The Headwaters of the Arkansas start near Climax Mine along Fremont Pass (Highway 91 South), and then flow along Highway south of Leadville, all the way to Buena Vista.  The upper stretches near Leadville offer tighter fishing along cut banks with willowy vegetation.  Good dry fly fishing can be found here as a large variety of aquatic insects dwell in the freestone river.  The Caddis Population is especially high, and is always a good insect to imitate in the Arkansas River.  As the Arkansas Flows downstream it becomes wider, with fast canyon areas containing large boulders.  These lower stretches from Granite to BV are sometimes better fished with a heavy hopper dropper set up, or a nymph rig.

Current Conditions:


The Upper Ark is clear of ice. 

River Flow: 

Flows at Hayden are 140 cfs. Flows at Granite are 235 cfs. 

Water Temperature (Degrees F)


Water Clarity:

clear and spooky,  4' or better

Current Food Sources:

 | stonefly nymphs | caddis larva | Baetis nymphs | midge larva and emergers  | small fish, leeches, etc |

Flies to Try:

Guides Choice Dozen $24.99


 | Pat's Rubber Leg's olive or coffee size 10-12 | TDJ golden STone size 14-16  | Egan's Iron Lotus olive size 14-16 | RS2 olive or grey size 18-22  | Two Bit Hooker dark olive size 18-20 | Natural pheasant Tail or black Pheasant Tail size 18 -22 | UV midge black size 18-24 | Zebra Midge Purple size 18-22 | 


 | Elk Hair Caddis size 12-18  |  Parachute Adams size 12-24 | extended Body BWO 18-22 | CDC Baetis Dun Size 18-22 | CDC Morgans Midge size 18 - 22 | Snowshoe midge size 18-24


Baby Gongas | Craven's Dirty Hippie | Thin Mint size 04-08 | Near Nuff Sculpin tan or olive size 04-06 | Ishiwata’s Articulated Snitch olive |  Bead Head Pine Squirrel Leech black size 12 |


guide tip of the week:

Look for trout to hold in at least 3 feet of depth or more, and not too swift of current.  Fish these stretches of water thouroughly, as fish are often "podded up" in those favorable zones. A deep nymph rig with a bit of weight will be needed, and larger "attractor" style nymphs, trailed by small midge larva/emergers will be the go rig. Covering water with streamers can also be a fun tactic in the spring. Smaller sized streamers will be the most effective. 


Recent Media:

We love seeing and hearing about your outings as well. Send any fishing photos or stories  you want to share over to and we'll throw 'em up in the reports.

Local Angler Kris Tikkanen went out for a fish on the Upper Arkansas recently, finding a few bugs and few trout along the way....

While there are some bigger food sources still available in the Upper Ark (such as this cranefly larva pictured on the left), the most active aquatic insects are currently BWOs (adult dun pictured on right), and midges.



Kris hooked almost all of his trout this day on a size 20 Natural Pheasant Tail, which is a classic nymph that is perfect for imitating BWOs subsurface...



Large net building caddis larva were found in high numbers, as well as small mayfly nymphs...


Smaller nymphs imitating Baetis and midges hooked most of the fish on our last outing to the Upper Ark, we found these fish holding in fast/shallow water in the middle of the river, and hiding along deeper cuttbanks...


Dry fly, and dry dropper fishing has continued to be productive on the upper Arkansas... 

caddis are still around, and Fall Baetis are coming back...






Jacob Lutz spent some time turning over rocks, and flinging some flies this past weekend...


Got on the water around 10:30, and checked river rocks before rig up...

There were Lots of caddis, cased and free living. 

Also saw some Green Drake nymphs, and a variety of other mayfly nymphs (pictured above). 


Rigged up with size 16 hopper, trailed 6-8 inches below by a green size 16 attractor nymph that look something like this...



Caught fish on the dropper in the faster/deeper sections of a side channel to start with. 


Green drakes started hatching around noon, and after I started seeing a few rises I switched the hopper to a green drake dry.

Fished main channel of river with that rig. Caught fish in faster riffles on the dry, with some dropper eats mixed in as well. 


Picked off fish rising in back eddies for at least half an hour after the hatch, as drowned adults and crippled will collect in these areas. 


Hatches and surface eats slowed down after the wind picked up considerably.  Switched to a deeper hopper dropper rig, and picked up a few more fish sitting in drop offs after shelves.






Dry fly fishing between Leadville and BV has been productive recently, quite a few fish are sitting in pocket water, and shallow riffles looking up for adult insects.


golden stoneflies, caddis, and drake nymphs are very active on the Ark right now...



A Yellow sally nymph (small species of golden stonelfy) compared to an adult, both are about a size 14...


Green Drake Nymph, hopefully some of these start to hatch soon!


A cased caddis larva and free living caddis larva...


 lots of small cased caddis on a piece of scrap wood...


Still working on Identifiying this Mayfly...


A view of the water conditions...


Brown trout produce golden smiles...


Three generations on the water fishing together this day...


Whoops I mean 4, and paws off my rod...


recent history:

Quick Guides eye view of a day out on the Upper Ark (photos below) with our Seasond guide and fly designer Charlie Schmidt ...

Upper Arkansas River Fishing Report Saturday May 23

"The Ark fished fair yesterday at both Kobe and Hayden Meadows. We started at Kobe around 10am with perfect tea colored water and at least 12 inches of clarity.  Our first fish was on the size 10 Brindle Pat’s Rubber Leg and then another on TDJ Golden size 16. We fished the softest water and best available shelves. Not many bugs getting up other than the occasional caddis and baetis. Fish were in predictable places like shelves and foamy eddies. We relocated to Hayden around 1:30 when the heavy cloud cover came in. TDJ Golden 16 was the hot fly for the remainder of the afternoon as well a couple takes on my new TDJ Baetis. Total fish count was 7 landed/14+ hooked. Rainbow..browns...and a cutt-bow blessed the net." 





mid may

The views fishing the upper Arkansas at this time of year are matchless, just have a look at these photos from our guide Mike Wallace.






Learn More about the Arkansas River