Upper Arkansas River Buena Vista

Arkansas River - Upper

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish 3/3, 3/5 & 3/7

Weekly Report

Report DateMarch 4, 2021
Aside from morning slush runoff, flows on the Upper Arkansas are holding steady in the mid 200 cfs range. The stretch between Nathrop and Salida is in great shape right now and fishing well for this time of year. Until water temperatures rise later in the spring, the 11 am – 3 pm window is still your best option as trout are most active during this period. Drifting a heavy nymph rig through deep pools, slow runs, slack water and soft seams is the best approach right now. Trout are favoring the deepest water column, so if you’re not snagging the bottom every few casts, add more split shot to your line or tie on a tungsten bead nymph. Small stonefly patterns, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears, Pheasant Tails, Frenchies and Rainbow Warriors are fantastic lead flies. Below one of those patterns, trail a midge larva and a midge pupa. If triple nymph rigs aren’t your thing, trail a midge larva prior to noon and then switch to a pupa during the afternoon. Blood Midges, Demon Midges, Miracle Nymphs, Mercury Black Beauties, Mercury Midges and Chocolate Foam Back Emergers are some of our go-to midge patterns right now.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region

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.