Our friends Bill and Taylor Edrington, owners of Royal Gorge Anglers, were invited to hold a Q&A session at the membership meeting of the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited last night on fishing the Arkansas. It was a great night of discussing the challenge and rewards of fishing one of Colorado’s – even the country’s – most renown fisheries and recreational waterways. If you're not hitting the Ark in the next few weeks ... well, you're missing out.
Bill Edrington agreed with the observation made by Doug Krieger, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist, a few weeks ago: the health of the Arkansas River is the best it has been in maybe the last 100 years. Due in part to the EPA Superfund clean-up around Leadville beginning in the mid-1990’s, the Arkansas is a clean and healthy river. Since it is a freestone river, it also cleans itself up every spring, washing the silt down to the Pueblo reservoir with every run-off. These two factors have increased the fish population and fish health tremendously … and we’re seeing the benefits.
Taylor Edrington responded to the many questions about fishing the Ark right now. The population of the river – which has a dense fish population from Canon City, through Parkdale, all the way up to Salida – has seen an increase in rainbow trout. Several years ago, the Brown-to-Rainbow ratio was about 90:10. Today, that ratio is more along the lines of 75:25. And, of course, this is the Arkansas – there are some big fish to be caught!
The Ark is on the verge of the stonefly hatch. Again, evidence that the river is clean and healthy, there are over 40 species of Stoneflies along the Arkansas. Of course, due to the clearing edges following the run-off and the fish still packing the edges, the upcoming stonefly hatch will make this a great couple of weeks to hit the Arkansas. It’s like “fishing in a barrel” from the banks to about four feet out. As the water recedes down to around 600 cfs, the fish will be moving back into the meat of the river.
For those so inclined, Taylor mentioned that this would be a great time for float trips down the Ark. You have more access to both banks, the flow is right, and you could bang both edges with streamers as you cover a lot of water.
As we head into the brighter, hotter days of July, Taylor suggests fishing early in the day – from the crack of dawn to maybe 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. Then take a break. Have a siesta. Head into Canon for some lunch. But don’t go home! He says he sees anglers heading east along Highway 50 around 4:00 on their way home. Dinner can wait. Fly fishers should be heading the other direction – into Bighorn Sheep Canyon for evening fishing. Some of the best fishing is from 4:00 until you can barely see your fly on the water.
And Bill and Taylor agree on this: “if you’re not fishing the Arkansas right now, you’re missing the bet.”
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