Ark Anglers




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Fishing Conditions

Upper Basin: Leadville to Buena Vista

Mar 20, 2019

Tuesday 3/19, 2019

Flow in Hayden Meadows: ~90 cfs and Snowy

Flow at Granite: 590 cfs

Water Temp.: 30s - low 40s

Clarity: Stained green, several feet of visibility


(Scroll down for New Year Sale info)


Spring Rowing School: March 27-31

Spring 101 Fly Fishing Class Dates: March 23, April 13, April 27, May 11, June 1

Call 719-539-4223 or email with questions or to make your reservation.


Tuesday Report - Braden Baker


Following increased project water releases from Twin Lakes to Pueblo Reservoir, we're now looking at flows over 700 cfs below Salida.  This movement of water during the winter and spring is being made in an attempt to protect the fishery during the critical months of spring, when brown trout fry emerge from the redds, several key hatches occur, and our resident trout are able to feed in preparation for the high water season of summer.  Rather than purge Twin Lakes and Turquoise Reservoir later in the spring to make room for incoming runoff and imported water, endangering that critical spring season with higher flows and over-stressing the fish, water managers move a small amount of water throughout the winter and spring to prepare for the eventual snowmelt.  With target flows for the river during the spring being between 250-400 cfs (which is the ideal flow range for the health of the local brown trout population and coincidentally ideal for spring hatches of mayflies, caddis, etc.), the gradual release will help ensure that our brown trout fry are able to get safely established, that the critical spring hatches are successful and available to the fish, and that Arkansas River trout are in peak condition heading into the stresses of runoff and summer flows.  


The upper river from Leadville to Buena Vista is starting to thaw a bit, leaving intrepid anglers with considerably more water to the north.  There are still icy areas in regions that don't get much sun, but the warmer weather has gone a long way to open up much of the upper basin.  Above the Lake Creek confluence, the river is still extremely icy and you'll find considerable snow on the ground.  Below Lake Creek, the river is clear of ice.   Wherever you go, expect fish to be congregated in the slower, deeper, consistent currents of winter pools/runs, and most active during the warmest, sunniest times of day.  Productivity will likely drop off sharply if you fish in the shade.   Strikes are very subtle!  Midges are typically the most common food, but fish will respond to caddis larva and stonefly/attractor nymphs, as well.  


Salida Spring Sale Items

(Discontinued or previous years models):


Simms Waders ~40% off!

Men’s Freestone Stockingfoot Wader – Retail: $249.95, Sale: $150

Men’s Freestone Pant Wader – Retail: $229.95, Sale: $140


Simms Boots ~40% off!

Men’s Freestone Felt and Vibram Boots – Retail: $149.95, Sale: $90

Rock Creek Felt Boots – Retail: $99.95, Sale: $60


Sale also includes:

Discontinued rods from Sage, Scott, Orvis, and Redington

Discontinued reels from Ross and Sage

Discontinued fly Lines from Rio and Scientific Anglers

(Call 719-539-3474 for specific pricing and sizes.)


Call 719-539-4223 or email with questions or to make your reservation. 


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, 9:00-5:00.  


Location Information

Hayden Meadows

Hayden Meadows comprises about eight miles of river flowing through high meadow country south of Leadville. Located upstream of the confluence with Lake Creek, Hayden Meadows is spared the impact of the native and imported water that is released through the summer from Twin Lakes. As a result, peak flows on this section of the river are typically only about a third of what we see in Salida and the native runoff is relatively short-lived. Characterized by meandering oxbows, grassy cut banks, and phenomenal views of Mt. Elbert and the Mount Massive Wilderness, Hayden Meadows is a high elevation summer fishery that is home to excellent hatches and some very healthy brown trout.

Special Regulations Apply – Artificial flies and lures only. Limit is one trout, 12 inches or less.

Granite State Wildlife Area

As one travels downstream, the slower current velocity and grassy banks of Hayden Meadows are left behind for the bouldered pocket water of the Granite Gorge. Here one exchanges the cobblestone bars and shelf lines for a riverbed strewn with rocks of every size, creating rapids and eddies, shoreline pockets and deep plunge pools. Set astride the upper end of this canyon, from the Lake County line downstream to 1.5 miles below the Granite Bridge, the Granite State Wildlife Area provides public access above and beyond that afforded by the San Isabel National Forest. Most anglers do not wade far into this swifter, steeper current but rather rock-hop along the bank, working the shoreline habitat and seamlines where the predominant brown trout population primarily resides.

