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Fishing in Fourteener Country

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The Arkansas River starts at Mount Elbert and travels a through the Fourteener Region, providing some of the best trout fishing in Colorado.  The Arkansas River in this area has been designated the prestigious Gold Medal Waters. The Arkansas has many personalities during its trip through the valley. It starts as a series of small tributaries near Leadville, and grows into a major river around Granite, and the flows through spectacular mountain county before entering Big Sheep Canyon.

 

The Arkansas is home to the wily Brown Trout and the fighting Rainbow Trout. The Brown was introduced in the 1800's and has overtaken the Rainbow Trout as the dominant fish. The Rainbow Trout is heavily stocked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Rainbows are known for acrobatic displays when hooked, while the Browns tend to try to hide in deep water and wait you out! Most fish you catch will be in the 12 in range, with occasional trophy size.

 

There are dozens of public fishing access areas on the Arkansas.  Please be aware that many access points are on private property. At the stoplight in Buena Vista (on Hwy 24) [locals don't ask which stop light ... it's the ONLY stoplight], go east through the main part of town and drive to the parking lot. This small park has great fishing access as well as a nice hiking trail for non-fisherman. Hike downstream for several hundred yards, and hop in. This section of the Ark features easy wading, clear water and lots of rocks and runs for the trout to hide in. Spotting trout from the bridge can be fun when the fishing is slow. While fishing, be sure to look over your shoulder and enjoy the views of Antero, Princeton, and Yale. Remember that the water you are wading may have been snow the day before!

 

North of Granite on Hwy 24 in the Granite SWA. This upper section of Arkansas has smaller water, and more trout. The water is a few feet deep, and has long runs and short riffle sections. Remember to fish the top of the riffles for those sneaky Rainbows. This is pleasant, productive fishing. Many times you will be the only fisherman in sight!

 

Another excellent way to enjoy the Arkansas River is with a float trip. Many places along the river are private land, and are closed to fishing... unless you are in a raft. Many rafting companies offer special float trips where you get the benefit of constantly changing fishing conditions, and the advice of experienced fisherman to help you get the most from your fishing experience.

 

Fishing Techniques for the Arkansas River

Fishing on the Arkansas River constantly changes, requiring the fisherman to change flies and techniques with the seasons.

 

Spring fishing starts with the Blue Winged Olive hatch. Around St. Patrick's day the BWOs (14-16) start to hatch (water temp around 48 degrees). Sad to say BWOs usually hatch when the weather is cloudy and cool, or even better, snowing and raining. Since the trout have been hungry all winter, they are anxious to feed!

 

In late April, (water temps around 50 degrees) the caddisflies start to hatch. This is what the Ark is known for, often there are so many caddisflies in the air that it seems to be snowing and breathing can get tricky. During this time, even the Brown's come up and feed with abandon. The hatch travels upriver with warming temperatures in May, following the Caddis hatch is a great way to explore the Ark.

 

During the spring runoff, the fly fishing can be unproductive since the water is cloudy and moving very fast. This is a good time to try spin fishing with flashy lures and bait. Once the water settles down in the summer, lots of techniques can be used, and the best bet is to visit a local fly shop and ask what is working. Caddis seemed to work all summer and fall. In later summer, the hopper patterns can be really fun. Attractor patterns like Royal Wulff and Renegade (14-18) can almost always bring a rise from the Rainbows.

 

During October and November, the Blue Winged Olives return for some late season fun. Once again, they hatch on the worst weather days.

 

Much of the Arkansas remains ice free all winter. During these cool days, nymphs and stonefly patterns can be good to very good.

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