down to the wastewater treatment facility at the downstream edge of town, there is about four miles of river with good access on the north side. The source for fly-fishing equipment and information in Salida is the ArkAnglers store at 7500 W. Highway 50 (719-539-4223).
Current Flow rate: 643 cfs
Chalk Creek consolidates tributaries from the major westerly drainage between Mt. Princeton and Mt. Antero before joining the Arkansas just below Ruby Mountain. Generally having little impact on the volume of water in the river, heavy summer rains on the namesake Chalk Cliffs on the south flank of Mt. Princeton can turn the creek a milky white, impacting visibility throughout the river corridor as the murky water moves downstream. (Fortunately, this only happens a few days a year.) Of greater import is the fishing in the drainage itself, with a fair bit of public water and several campgrounds along County Road 162 west of the Forest Service boundary. Further upstream, beyond the confluence of the North Fork with the mainstem at St. Elmo, trout of greater size are found in the creek, and the tributary Pomeroy, Grizzly, and Hancock Lakes.
Current Flow rate: 69 cfs
Located just off the stream channel in lower Chalk Creek canyon, Chalk and Wrights Lakes are put-and-take fisheries that are ideal for beginning fly anglers, children or anyone who wants to catch some fish when river conditions are unfishable. Chalk Lake is just west of the San Isabel National Forest boundary on County Road 162 and has a USFS campground adjacent to it. Wrights Lake is a State Wildlife Area on County Road 289 just a little west of the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.
Far up the Chalk Creek drainage, beyond St. Elmo, Pomeroy Gulch drains the twin Pomeroy Lakes from about 12,000 feet in elevation. The road up is crummy and definitely requires 4WD, but one can drive as far as comfort allows and then hike the rest of the way, or, alternatively, take an ATV. Like Ptarmigan Lake to the north, these lakes are above treeline and provide unparalleled views, frequent sightings of alpine wildlife, and the chance for some surprisingly large fish. Often iced over until Fourth of July, Pomeroy Lakes are a great late summer or early fall destination for the angler willing to do some high elevation hiking.
Browns Creek is another western tributary of the Arkansas River, emptying the drainage between Mt. Antero and Mt. Shavano and joining the Arkansas in Browns Canyon, between Pinball and Zoom Flume rapids. Mostly diverted for hayfield irrigation, Browns Creek does not have a major impact on river flows. And though it flows through private land on the valley floor, upstream where it flows through the National Forest, the creek offers 7-8 miles of subalpine trout habitat above the trailhead parking on County Road 272.
Along the eastern flank of Monarch Pass and to the north of US Highway 50, several glacial lakes stand at elevations of about 11,000 ft. Often among the first of the higher lakes to ice off, each of these is reached by a short steep trail from Highway 50 (45-60 minute walk). Waterdog Lakes are the southernmost, three in number, along with a few shallow tarns. Grass Lake lies in the middle, a small but relatively deep lake with an excellent cutthroat population, and is probably best approached from a float tube. Boss Lake is a natural pool that was enlarged with a dam long ago. It has a vibrant population of Greenback Cutthroat hybrids.
Special Regulations Apply – Artificial flies and lures only. All cutthroat trout must be returned to water immediately.
The lakes at the upper end of the North Fork of the South Arkansas River have excellent fisheries for those willing to drive the rough, high clearance road up from Maysville (about an hour). North Fork Reservoir is a large impoundment best approached from a small boat or float tube. There is a USFS campground there and it is a good base point for approaching the other lakes. Billings Lake is a shallow lake that is a short walk from the parking spot (10 minutes) and has a healthy population of small cutthroats. Casting is easy around most of the lake as there are few trees and the shoreline is easily negotiated. Island Lake is a thirty minute hike from the trailhead and sits high and to the west of the Reservoir. Island has some truly large cutthroats in its depths and sits in a spectacular cirque right at treeline. The more intrepid can try for Arthur Lake, another deep haunt of large cutthroats, by hiking south on the trail from Island Lake. This is a hike for folks who are in shape and those who go there should be prepared for the full range of alpine weather.
The South Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Arkansas, draining Monarch, Marshall and Poncha Passes. Though the “Little River” flows mostly through private land on the valley floor, its many tributaries offer excellent public access within the San Isabel National Forest. Poncha Creek, and its tributary Silver Creek, flow from the valleys between Poncha and Marshall Passes, providing strong brown trout fisheries with brookies to be found at the higher elevations. Greens, Willow, and Fooses Creeks flow off the north faces of Mt. Ouray, Chipeta and Pahlone. Steep and small, they nevertheless have strong high elevation trout populations in their pools and beaver ponds. The North Fork of the South Arkansas River flows through Maysville from the high country of North Fork Reservoir and Island and Billings Lakes. A swift moving small stream, it is seldom fished but is chock full of aggressive small brook trout.
Current Flow rate: 32 cfs