Fishing Season: Year Round (Prime March 1 - October 31)

Arkansas River - CO

Fishing Outlook & Conditions

Temperature 34°

Temp:

34°

Water Temp:

52

ArkAnglers's Tip of the Week

From April 15 to April 24 the Salida East Recreation Site will be closed to ALL traffic as work is done at the highway to improve the entrance. Users will not be able to put in, take out, or camp here during this time. Caddis are hatching down in Canon City and up into the lower reaches of Bighorn Sheep Canyon! Brachycentrus caddis hatches are now joining a few free-living caddis in tempting fish into surface feeding. With consistent weather, expect these "Mother's Day" caddis to work their way upstream to Salida by the first week of May. The highest reports of active caddis are at Texas Creek, though it seems that the bulk of the action is still downstream from there as of 4/17. We expect water temperature of 54 degrees to precede the hatch, which usually moves upstream in a wave over time. Active caddis hatches will be marked by active insect activity right on the water with slashing, splashy rises from trout as they chase pupae rising to the surface to emerge. Sometimes it's best to be on the leading edge of the hatch so that your fly isn't competing with thousands of naturals and fish aren't gorged already. Dry flies are perfect during this stage of the hatch but you can double your effectiveness by trailing a submerged caddis pupae off your dry fly. Adult flights can often be mistaken for hatches as thousands of adults may be flying in the air over the river heading upstream. This circumstance won't usually yield great dry fly fishing (as there aren't actually insects on the water!) but it does mean that egg-laying activity from female caddis is soon to occur in the evening, and as females dap the water to drop their eggs trout once again get a chance to grab the insects at the water's surface. Expect this type of activity after dinner time. We are still seeing blue wing olive hatches in the afternoons (especially on cloudy days) and very approachable flows for wade fishing. Dry fly opportunities abound! We continue to enjoy 60+ degree days and mild nights, which have motivated insects, fish, and anglers alike to elevate their activity. Conditions are prime in the valley right now. Blue wing olive hatches most often occur from 12-4 PM, and fish will move into the flatter, calmer and in back eddys to intercept the duns as they dry their wings on the water's surface, vulnerable for a significant time as they prepare for first flight. Trout will also take advantage of those mayflies struggling to hatch, stuck during emergence in the miniscus of the water as they struggle to shed their nymphal exoskeleton. These riseforms can often appear similar, as the fish is still breaching the surface of the water to grab food. Contrast that to the riseform of a trout eating emergers just under the surface, where the head of the trout doesn't necessarily break the surface but the dorsal fin and tail of the trout does as the trout rounds out and turns back downward in the water after a successful eat just barely below the surface. 9' leaders are standard and material in the 5x class is well suited for this time of year. You can probably get away with 4x at times and you can definitely work with 6x, though it's uncommon for material that small to be absolutely necessary. Clear water should make anglers consider fluorocarbon tippets for their wet flies but nylon material is perfectly fine for your dry flies. The blue wing olives themselves usually average a #18, so being prepared with a range from #16 down to #20 depending on the pattern. The river flow is slightly below average and within the optimal flow range for resident trout populations (250-400 cfs at Wellsville). It is incredibly wadeable everywhere at these flows, offering tremendous access for wade fishermen. Float fishing conditions are now quite comfortble relative to three weeks ago now that we've settled in just above the 300 CFS mark below Salida. Always be prepared to take time carefully releasing fish. Wet your hands thoroughly before handling and try to minimize trouts' time out of the water while releasing. Please do your due diligence giving them adequate revival time before moving on. Ideal weather blue wing olive hatches is cloudy and humid, but we've seen strong hatches most days in the last three weeks even in very sunny conditions. Often we can see the best hatches on snowy or rainy days, especially early in the cycle, but recent days are a good reminder to be prepared for an emergence regardless the forecast. With that in mind, midge hatches have also been strong enough to prompt shallow and surface feeding from trout so pack midge adult and emerger patterns alongside your blue wing olives to cover all the bases. Blue wing olive hatches most often occur from 12-4 PM, and fish will move into the flatter, calmer and in back eddys to intercept the duns as they dry their wings on the water's surface, vulnerable for a significant time as they prepare for first flight. Trout will also take advantage of those mayflies struggling to hatch, stuck during emergence in the miniscus of the water as they struggle to shed their nymphal exoskeleton. These riseforms can often appear similar, as the fish is still breaching the surface of the water to grab food. Contrast that to the riseform of a trout eating emergers just under the surface, where the head of the trout doesn't necessarily break the surface but the dorsal fin and tail of the trout does as the trout rounds out and turns back downward in the water after a successful eat just barely below the surface. Over the past ten years this hatch has become very well known on the Arkansas in the spring, with enviable dry fly fishing opportunities and far less traffic than the Mother's Day caddis hatch tends to produce in April and May (which also yields tremendous dry fly fishing!). Trout have seen relatively little pressure through the winter so this mayfly hatch usually sees very willing and deliberate participation from the resident fish. Nymphing is still a good tactic throughout the day but especially in the morning hours as the day warms up (think large attractor nymph trailed by a caddis larva or midge larva), working the deeper runs or transitional water nearby. Around lunch time expect blue wing olive nymphs to begin drifting as they redistribute themselves in the days leading up to hatches. These nymphs are often found in riffled sections of the river, faster than what we've been fishing through the winter. These areas are often shallower, too, so don't ignore water that's 2-3' in depth. Assuming a hatch begins to occur, fish will position themselves in the quieter waters where the duns emerge to efficiently take advantage of the meal. Riseforms are slow and deliberate, efficient in comparison to the slashy, splashy rises of fish eating caddis later in the spring. 9' leaders are standard and material in the 5x class is well suited for this time of year. You can probably get away with 4x at times and you can definitely work with 6x, though it's uncommon for material that small to be absolutely necessary. Clear water should make anglers consider fluorocarbon tippets for their wet flies but nylon material is perfectly fine for your dry flies. The blue wing olives themselves usually average a #18, so being prepared with a range from #16 down to #20 depending on the pattern. The river flow is slightly below average and within the optimal flow range for resident trout populations (250-400 cfs at Wellsville). It is incredibly wadeable everywhere at these flows, offering tremendous access for wade fishermen. We are also conducting float fishing trips around and below Salida. 