The Upper Arkansas River from Leadville to Parkdale Colorado.
The Upper Arkansas Fishery out of Salida is located South of Denver on Highway 285 to Hwy 50 and then East a short distance. Coming from the South, Hwy 285 is also a good choice. Hwy 50 is excellent for travel from the East or West. Salida is almost the center of Colorado and fairly easy to reach from any direction. (See map below)
The picture below was taken on the upper end close to the headwaters
By Greg Felt, Arkansas River Guide for Ark Anglers.
Reprinted with permission of the Arkansas Valley Press (edited for use on TFdN)
Anglers in Colorado have so many outstanding fishing opportunities, making a decision on where to fish can be more of a challenge than getting there. At the same time, the states rivers defy ranking. Each has a character, fishery, and insect population all of its own.
Situated centrally amid all of the choices in Colorado is the Arkansas. In this case we are talking about the Upper Arkansas Fishery. A beauty of a river that should top any anglers list of great places to fish.
The diversity of options abound in her tributaries and the lakes that ring the valley, and it is no wonder that the guides who work other rivers come here for personal R&R. Fly shops fill with repeat visitors. Given the chance, the Arkansas River take a hold of you and wont let go.
A frequent comment by visiting anglers is a wondrous rhetorical demand to know why they had never fished the Arkansas before. Given the quality of the fishing through most of the year, the 100 miles of river to choose from, and the incredibly healthy wild brown trout population, one might wag a sympathetic head and wonder why indeed.
The amount of public access exceeds the total mileage, public and private, of most neighboring streams. A crowd on the Arkansas means being within shouting distance of a friend. The 120 miles of river from Leadville to Parkdale wind through alpine meadows at 10,000 feet and canyons that feature plunge pools mixed with pocket water in tightly confined channels from 9,500 feet to 7,500 feet. Then the Arkansas flows along beautiful desert canyons bordered by occasional irrigated hay meadows in the final 1500 feet of drop to the mouth of the Royal Gorge.
Over those miles and change in altitude, anglers often find three seasons in one day, and the corresponding insect activity and fish behavior to match. The diversity in fishing water, hatches, and climate means something is always going on in the Arkansas. No wonder the Colorado Division of Wildlife creel sampling studies consistently rate the river with one of the highest catch rates in the state.
Reaches of the river are ideal for float fishing. Other sections invite wading anglers. Pool drop pocket water is perfect for dare devil boulder hopping. Other runs are ideal for youngsters to catch their first fish. In fact, as a learning environment for new anglers, it is tough to beat the Arkansas for its accessibility, lack of crowding and numbers of willing fish.
With a hundred miles of water to sample, where to go can be a paralyzing decision. It is like being a kid in a candy store. But go ahead and pick a place. Given the chance, the Arkansas will steal your heart.
(Editor's note) The area has a wealth of events every month with lots of stuff to visit and enjoy. There are many historical sites to visit as well as day trip off the river to scenic nature venues.
Also, the area has many lakes and reservoirs along the path of the Arkansas which merit consideration for lake fishing and boating sports.
The Salida Fishery of the Upper Arkansas is 120 miles long with about 100 miles of it fishable. Water depth varies throughout the river run as does velocity.
Refreshing and cool at Springtime, pleasant summers and a crisp Autumn followed by a very cold November through January. There is occasionally ice in the River in the Winter months. Snow can occur anywhere along the fishery but is more likely to occur on the upper end out of Leadville.
Primarily a fly fishing area because of the predominance of Trout and the water depth and water speed, the area is also prime gear fishing as well and a great many people enjoy this way of going after the big ones. There are two short stretches of the River limited to fly and lure fishing only. The remainder is open to bait as well.
The fly fishers and gear fishers alike can work the hatches. Wading, floating, boating all have their place on the river. This is often stealth fishing because the fish are wary and it takes patience to work the waters but the rewards are there. As always, check with your local fishing tackle dealers to get the latest on what is working where on the river. Remember that because of the drop from the headwater coming down river, the seasonality can be like three seasons at once depending on where you are on the river.
Fishing is open all around. Catch rates drop off in the Winter months.