Arkansas River:          Upper Section

Weekly Overview:

July 8, 2019 (Run-off): 

  • Technicality: 3/5

  • Flows below Granite are sitting at 1,510 cfs and at this level, we recommend fishing the section in Leadville or one of the nearby tailwaters. If the Upper Ark is your only option, focus on the outer seams and banks with a deep and heavy nymph rig. Big and flashy patterns are the only thing getting the trout’s attention right now. Stoneflies in particular have been the most productive. Lead with a Golden Stone or Yellow Sally and trail a flashy attractor pattern below it. If you’re not seeing results, add more weight. Until flows reduce, we will discontinue our daily forecasts.

  • Ideal Days to Fish: Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday

  • Suggested Flies:

    • Sub-surface: RS2 (#20 - 22), Chocolate Thunder (#20 - 22), Stalcup's Baetis (#20 - 22), JuJu Baetis (#20 - 22), WD 40 (#20 - 22) Prince Nymph (#16 - 18), Pheasant Tail (#18 - 20), Hare's Ear (#16 - 18), red Copper John (#18 - 20), Black Beauty (#20 - 22), Zebra Midge (#20 - 22), Top Secret Midge (#20 - 22), Electric Caddis (#16 - 18), Sparkle Pupa (#16) Rainbow Warrior (#20 - 22), Mayer's Mini-Leech and San Juan Worm.

    • Surface: Parachute Adams (#22 - #24), Elk Hair Caddis (#16 - 18), Griffiths Gnat (#24) and Chubby Chernobyl (#8 - 12)

      • 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

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Credit: Colorado Division of Water Resources
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Weather Provided by Weather Underground

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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