Upper Arkansas River Fly Fishing Report

Last Update 04/19/2017 - The recent warm temps and sun have cleared the upper River nicely and one can find open water all the way up into the tributaries. A recent drop in flows out of Twin Lakes will further add to the great fishing along the Arkansas River Valley. Warming water temps and overcast skies can produce some of the best dry fly fishing of the year and we have been seeing #16 blue winged olive duns on the surface in the afternoon, especially around B.V. and downstream. Regardless of the conditions, starting the day off with a nymph rig consisting of a #10/#12 tung teaser, epoxy back golden or twenty incher followed by a #18/#16 hare’s ear nymph or pheasant tail nymph will keep a bend in your rod. Look for sporadic caddis hatches and egg laying females to start becoming more frequent in the days ahead. Mike Price - Professional Fly Fishing Guide, Trouts Frisco

River Information

The Arkansas River begins it's 1500 mile journey towards the Missisippi right here near the town of Leadville, CO. Ideal for a 3-5 wt rod, this portion of the Arkansas is largely a meadow stream and provides anglers the chance to target rainbow and brown trout in a high altitude, extremely scenic environment. 

Aside from fishing the Arkansas River, there are countless lakes and small streams that offer anglers a variety of places to spend a day. Turquoise lake, Hayden Meadows, Crystal Lakes, Busk Creek, Halfmoon Creek and the East Fork of the Arkansas are just a few of the many nearby waters this area has to offer. Many of these smaller creeks provide the oppurtunity at a "Grand Slam"-- a Rainbow, Brown, Brook and Cutthroat trout all out of the same river in the same day! 

Match the Hatch

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Winter/Spring: Midges, sporadic Baetis

Summer: Caddis, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, PMDs, Terrestrials

Fall: Baetis, Caddis

Seasonal Conditions

Fall fishing can be Hit or Miss on the upper stretches of the Arkansas River. This stretch of river lays between the cities of Buena Vista and Leadville. Due to the elevation in this area and the freestone tendencies of the Arkansas River weather plays a huge factor when fishing this area this time of the year. This can be a great place to escape the crowds during the Fall, if the weather persists.

The Upper Ark has a great trout population, the majority being Brown Trout. In the very upper reaches near Hayden Meadows an occasional Brookie can be found as well as other exotic trout species that wash down from Mount Massive Fishing Club. While very rare, Tiger and Cutthroat Trout have been caught here. There is also a healthy population of Rainbow Trout growing in numbers the closer you get to Buena Vista.

As far as bugs go here it is all going to depend on the weather. On warmer days above 60 degrees there is still the possibility for prolific midge, baetis and even caddis hatches. Terrestrials are also a major Fall food source on this stretch of water. On colder days Midges are going to be the predominant food source, with sporadic BWO hatches mixed in.

Look for the fish to congregate to deeper holding water, plunge pools and riffle drop-offs. Fish will be holding here in numbers this time of the year because they will have less energy to expend chasing food in the cold water. I generally preach to cover water on the Ark during the Summer; in the Fall that isn’t the case. If you find fsh in one run, chances are it’s not the only one holding there so work the water thoroughly.

Lastly, Streamers on this stretch can be a very effective way to find fish. It almost contradicts everything I just wrote but, if you want to cover water Streamers will move a handful of fish looking to pack on protein before Winter sets in.

Fly Recommendations- Chubby Chernobyls, Foam PMX, Stimulator, Graphic Caddis, Nitro Caddis, Buckskins, Barr’s BWO emerger, Juju Baetis, Radiation Baetis, Rainbow Warriors, Rojo Midges, Mercury Black Beauty, Brassie, Jujubees, Dorsey’s Top Secret Midge, rs2, Pheasant Tails, Biot Stonefly, Pat’s Rubber Legs, 20 incher stone, Dirty Hippie, Wooly Bugger, sparkle minnows, slumpbusters.

River Access

River access for the upper portion of the Arkansas River is plentiful as well. Hwy 24 parallels much of the river and multiple parking areas, designated with a "P" sign,  can be found along the roadside. Crystal Lake State Trust Lands, Reddy State Wildlife Area and the hayden Ranch Recreation Area are all productive areas to check out when fishing this stretch of river.