May 19, 2013
Sunday 5/19, 2013
Flow at Granite: 316 cfs
Water Temp.: 45
Clarity: Stained but improving
*Flows have stabilized or are receding on the main stem and tributaries, thanks to a cooling trend. This cool weather should last through Tuesday, with the result being improved conditions from now through Wednesday.
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 the 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.
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.
Current Flow rate: 304 cfs
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.
Current Flow rate: 649 cfs
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.
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).
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.
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.
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: 81 cfs
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: 138 cfs
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: 32 cfs
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.