Jun 24, 2016
Flow in Hayden Meadows: 739 cfs
Flow at Granite: 1390 cfs
Water Temp.: Upper 40s
Clarity: 3 feet - not an issue
Friday Update - Braden Baker/Greg Felt
*The upper river is coming into prime form. Still high and swift, but shoreline habitat is opening up and summer hatches are getting underway. Yellow sallies, caddis and craneflies are all active on the upper river at this time. Anglers should be cautious with this flow, but cherry picking the slow shoreline lanes should produce well this week.
The peak runoff has passed in the Arkansas River basin and flows are now receding on both the tributaries and the mainstem. There is still a considerable amount of snow high in the north end but it is the stuff that sustains summer flows rather than spiking them. As a result, we expect to see flows decline in a gradual way over the next several weeks. As of 6/24, we have 739 cfs in Hayden Meadows, 1390 at Granite, and 2300 in upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon. The river is clear on the upper end and has probably two feet of visibility in Salida. With a slight cooling trend coming on and the southern tributaries expending themselves, it seems likely the flows will drop 50-100 cfs a day going forward. Caution is still advised at these flows, but fish are definitely adopting an opportunistic attitude that will only increase as more edge water habitat opens up. Yellow sallies, caddis and craneflies have all been active in Granite and above, with fish taking up ambush lies against the banks to intercept vulnerable food along the edges.
Spinney Mountain Reservoir is an excellent alternative to the rivers right now. Fish typically average over 18" long, and are feeding on chironomids, callibaetis nymphs, and damselfly nymphs. Float tubes, pontoon boats and power boats definitely give anglers an advantage this time of year when the trout have moved out into deeper water. We are currently offering both float tube and power boat trips on Spinney Reservoir, so feel free to give our shops a call if you have questions about the fishing or would like to book a trip with one of our guides.
With Cottonwood Pass open now, the Taylor River is only an hour from Buena Vista. With flows up in the 300s under the dam, mysis shrimp should be readily available to the trout in the C&R section. Small midge and mayfly larva/pupa and nymphs should be considered as well. We do not guide on the Taylor, but feel free to stop by the BV shop to stock up on fluorocarbon and flies on your way over.
Anglers are encouraged to call our flyshops for updates as conditions are dynamic at this time of year.
Call 719-539-4223 to make reservations.
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.
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: 705 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: 1,800 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: 772 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: 230 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: 93 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.