Arkansas River:          Upper Section

Weekly Overview:

June 8, 2020: 

  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

  • Upper Ark flows increased by roughly 400 cfs last week but appear to have plateaued. As a result, water clarity has improved. With that said, your best bet is to still focus on the banks with a heavy nymph rig or streamer. Big and flashy bugs are key when nymphing. Pat’s Rubber Legs, Golden Stones, leeches and worms are productive lead patterns. For your trailer, stick with something flashy, such as a Rainbow Warrior, red Copper John, Psycho Prince or Electric Caddis. If you’re dead set on fishing the Upper Ark, we recommend venturing upstream to Leadville where flows are manageable and clarity is better. Hitting the banks with dry droppers and nymphing the pools/runs is the way to go.  Until flows drop and water clarity improves, we will temporarily discontinue our Daily FlyCasts.

    • Ideal Days to Fish: Wednesday, Thursday & Friday

  • Suggested Flies:

    • Sub-surface: Pats Rubber Legs (#10-12), RS2 (#20-22), Chocolate Thunder (#22-24), Barr's Emerger (#20-22), JuJu Baetis (#20-22), WD 40 (#20-22) Prince Nymph (#16-18), Mercury Pheasant Tail (#18-20), Hare's Ear (#16-18), Electric Caddis (#16-18), red Copper John (#18-20), Black Beauty (#22-24), Zebra Midge (#20-22), Top Secret Midge (#22-24), Disco Midge (#20-22), Mercury Midge (#22-24), Rainbow Warrior (#18-20), Frenchie (#18), Mayer's Mini-Leech and San Juan Worm.

    • Surface: Parachute Adams (#20 - #22), Sparkle Dun (#20-22), Griffiths Gnat (#24), Elk Hair Caddis (#16-18), Chubby Chernobyl (#14).

      • Need flies for your trip? FlyCast has collaborated with our friends at Anglers All ​to package a dozen flies that are hot on the Arkansas River right now - Click here for hand selected flies

Detailed River Info:


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.


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.  

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