Upper Arkansas River Buena Vista

Arkansas River - Upper

Difficulty Beginner/Intermediate
Ideal Days To Fish 8/13, 8/14 & 8/15

Weekly Report

Report DateAug. 11, 2022

The Upper Ark is fishing great right now due to stable flows and improved water clarity/color. Between Leadville and Buena Vista, hopper droppers and dry dropper setups are all you’ll need for a good time. Favor dry droppers with Parachute Adams, Sparkle Duns and Elk Hair Caddis during active hatches, which tend to occur during the morning and evening hours. Absent a hatch, hopper droppers with Chubby’s, Amy’s Ants and PMXs won’t disappoint. Either match the hatch or go with a searcher/attractor pattern for your dropper. Focus on the banks, outer seams, shallow riffles and pockets. Downstream of Buena Vista, big nymph rigs and hopper droppers are attracting trout. Streamers are a viable option as well, but tend to be hit or miss. Days with overcast skies and/or low pressure typically yield the best streamer fishing. We fished near Salida last weekend and had a great day targeting trout in pronounced pools, runs, riffles and outer seams. Pat’s Rubber Legs in purple and yellow/brown were the MVPs. Aside from Pat’s Rubber Legs, Tungstone’s, Iron Sallies, Hare’s Ears and Electric Caddis are solid lead patterns. For your trailer, you can’t go wrong with a baetis emerger, midge pupa or flashy attractor/searcher pattern (Rainbow Warrior, red Copper John etc.). While it hasn’t been an issue the past few weeks, keep an eye on afternoon water temps, particularly near Salida.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region
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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.