Gazette Article - How To Properly Handle Trout!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Arkansas River Tailwater

The Arkansas river below Pueblo Res. is fast becoming one of my favorite places to fish within reasonable driving distance from Colorado Springs. Winter in Colorado can be brutally cold in the high country and this urban tailwater provides good fishing without the negative windchills and the constant breaking of ice from your rod guides. Most people think of brown trout when they hear about the Arkansas River but the Colorado Division Of Wildlife has been stocking a sturdier strain of rainbow that has taken hold.  This strain of rainbow grow big and fight hard. The place is literally loaded with healthy bows the size of the one Chris is holding in the photo.

There are excellent Blue Winged Olive mayfly Hatches through the winter and spring months that usually start around lunch time. Look for overcast days to get into the best BWO hatches.  Midges, caddis, and tricos are in the system as well.

Flies to have in your box are egg patterns in a size 16, Gray RS-2's in a size 22-24, small black and red thread body midges (like the Black Beauty) in a size 22-26, Pat's Rubber Legged Stone, Bottom Rollers, Barr's Emergers, and Lafontaines Sparkle Caddis Pupa.   My favorite pattern to use when fish are taking baetis dries is a size 22-26 Parachute Adams.  Towards the end of spring It would'nt hurt to have tan Elk Hair Caddis in sizes 14-18.

A very productive way to fish the Pueblo tailwater in the spring is to Czech Nymph with various Caddis larva imitations, San Juan worms, and baetis patterns like Craven's JuJu Baetis.  For those of you who aren't interested in the Czech style of nymphing traditional tandem rigs under an indicator will work great with the same bugs.  Dry/dropper rigs with a Elk Hair Caddis or a Amy's Ant with a weighted nymph hanging off the bend of the hook is another preferred method.

A well fed Pueblo tailwater bow I landed last spring.

My favorite spots to fish below Pueblo are by the Valco Ponds which is a fantastic and underutilized fishery in its own right.  The Ponds have excellent warmwater fishing and still hold the Colorado state record for Spotted Bass at nearly 4lbs 8oz.  There are locals and the typical poachers that target Valco that leave their trash so I always make it a point of leaving with more trash than i showed up with.  From the Valco parking area bend (A $7 day use fee is required) up river past the pump station there is amazing pocket water and deep runs that many different species of fish call home.  Here is a map I put together to show my favorite spots to fish.

View Arkansas River by Valco Ponds in a larger map

Down river from Valco to the Nature Center the rumor is that there are fewer fish but that they are larger.  Brown trout can be found close to 30" in length in some areas.  One of my favorite things about this fishery is that there are more than just trout that call the Pueblo tailwater home.  I've heard stories and seen pictures of walleye, perch, channel catfish, sunfish, crappie, and bass all being landed from the Nature Center up to Pueblo Dam.  And I must admit that one of the bigger fish I hooked last year was a very respectable smallmouth bass that I pulled out of the same run I landed 3 respectable rainbows. 

A popular method to catch different species of fish other than trout is to throw streamers.  White is a great color during fly selection especially if it has a little red.  Don't be surprised if you land a few trout stripping streamers on your quest to catch a bass or walleye.  Good rods to have when fishing the Arkansas River with baitfish and leech patterns are either a 9ft. 6wt. Scott S4, Sage TCX, or Orvis Helios.  Full or intermediate sink tip fly lines help you get your fly down to the fish.  Present it either by casting up stream and across and stripping back, or casting down and across and swinging your streamer to your side of the bank with down stream mends.

Anglers beware during spring runoff the flow rate can reach 2,000-5,000 cubic feet per second.  These high flows are too dangerous to fish from the bank and aren't worth fishing.  Fish are hanging tight up against the bank and the moment you hook one they will take you out in the middle and at that point it's game over.  When the river is up past 300 c.f.s. it can be difficult to wade.  When the flow is in the thousands just standing next to the river can take your breath away.  Late July the flows subside and stay around 400-500 c.f.s. until late October when they drop to 200-300 all of which are very fishable flows.  My favorite time to fish is when the flow is anywhere in the mid 200's.

Directions:  The city of Pueblo is a two hour drive from Denver and slightly less than an hour from Colorado Springs going south on I-25.  Take I-25 south until you get to the highway 50 exit going west.  Go west on 50 to Pueblo blvd, turn left on Pueblo blvd, then turn right on Thatcher.  You will see the Valco ponds and the river on your right. 

Warning:  Pay the fee to get in.  Park rangers are constantly stopping to check that everyone is paid and has their pass in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side.  Arriba's mexican restaurant on the corner of Thatcher and Pueblo blvd. has great chilli cheese fries and chicken and steak burritos if you need a pick me up close to the river.  For questions on this spot on the Arkansas River or to request me (Jon Kleis) for a guided on the South Platte River; contact me via email at or call and request me at Anglers Covey fly shop at 719-471-2984.


1 comment:

  1. Loved the article. It’s the little things. Please select good fly rods


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