Teva doing some sight fishing for us in the Nature Center

Teva and I met up with Frank on the Arkansas River this week and we are happy to report it fished well!  The Arkansas River tailwater below Pueblo Reservoir is quickly becoming one of the most popular tailwaters for winter fly fishing.  From Denver, it’s an easy drive South on 1-25 and the winter temps are usually pretty mild.

Frank Smethurst releasing a nice rainbow

The Arkansas River below Pueblo fishes well anywhere from Pueblo Reservoir Dam to just below Pueblo Blvd. One of  the most popular section is the Nature Center that can be accessed at Pueblo Blvd and 11th Street.  In this section, several river improvements have been placed in the river to create better trout habitat.

Something For Everyone on the Arkansas RiverTailwater

One of the things most appealing about the Arkansas River tailwater is that it offers something for every angling skill level and preferred method of fly fishing.  If  your are new to fly fishing and just want to catch fish, nymph any of the deep spots around bridges from the nature center all the way to the dam.  Stocked trout in the 10-12″ range will keep the rod bent all day.  If you enjoy the challenge of hunting big fish, you have to really find the less obvious, off the beaten path spots.  Look for depressions and divits in otherwise featureless water and this is where a lot of big fish can be found.

 

This one didn’t come easy but persistence does pay off!

 

The  great thing about the Arkansas  River below Pueblo is that you can almost always catch fish all three ways (dries, nymphs & streamers) year round.

Dry Fly Fishing

If you want to fish dries, you don’t have to look far to find pods of fish rising to midges and small BWO’s all winter.  Surprisingly, these fish can often be difficult to catch on the surface.  Light tippet, long leaders, delicate casts, small flies and perfect drifts are essential to fool these fish (even the small ones) on the surface.  Make one bad cast, and you can very quickly put a pod of rising fish down in seconds.

  • Rod: 8-9′ medium action 4wt
  • Flies: #20-24 Parachute Adams, #24 Sproute Midge (black, Cream), #22 CDC Comparudun, #24 Matt’s Midge, #22-24 Morgan’s Para Midge
  • Leader/Tippet/Floatant: 9-11′ 6x Leaders, 6X-7X monofilament Tippet, Dry Shake, Frog’s Fanny, or Dry Magic (NO GEL FLOATANT it makes small dries float incorrectly).

Nymphing

In the winter when flows are low and water is clear, we resort to light weight, small indicators and long leaders.  Generally, the fish are going to be backed up in the tailout of runs and slow moving pools through the winter. Instead of trying to drive the flies to the bottom with a pile of weight, we use a long leader and make a long cast above the spots we are looking for fish to hold.  This gives the flies time to sink down naturally into the areas fish are holding.  In these slow pools and tailouts the bite is often very light so we use sensitive indicators like yarn and pinch on indicators.

  • Rod: 8-9′ medium action 4wt
  • Flies: 6mm Troutbeads, #14 Pink Flossy worms, #22-24 Black Sparkle Wing RS2, #20-24 Landon Meyer Tailwater Midges, #18 Olive/Orange Hotspot Scuds, #16-18 No Bead Prince Nymphs
  • Leader/Tippet/Weight/Indicators: 9′ 4x-5x, 4X-6X Flourocarbon Tippet, #6-#1 Dinsmore split shot, Pinch on or Yarn Indicators (no thing-a-ma-bobbers).

Streamers Fishing

Slow stripping a leech pattern or small bugger through deep holes will produce fish.  In stocker spots, streamers also do a good job of weeding out the smaller fish and finding the bigger fish.

  • Rod: 9′ Fast Action 5-6wt
  • Flies: Slumpbusters in all sizes and colors, #8-12 Pine Squirrel leech, #8-10 Crawdizzle, #8-12 Bread and Butter Bugger
  • Leader/Tippet/ Tips: 9-11′ ft 2x-3x leaders if you are using a floating line. If you are using tips, we recommend a 7′ Versi leader with a sink rate to mach the water speed.  At the end of the tip, run 3-4ft of level 2x tippet.

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