Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On the River: Arkansas, Bighorn Sheep Canyon, Canyon City, CO

October 15, 2010

If I had a stand-out day this fall, it was on the Arkansas river. It really was the quintessential fall fly fishing day. The sky was a brilliant blue, the air was crisp, the leaves were crunchy underfoot, the wind was non-existant and there was the smell of the fading summer (i.e. decaying plant matter).

There was not much to be said for the size of the fish we were catching. In fact, I have yet to see a day on the Arkansas where the average fish was much over 12". If you know of some spots where the "big fish" live, feel free to contact me and we'll hit the river together (that is if you're willing to divulge those secrets). Until that time, my assumption is that the Ark is a great river for quantities, but not so great for size. I am confident that in all those miles of river with deep pools there lies some pretty monster fish, but they are probably content staying far away from where the angler can threaten them.

As for the fishing, it was fantastic! We splatted a few ant patterns here and there and were rewarded with the occasional fish. We fished the heads of shallow riffles with a blacktail baetis pattern with much success. By the middle of the day, there were enough caddis dancing around to bring up some of the better fish. And nearing the end of the day, it was the poly-wing baetis that caused the biggest fish of the day to scrutinize my fly and take it with a gentle sip (didn't get a picture of that one, he pulled out after 30 seconds or so).

So much of the joy in a day like this one, for me, has to do with the style in which I'm fishing. I love it when things are calm, gentle, delicate. I love seeing the fish. I love seeing the take. I love being refused, then spending some time pondering why and solving the riddle. I think it is why I am so reminiscent of fishing back east all the time. After I've spent a good amount of time fishing all over this country, I've decided that the style that suits me best is found where the water flows a little slower and the fish think a little longer.

In the west, I usually find those days in the fall, and it makes me happy.

And so, at the end of the day, when I was making a 60 foot cast with a #22 poly-wing baetis to a pod of rising fish ... I was a pretty happy man.

Tight lines indeed,


  1. I have had the same experience with that area on the Arkansas. Great fishing, nothing big but they are willing to cooperate. Don't know where the big fish live but the small ones are fun anyways.

  2. There are a few spots that the fish are a bit bigger. I know if one that is on accessible private property around Texas Creek. It doesn't cost much and can be pretty quite when things heat up in the Spring and all the pull offs are full. I would say those fish average 14" and definitely act a lot bigger than they are. Also, that is some of the best looking fishy water on the lower Ark. It's lots of fun!


  3. Zach: Yeah, the only place I've hooked up with anything bigger was the upper Ark, just south of Leadville. But I haven't fished it much, so it could have just been a fluke. Heck yeah, nothing like a good day of pick up large numbers of small fish.

  4. Juan: Sounds like a good deal. What does it cost to get on? Who do you contact? Private water is always fun every once in a while, especially if it is a limited number of rods allowed on the water. Good way to beat the crowds!