Ark Anglers – April
As April quickly approaches, I feel remiss in not notifying you sooner that the Arkansas River has been fishing very well for the last six weeks or so. An unusually mild winter has kept the water temperatures up and this has driven strong feeding behavior, especially in the Salida area and downstream through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. We are now about two weeks into our blue wing olive mayfly hatch, have enjoyed a good stonefly molt and some caddis larval drifts, and find that fish have largely dispersed back out into the pocket water, edges, and shelf-lines where we look for them outside of winter.
In addition, we are pleased to report that the Bureau of Reclamation has worked hard this winter to achieve the spring fishery flow recommendations for the Arkansas River. Since November, they have been vacating water from Turquoise and Twin Lakes reservoirs, making room for runoff and spring imports from the western slope. Barring a substantial change to their snowpack projections, the BOR feels that the necessary storage space has been created and they have now reduced the discharge to bring the flows into the optimal flow range for brown trout: 250-400 cfs as measured at Wellsville. Their intention is to maintain flows in that range until natural runoff takes over, historically during the third week of May.
The spring fishery flow recommendations have two primary objectives: the first is to give the emerging brown trout fry an opportunity to establish themselves prior to runoff, and the second is to give the rest of the brown trout population the opportunity to take advantage of our strong spring hatches, getting them into better condition for runoff. A third, unintended but beneficial result of these spring flows, is to generate better accessibility for the wade-fishing community, members of whom are also interested in our spring hatches. As of today, with cooler weather compounding the water management decisions, we have 325 cfs at the Wellsville gauge below Salida.
So, what to expect in the weeks ahead? I won’t attempt a weather forecast – the high pressure ridge that generated the beautiful February and March appears to have moved, admitting more Pacific moisture to the Great Basin and Rockies. So “unsettled” is about the best I can offer. Bugs and fish being what they are though, I would expect strong blue wing olive mayfly activity continuing into early May, the initial onset of our brachycentrus caddis hatch on the lower river around April 15 with an upstream progression hitting Salida around May 1 and Buena Vista around May 15, and some cranefly activity in Bighorn Sheep Canyon following the caddis until runoff hits in earnest, historically May 15-20. During the seven weeks between now and then, we will be guiding float and wade fishing trips each day, as well as conducting our introductory Fly-Fishing 101 classes on 4/8, 4/15, 5/20 and 6/10.
Spring is a special time of year for us on the Arkansas, with daily dry-fly fishing bringing old friends back to the fly shop and the river. We look forward to seeing you all, welcome your inquiries and questions, and hope we can spend some time with you on the water.