9AM to 5PM is your prime time on the river, particularly in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure through the day. Colder weather may constrict productive fishing hours during the day. Always be prepared to take time carefully releasing fish. Wet your hands thoroughly before handling and try to minimize trouts' time out of the water while releasing. Please do your due diligence giving them adequate revival time before moving on. Blue wing olive hatches most often occur from 12-4 PM, and fish will move into the flatter, calmer and in back eddys to intercept the duns as they dry their wings on the water's surface, vulnerable for a significant time as they prepare for first flight. Trout will also take advantage of those mayflies struggling to hatch, stuck during emergence in the meniscus of the water as they struggle to shed their nymphal exoskeleton. These riseforms can often appear similar, as the fish is still breaching the surface of the water to grab food. Contrast that to the riseform of a trout eating emergers just under the surface, where the head of the trout doesn't necessarily break the surface but the dorsal fin and tail of the trout does as the trout rounds out and turns back downward in the water after a successful eat just barely below the surface. Over the past ten years this hatch has become very well known on the Arkansas in the spring, with enviable dry fly fishing opportunities and far less traffic than the Mother's Day caddis hatch tends to produce in April and May (which also yields tremendous dry fly fishing!). Trout have seen relatively little pressure through the winter so this mayfly hatch usually sees very willing and deliberate participation from the resident fish. Nymphing is still a good tactic throughout the day but especially in the morning hours as the day warms up (think large attractor nymph trailed by a caddis larva or midge larva), working the deeper runs or transitional water nearby. Around lunch time expect blue wing olive nymphs to begin drifting as they redistribute themselves in the days leading up to hatches. These nymphs are often found in riffled sections of the river, faster than what we've been fishing through the winter. These areas are often shallower, too, so don't ignore water that's 2-3' in depth. Assuming a hatch takes begins to occur, fish will position themselves in the quieter waters where the duns emerge to efficiently take advantage of the meal. Riseforms are slow and deliberate, efficient in comparison to the slashy, splashy rises of fish eating caddis later in the spring. 9' leaders are standard and material in the 5x class is well suited for this time of year. You can probably get away with 4x at times and you can definitely work with 6x, though it's uncommon for material that small to be absolutely necessary. Clear water should make anglers consider fluorocarbon tippets for their wet flies but nylon material is perfectly fine for your dry flies. The blue wing olives themselves usually average a #18, so being prepared with a range from #16 down to #20 depending on the pattern. The river flow is slightly below average and within the optimal flow range for resident trout populations (250-400 cfs at Wellsville). It is incredibly wadeable everywhere at these flows, offering tremendous access for wade fishermen. We are also conducting float fishing trips around and below Salida. 9AM to 5PM is your prime time on the river, particularly in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure through the day. Colder weather may constrict productive fishing hours during the day. Always be prepared to take time carefully releasing fish. Wet your hands thoroughly before handling and try to minimize trouts' time out of the water while releasing. Please do your due diligence giving them adequate revival time before moving on. Blue wing olive hatches most often occur from 12-4 PM, and fish will move into the flatter, calmer and in back eddys to intercept the duns as they dry their wings on the water's surface, vulnerable for a significant time as they prepare for first flight. Trout will also take advantage of those mayflies struggling to hatch, stuck during emergence in the miniscus of the water as they struggle to shed their nymphal exoskeleton. These riseforms can often appear similar, as the fish is still breaching the surface of the water to grab food. Contrast that to the riseform of a trout eating emergers just under the surface, where the head of the trout doesn't necessarily break the surface but the dorsal fin and tail of the trout does as the trout rounds out and turns back downward in the water after a successful eat just barely below the surface. Over the past ten years this hatch has become very well known on the Arkansas in the spring, with enviable dry fly fishing opportunities and far less traffic than the Mother's Day caddis hatch tends to produce in April and May (which also yields tremendous dry fly fishing!). Trout have seen relatively little pressure through the winter so this mayfly hatch usually sees very willing and deliberate participation from the resident fish. Nymphing is still a good tactic throughout the day but especially in the morning hours as the day warms up (think large attractor nymph trailed by a caddis larva or midge larva), working the deeper runs or transitional water nearby. Around lunch time expect blue wing olive nymphs to begin drifting as they redistribute themselves in the days leading up to hatches. These nymphs are often found in riffled sections of the river, faster than what we've been fishing through the winter. These areas are often shallower, too, so don't ignore water that's 2-3' in depth. Assuming a hatch takes begins to occur, fish will position themselves in the quieter waters where the duns emerge to efficiently take advantage of the meal. Riseforms are slow and deliberate, efficient in comparison to the slashy, splashy rises of fish eating caddis later in the spring. 9' leaders are standard and material in the 5x class is well suited for this time of year. You can probably get away with 4x at times and you can definitely work with 6x, though it's uncommon for material that small to be absolutely necessary. Clear water should make anglers consider fluorocarbon tippets for their wet flies but nylon material is perfectly fine for your dry flies. The blue wing olives themselves usually average a #18, so being prepared with a range from #16 down to #20 depending on the pattern. The river flow is slightly below average and within the optimal flow range for resident trout populations (250-400 cfs at Wellsville). It is incredibly wadeable everywhere at these flows, offering tremendous access for wade fishermen. We are also conducting float fishing trips around and below Salida. 9AM to 5PM is your prime time on the river, particularly in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure through the day. Colder weather may constrict productive fishing hours during the day. Always be prepared to take time carefully releasing fish. Wet your hands thoroughly before handling and try to minimize trouts' time out of the water while releasing. Please do your due diligence giving them adequate revival time before moving on.

