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Trouts Journal

Why you should be fishing the Arkansas River right now!!

Ivan Orsic / Oct 19, 2016

As the idea of catching a big lake run Brown Trout is on everyone’s mind this time of the year we tend to look past so many other great fall fisheries. For whatever reason the Arkansas River is one of these fall destinations that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While fishing the upper parts of the Arkansas above Buena Vista towards Leadville may be on the decline compared to a Summer day on the water, the stretch between Buena Vista down to Canon City has a ton to offer this time of year. There are four factors that make it hard for me personally to pass up a fall day on the Ark. They are: the weather, river access, buglife and most importantly the fish.

The Weather: It’s that time of the year when everyone seems excited to show off their new winter jacket. However, the idea of sunshine and shortsleeves still sounds pretty good to me. If you’re anything like me I’ll tell you to look up 7-day weather forecasts for Canon City and Salida. Yep, that’s right, Canon City is showing upper 60’s to low 80’s all week while high 60’s and 70’s for Salida. While the weather has been fairly mild for this time of the year it’s important to know that this area generally runs 5-10 degrees warmer than Denver throughout the year. This means while some anglers are bundled up fishing midges in a snow storm, you could be tossing dries worrying about wearing enough sunscreen.

The Bug-life: The warmer weather also has a huge impact on the Bug-life. With the warm sunny days water temps through this stretch remain fairly high. This leads to some great fall hatches and also gets plenty of bugs active below the surface. There will still be very good hatches this time of the year. BWOs will be the dominant hatch with sporadic Caddis and Red Quills coming off as well. Below the surface just about anything is an option, Stoneflies, Caddis in various stages, an assortment of Baetis and Midges will all be a viable source of fish food. Terrestrials also remain a great option. Fish in the Ark aren’t afraid to look up so don’t shy away from tossing a hopper or chubby this time of the year.

Flies to try: Fat Alberts 10-14, Chubby Chernobyls10-14, Orange/Red Stimulators 12-18, October Caddis 14-18, Elk Hair Caddis 16-18, Parachute Adams 16-20, Purple Haze 16-20, Morrish’s May Day BWO 15-17, Hi-Vis Parachute Baetis 18-20, Sprout Midge or Baetis 18-20, Pat’s Rubber Leg 10-14, Psycho Prince 12-16, BH Guides Choice Hares Ear 12-16, Chartreuse Copper John 16-20, Barr’s BWO Emerger 16-20, Mercury Baetis 16-20, Nosepicker BWO 16-20, Crystal Hunchback Baetis 18-20 Mercury Black Beauty 18-20, Zebra Midge 18-20.

River Access: It is no secret that the Arkansas has an abundance of public access. However, that isn’t the only thing I mean by river access this time of the year. High flows throughout the summer make the Ark just about impossible to cross June-September. I consider 600 CFS and below as comfortably crossable. This time of the year flows generally hold below 400 CFS and are currently 265 CFS in Canon City and 239 CFS through Salida. With these low flows you have the ability to wade and get to just about any piece of water you’d like. This gives an angler a huge advantage, allowing you to fish water that generally doesn’t get fished through the busy season of the year. Keep that in mind when you are out there this time of the year.

The Fish: There is really only two things to know about the fish in the Arkansas. First, there is a bunch of them, around 5,000 trout per mile! Secondly, they are almost always hungry. A vast majority of this stretch is labeled “Gold Medal Water.” To be defined as Gold Medal a river must be able to produce 60 pounds of trout per acre and at least twelve fish 14” or longer within that acre. Combining the great fish counts along with the other three factors is why you should give the Arkansas a good look this time of the year.

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