After writing this column on the evolution of the Arkansas River, I was eager to see its progress in 2014.
This river is changing, in a very good way, and the most popular fishery in Colorado is more attractive than ever. (I shy from hyperbole in fish stories — no, really — but in this case it’s accurate.) The drought helped. The introduction of salmonflies helped. And (much-appreciated) water-management decisions are helping. As a result, the fish are bigger. That’s no fish story.
I snuck down to the Lower Basin, a few miles downstream of Salida, for a couple days last week. My loyal fishing guide was there (above right). As you can see, she’s the only guide who doesn’t advocate catch-and-release.
One day the fishing was extraordinary. The next it was remarkably slow. When it was good, fish were keying on brown streamers (the biggest, ugliest in your box) and the usual suspects (#18-20 Rainbow Warriors, #16-20 Olive Pheasant Tails, various Caddis larvae patterns). There was no dry-fly action to speak of, although that could be due to the wind.
Mostly, I’m writing this blog because the snow is blowing sideways outside my house, and the idea of another sunroof afternoon on the Arkansas lifts the spirits. But if you are researching the next destination to get on the river before runoff hits, there are worse options than the Ark. There might not be better.