The Arkansas River – Colorado’s Sleeping Beauty
It is said that the function of famous rivers is to keep most fishermen away from the really good ones. Whoever coined that phrase could well have had the Ark in mind.
When speaking of the fishing experience on the Arkansas River, the words ‘uncrowded’ and ‘unparalleled’ come to the fore. From it’s headwaters high on the continental divide above Leadville, until it emerges from the sheer thousand foot walls of the Royal Gorge one hundred miles downstream near Canon City, the cold, clear waters of the Arkansas, combined with it’s freestone bed, provides ideal habitat for abundant populations of caddis flies, may flies and stoneflies.
This in turn makes the Ark a dry fly fisherman’s Shangri La. From blue winged olives and caddis in the spring time, to yellow sallies, golden stones and pale morning duns in the summer, to hoppers and yet more caddis and blue wings in the fall, the Ark delivers consistent dry fly activity for eight months of the year. During the winter months, the ‘Banana Belt’ effect of the lower valley’s climate between Salida and Canon City often sees daytime temperatures in the mid thirties to mid forties, providing excellent and productive nymph fishing opportunities.
The Arkansas River is primarily a wild brown trout fishery, with browns making up approximately ninety percent of the river’s average of 3000 fish per mile.
There is an abundance of public access along the river’s corridor, providing excellent opportunities for both wade and float fishing. For fishermen with a backpack and a little energy to expend, the small streams and high lakes of the Sawatch, Sangre de Cristo and Mosquito Ranges provide a plethora of high lake and small stream fishing opportunities. In addition, the Arkansas Valley is ideally located to comfortably access most other major drainages in the state, with the Conejos, Rio Grande, South Platte, Gunnison and Colorado all being within two hours or less drive from Salida .