Upper Arkansas River Buena Vista

Arkansas River - Upper

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish 7/7, 7/8 & 7/9

Weekly Report

Report DateJune 30, 2022

Upper Arkansas River flows leveled out last week and have held near 1,000 cfs since then. Heavy rain earlier in the week bumped flows by ~100 cfs and with more rain in the forecast, don’t be surprised if you see flows increase again. If flows bump, be prepared for 24 hours of off-color water. Flows currently sit in the low 1,000 cfs range below Buena Vista and around 200 cfs in Leadville. Flows are at a great level to float below Buena Vista but if you’re wading, you’ll largely be confined to the banks, which isn’t a bad thing considering trout are favoring softer water along banks. In Leadville, anglers will have a bit more freedom to wade. Due to good water clarity, at the moment, streamers, nymph rigs, dry flies and dry droppers have been productive lately. Midges, PMDs, grey drakes, caddis, yellow sallies, golden stoneflies and hoppers are all on the menu right now. Chubby Chernobyls, Amy’s Ants, Hippy Stompers and Elk Hair Caddis with a flashy searcher or stonefly nymph will put trout in the net if trout aren’t actively rising during a hatch. Focus on the banks and if you’re not seeing any action, add a small or medium sized split shot above your dropper. When nymphing, go heavy and lead with a stonefly, caddis larva, large searcher pattern (Prince Nymph, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear, Copper John etc.) or Squirmy Worm. Sparkle Wing RS2s absolutely crushed it a few days ago in the trailer position but don’t rule out other flashy baetis emerger patterns, caddis pupa or Rainbow Warriors. We also found trout willing to chase streamers and put several in the net with a black sculpin. Hit the bank hard and make a few erratic strips.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region
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Detailed River Info

Background:

The upper section of the Arkansas River is a freestone river sourced from snowmelt in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges near Leadville, Colorado. The upper section is arguably the most wade friendly section of the river with many access points running from Leadville through Salida. This fishery has been a major focus for improvement over the past decade as fish populations were historically impacted by the heavy mining activity that occurred in Leadville. Luckily, due to the efforts of trout activist groups, the fishery continues to improve year over year and has become a fun and productive stretch to fish. Brown and rainbow trout are the primary residents with brown trout making up 75% of the trout population. Average trout sizes range from 12” – 16” with a max of 20”. Regulations dictate that only artificial flies and lures may be used. Depending on the section of the river, bag limits vary from 1 – 4 trout over 12” with the exception of rainbow trout. All rainbow trout must be released.

Angling:

The upper section of the Arkansas River is best fished from late spring through fall. Low flows and ice make this stretch difficult to fish during the winter months. The river yields long runs and riffles as it winds through open meadows from Leadville to Twin Lakes Reservoir. From Twin Lakes to Salida, the river goes through mountainous terrain providing deep pools, runs and pockets. Anglers can count on experiencing the standard Colorado hatches with midges hatching throughout the year, Mayflies in the late spring through fall, and caddis and stoneflies in the summer. River flows are typically lower the closer you are to Leadville and increase the further south you go towards Buena Vista. Knowing this, fishing a dry dropper rig is the go-to method when fishing near Leadville and a mixture of dry dropper and nymphing rigs are the effective setups when fishing near Buena Vista.  

River Access

​Long stretches of public water and a number of designated fishing pull-offs provide for easy fishing access. One of the best ways to explore this river is to drive south on highway 24 from Leadville and test out the various fishing pull-offs along the way. Some of the more notable sections are Hayden Meadows in Leadville, Granite Rock in Granite, Elephant Rock in Buena Vista and Fisherman’s Bridge south of Buena Vista.