The Arkansas River starts its 1,400 mile journey to the Mississippi River in the Saguache Mountains of Colorado, the highest range in the state.
From its headwaters, the river drops an astonishing 5,000 vertical feet in its first 125 miles through wide-open valleys, tight whitewater canyons, and the depths of the Royal Gorge on its way down to Canon City; that’s more elevation than the Mississippi River achieves in its entire length!
Besides the fishing, perhaps the best feature of the Arkansas Valley is its weather. Known as the Banana Belt of Colorado, the lofty peaks that make up the Saguache Mountains extract most of the moisture from the air, blessing the valley with over 300 sunny days a year. Summer temperatures can range as high as the 90’s in the lower portions of the river to the 70’s in the river’s upper portions near Leadville. Until 1859, the Arkansas Valley was a relatively quiet place, with trappers and traders exploring much of the valley in privacy. Then gold fever struck and the front-rangers flocked to the valley in search of ts riches. Soon thereafter the gold deposits dwindled.
Nowadays however, thanks to the Arkansas River, tourism has replaced the mining industry. The river’s steep rocky gradient has helped it achieve the status of having the biggest commercial rafting business in the country, with around 250,000 rafters floating its rapids each year. Although certain stretches of this river can be chock-full of commercial boaters, the shear length of this river guarantees miles of solitude for fly fishermen. Besides great whitewater, the Arkansas River is well-known for its large wild brown trout populations and huge caddis hatches.
Unlike many rivers in Colorado, the Arkansas runs unobstructed all the way to the eastern plains of Colorado, where it is dammed just before the town of Pueblo. In March of 2007 a Fly Fishermen magazine article stated that the Arkansas River tail waters below Pueblo Dam was the best new fishery in the state.Local anglers and guides have landed, over the winter, many trout in the 18″-26″ range. The fishing was exceptionally good from October to mid-February.
Curious about this years fly fishing for the upper Arkansas River basin?