Arkansas River near Canon City
Flow: 350cfs @ Canon City
Weather: 75 and Sunny
I made it up to the Arkansas this weekend with one of our customers, Gary Cordray. Gary is an Arkansas fanatic and knows the river in and out from Leadville to Buena Vista, so it was nice to head down to a somewhat new river (to me) with someone with experience. I’ve fished the tailwater section below Pueblo Reservoir forever and spent some time in Buena Vista, but never much time in the Canon City area.
The section of the Arkansas in Big Horn Sheep Canyon is absolutely awesome. I found out very quick that the Arkansas is a typical freestone river. Tons of bugs, miles and miles of public access, and best of all, countless fish. There is plenty of river access all the way from Leadville to Buena Vista, including well marked and developed parking areas, small dirt pulloffs, and campgrounds. We saw basically no fishing pressure at all, and never had to fish next to anyone. If you are looking for a bit of solitude and don’t mind a bit of a drive (1 hour and 40 minutes or so from the shop), head to the Arkansas. Additionally, if you like to dry fly fish, get your butt to the Ark.
The river is chock full of fish. Most of the fish we caught were anywhere from 11-15″, but what they lacked in size they made up for numbers and willingness to eat dry flies. To be honest, I feel somewhat spoiled saying the fish were ONLY 15″, who doesn’t love catching fish like that all day?! Every single fish we caught was healthy, colorful, and aggressive. Even the little guys put up a serious tussle!
We caught fish on pretty much everything that we threw at them. We stared the morning nymphing and had success with Prince Nymphs, Chartreuse Copper Johns, and various other caddis nymphs like Graphic Caddis and Guide’s Choice Hares Ears. The right size in the aforementioned flies seemed to be anywhere from a #14-18.
Around 10:30 or so, we noticed a good amount of caddis coming off. Gary also started to see and point out some baetis, PMDs, and midges. There are TONS of bugs on the river right now, and the fish are definitely looking up. We saw at least 6 different hatches throughout the day: PMDs, caddis, baetis, golden stoneflies, midges, and red quills were all on the water at any given time of the day. We both started to throw dries, and we caught fish as soon as we got solid drifts. The combo of the day seemed to be a #14 Yellow or Orange Crystal Stimulator with a #16 Black Puterbaugh Caddis behind it. If you can get your flies into likely water (ie. pocket water, along the banks, and in the shallower riffles), you will be catching fish all day. I really enjoy dry fly fishing but I never seem to do it enough, so Saturday was a real treat. Like I said, if you enjoy dry fly fishing, give the Ark a shot.
After we caught a few fish on dries, we switched back over to nymph rigs and jumped in the car to move around the river and have some lunch. We bounced around a lot and caught quite few fish nymphing from 12-3:30. Epoxy Back Golden Stoneflies, Wired Stones, Soft Hackle PTs, and Barr’s Emerger (both PMD and BWO) caught us a good number of fish. The best setup seemed to be between 4 and 7 feet from the indicator the the weight, 16″ from the weight to a big stonefly, and another 16″ to a smaller dropper like a Soft Hackle or Copper John. The right amount of weight seemed to be either an AB or BB split shot.
We finished our day up exploring a bit around Canon City, and fished right downtown near the Riverwalk. We saw more caddis pouring off, and switched back to dries. Again, Stimulators and Puterbaughs seemed to be on the menu. Keep it simple, make a good cast along the bank and hold on! Make sure to bring your floatant!
If you get a chance, give the Arkansas a shot! There is so much fishable water and so many fish. Go get em!
What you’ll need for the Arkansas:
#14-16 Black/Tan Puterbaugh Caddis
#14-16 Orange/Yellow Crystal Stimulator
#14 Amy’s Ant
#12-16 Dave’s Foam Hopper
#14-16 Soft Hackle PT
#14-18 Copper John (Red, Green, Copper, Black)
#14-18 Guide’s Choice
#14 Wired Stone
#14-16 Epoxy Golden Stone
#12-16 Worms (variety)
7.5ft 4x leader
3x, 4x, 5x tippet
AB & BB Split Shot