Directions open in app

Map of Arkansas River

Water Flow Data

Tidal Conditions

Orvis-Endorsed guides nearby

Royal Gorge Anglers
Breckenridge outfitters

5-Day Outlook as of 4/17/24

Warm weather reaching the 60s and relatively mild nighttime temperatures through the weekend.

Techniques & Tips as of 4/17/24

Dry and dry-dropper rigs are deadly mid-hatch, trailing an emerger off your adult imitation to cover any shallow feeding fish. Nymphing is effective all day long and streamer fishing is heating up, especially on warm, cloudy days.

Local Species Available Year Round (Prime March 1 - October 31)

  • Fish Icon

    Brown and Rainbow Trout

ArkAnglers's Recommended Fly Patterns

"Must-have" fly fishing patterns in descending order of importance:

Name: Colors: Size(s):
Pheasant Tail Brown, olive 16-18
Puterbaugh Foam Caddis Black 14-16
Extended Body Blue Wing Olive BWO 16-18
Biot Epoxyback Stonefly Nymph Golden, Brown 10-14

Pheasant Tail

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ArkAnglers's Recommended Gear

Description: About Arkansas River

The Arkansas River traverses about ninety miles between its headwaters above Leadville to the point where it rolls onto the prairie near Canon City. Over that distance, it flows through a high alpine meadow, drops through steep canyons of granite boulders and Ponderosa Pine, and courses through a high desert canyon. In each environment, populations of wild brown trout inhabit a river environment that teems with mayflies, stoneflies, caddis…small wonder that the Arkansas River was named Colorado’s most popular fishery in a recent Division of Wildlife survey. Along the banks of this river sit two remarkable mountain communities – Salida and Buena Vista. ArkAnglers has fly shops in both towns and our guide service spans the entire ninety miles of river, as well high mountain lakes on the Continental Divide, tributary streams, segments of the upper South Platte River, and some mid-elevation lakes known for their burgeoning trout populations. The range of altitude and climate in the upper Arkansas River valley allows us to guide year-round, the river providing a continuous supply of aquatic foodstuffs that keep fish active even in the winter. Contact us for a complete menu of trip options or for help in planning your visit!

Nearest Airport:

Colorado Springs Airport

Hatches:

Blue wing olives, brachycentrus caddis, midges, molting golden stonefly nymphs,

Best Time to Fish:

9:00am to 6:00pm

Best Stretch:

All Basins

Best Access:

Granite, Ruby Mountain, Big Bend, Salida East, Wellsville, Rincon, Vallie Bridge.