Arkansas River fishing report – update

Arkansas River, Colorado report 20-27 September 2012

Well I promised an update to my last report on this wonderful trout stream.

After a fantastic week in Breckenridge with my wife Annette and our friends Harold and Nancy, I returned to the Arkansas with my fishing buddies William and Jeremy for a further week of exploration.

It still amazes me that in the nine days that I fished this river, I only encountered one pleasure rafting group and two fly fishing rafting trips!  In addition we saw about six other fly fishers and those hadn’t strayed far from the access points.  To have a great fly fishing river to one’s self is simply incredible even though it is close to a couple of major metropolitan areas, not that I’m complaining you understand!

Night time temperatures were beginning to chill and although the days were warm there was a definite whiff of winter in the air. On a couple of occasions we had snow on the mountains overnight and thunder did rumble around the surrounding hills a few times. The river was beginning to cool as well with one day’s reading of 48 degrees being the lowest I encountered.

There were still a few caddis in the air and I estimate that fifty percent of the fish I caught were on dry flies, which again is simply incredible given the time of year. The cooler cloudy days had a hint of Blue Winged Olives in the air and most days we did get some action along the edges with BWO dries although one particular day proved to be dedicated to these wonderful mayflies. It was on a cloudy cool day and with a storm surrounding us and the wind increasing that the BWO’s decided to make a major appearance. I had arrived at a nice flat section of water below one of the major riffles when heads began to appear. Within about five minutes the whole section was a wonderful display of feeding trout. The fish seemed to be completely relaxed in their feeding and stayed just below the surface while they waited for the next insect to drift past their waiting mouths. My only problem was dealing with 30 mph winds using a size 20 fly! However, a nice buoyant CDC pattern seemed to fit the bill and produced handsome braces of both rainbows and browns although I missed just as many because there were some many eager mouths breaking surface!

My week on the river was enhanced by the arrival of my dear friend Jeremy who had snuck away for three days with William and I. He quickly got into the “swing” of offering my partridge and peacock SH to the fish although a black bodied caddis adult was tied on when the occasion desired. In fact he was so immersed in this activity that total darkness had fallen when he arrived back at the car one evening! His day with me up Browns Canyon was truly a day to remember, with world class scenery, eager trout and total solitude making it even more special. After fishing some nice runs we perched on huge granite boulders offering BWO patterns to fish holding in the seams of a beautiful pool. The crystal clear waters allowed us to watch the fish rise from the depths to snatch the fly. Here are some of Jeremy’s own words which really don’t need any explanation:

“September 24, 2012 was absolutely one of the best days of my life, with each passing step walking down an abandoned rail line the pressure of my life slipped away if
only for a moment. The clarity I felt breathing deep grounds me to what is really important in life. I’ll not ever forget the picture of your casting flies to eager trout in the “Big Rock Pool”, you could have been the King of England perched high atop a sacred fly fishing throne. My joy that day is beyond words, can’t wait to find the next riffle or pool around the corner”.

WOW! Obviously an “ok” day for Jeremy eh!

By way of a diversion we took a day trip to the South Platte and fished the “Dream Stream” section between Spinney and Eleven Mile reservoirs.  Although I had fished other parts of the South Platte, this particular section had so far eluded me.

It is a total scenery change from the rugged Arkansas with a widely meandering meadow stream, surrounded by majestic mountains and holding some huge fish.  Initially disappointed to find the parking lot rather full of vehicles it was a surprise to find myself alone on the banks of the stream; where did all those people go?  It was a return visit for William as he had fished here a few days previously when Jeremy and I were enjoying Browns Canyon.  He came back beaming and stated he had just experienced the best day’s fishing in his entire life!  And he has been around for a while!

I determined that as I was fishing the “Dream Stream” I would restrict myself to dry flies only and so I did.  Rising fish were not too evident till you looked hard in the back eddies where midges, craneflies and BWO’s were collecting.  Having enticed a few nice fat rainbows and numerous immature browns it was the turn of a large cutthroat to get the surprise of his life when he sipped on my dry fly!  Pushing the tape at just over eighteen inches, it was a beauty and one of the best cutthroat I have ever taken.

Even the DS provided a display of nature at its best with a beautiful rainbow stretching over the valley and a Coyote hunting for voles on the opposite side of the stream from me.

William and I returned to the South Platte one more time before we left Colorado and I was lucky enough to have about thirty minutes of BWO action which gave me another couple of fat cutthroats (I guess it’s politically correct to use the word “fat” when referring to fish!).  If that hatch had continued then maybe I would have added the DS to my list of destination although it is on the reserve list!

My friend William who has never been too keen on Colorado fishing now places the Arkansas (80%) and the Dream Stream(20%) in his “places to fish” list which is a major achievement for any fly fishing destination.  So if you want some incredible dry fly action, wonderful scenery and un-crowded water take a trip to the waters of the Arkansas River (with a day on the DS thrown in) you will not be disappointed.  See you there!

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