Tunnels Access

Upstream of Buena Vista, along the east side of the river, County Road 371 provides areas of public fishing access to the Arkansas. In particular, the “Tunnel Section”, where the road passes through several tunnels left over from the Midland Railroad line, provides a significant reach of water with good shoreline access. Though not as steep as the Granite Gorge, the Tunnels and the section of river accessed near the Railroad Bridge campground upstream contain swift moving pocket water and some deep green runs where rapids plunge into pools. As above, most anglers on this section of the river keep to the edges, where many of the river’s brown trout reside outside of the faster water.

Town of Buena Vista

There is a significant segment of public river access above and below the Buena Vista whitewater park and boat ramp, out at the east end of Main Street. There is parking and restrooms at the top of the boat ramp. The source for fly-fishing equipment and information in Buena Vista is the ArkAnglers shop, located at 517 S. Highway 24 (719-395-1796).

Crystal Lakes

The Crystal Lakes are located on the west side of US 24 about six miles south of Leadville, a few miles north of where Highway 24 crosses over the Arkansas River and the railroad. The lakes adjoin the Reddy State Wildlife Area on the Arkansas River at the upstream end of public access to the Hayden Meadows area. The Crystal Lakes are considered mid-elevation lakes, fed by springs and a tributary stream, and typically ice-off in mid-May. Rich in midges and mayflies, the lake is home to both a healthy resident trout population and regularly stocked rainbows. A good alternative when high flows muddy even the uppermost end of the river, the Crystal Lakes has a good damselfly hatch in June.

Halfmoon Creek

Though its flows are mostly diverted to Forebay and Twin Lakes, and hence, rarely impact the quantity or quality of water in the Arkansas River, Halfmoon Creek is of interest as a tributary fishery to the Arkansas River and, because it has a USGS flow gauge on it, as a representative upper basin tributary for purposes of comparison. By reviewing flows on Halfmoon Creek, one can get a fair idea what similar tributary streams that arise from the northern Sawatch range are doing, in terms of percent of average flow and degree of daily fluctuation due to snowmelt. Draining the extensive valley between Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive and bordering on the Mt. Massive Wilderness, Halfmoon Creek is also a summer fishing destination in its own right with two campgrounds and access by trail and primitive road.

Lake Creek Below Dam

This is a short, steep reach of stream that flows through private land from Twin Lakes to the mainstem of the Arkansas River below Hayden Meadows. Unimportant as a fishery, the flows discharging from Twin Lakes have a pronounced effect on the river, often doubling or tripling the flow in the upper Arkansas at its confluence. This disproportionate impact is seen in the winter, when the Bureau of Reclamation moves water downstream to make room for both native and imported runoff, and during the summer, when “pass through runoff” in June, and water for recreational flow augmentation in July and August, are released into the mainstem of the Arkansas River.

Current Flow rate: 502 cfs

Clear Creek Below Dam

Even shorter than the outflow from Twin Lakes, Clear Creek Reservoir basically empties directly into the Arkansas River 3-4 miles downstream of Granite. And though impacting the flows on the Arkansas far less than Lake Creek, the reservoir is still capable of releasing an additional 350 cfs into the river. This release can create a short-lived “tailwater effect” below the confluence, adding clear water to the murky Arkansas during runoff.

Current Flow rate: 12 cfs

South Fork Cottonwood Creek

The several forks of Cottonwood Creek drain a large area of the middle Sawatch Range, including the southern part of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Among the different branches, South Cottonwood Creek probably offers the most for the fly-fisherman, with a gentler gradient and more beaver ponds than the other forks. There are also two USFS campgrounds and plenty of primitive camping in this basin. Additionally, Cottonwood Lake, an impoundment about four miles up the creek from the confluence with the Middle Fork, has a nice population of resident fish and is regularly stocked by Parks and Wildlife. The lake is well-suited to fishing from a float-tube, canoe, or kayak and there is a boat ramp adjacent to where the creek flows in to the west end of the lake.

Current Flow rate: 16 cfs

Ptarmigan Lake

Just east of Jones Mountain on the Gladstone Ridge separating the Middle and South Forks of Cottonwood Creek, Ptarmigan Lake (about 12,000 ft) provides intrepid hikers with some exercise, spectacular scenery, and the chance at some significant high elevation cutthroats. With trails accessing it from both the north and south, Ptarmigan gets a fair bit of mid-summer traffic. But for those able to hit it soon after ice-out, usually near the end of June, the lake provides some memorable days of fishing. Ptarmigan is also a good indicator lake – conditions there are generally reflective of other lakes of similar elevation in the middle Sawatch Range.