August 13th, 2018
Flow: 73 cfs from the dam plus 26 cfs from the hatchery. (Arkansas River Above Pueblo Gauge)
Water Temp: 58f from the dam, warming to the mid to upper 60’s at Pueblo
Clarity: about 2 feet
Hatches: Caddis, Aquatic Moths, Tricos, Pale Evening Duns, Midges, Damsels and Dragon Flies
The Pueblo Tailwater is still offering up good fishing opportunities but it’s certainly become less predictable. Flows are now down in the 70 cfs range and fish are choosing to hunker down and seek shelter during the heat of the day, especially if there is limited bug activity. The weather forecast is calling for a few days of warmer weather, followed by a cooling trend with increased chances for afternoon moisture. Cloud cover can certainly spark improved feeding throughout the day, but when the skies are clear the best time to be on the water is in the morning and evening.
The trico hatches have become less predictable and are often out numbered by midge in the morning. Caddis and aquatic moths are hatching mid to late morning and late afternoon, with egg laying occurring late evening and after dark. (The new moon was on Saturday and as the moon grows brighter over the next two weeks you can be sure that nighttime feeding will also increase.) The tiny sulfur mayflies that hatch in the late afternoon and evening are becoming stronger by the day and generally continue well into September. They often range in size from 22 – 26 and are rusty orange to bright yellow in color. Small cream parachutes are effective when fish are taking the duns on top. Luckily, fish will still take imitations in the 18 – 22 range when feeding subsurface. We recommend Barr’s PMD emerger or an orange, beaded thorax soft hackle.
When there appears to be limited bug activity you can still tempt some fish into feeding by appealing to their glutenous inclinations. There are ample amounts of larger food items in the river, including leeches, crayfish and juvenile suckers to name a few, and it can be worthwhile fishing streamers and large nymphs on a dead drift or slow retrieve near structure and in the deepest pools.
If you are looking for a guide to help you explore this unique, front-range fishery, The Drift has the most experienced and knowledgeable fly fishing guides on the Pueblo Tailwater. Stop by the shop or give us a call. We are always happy to answer your questions and assist in arranging a trip that is sure to exceed your expectations. Thanks for checking in and as always, “Tight Lines!”
TIPS FOR FISHING LOW FLOWS: Like most river fisheries across Colorado this summer, the tailwater is experiencing unusually low flows and warm water temperatures are a big concern depending on location and time of day. The water temperature has stabilized at 58F from the dam and the first few miles of the tailwater are remaining in the comfort zone for trout. However, we are seeing temps climb into the extreme limits for trout the further downstream you go. Closer to I-25, water temps are bottoming out around 64 – 66F in the early morning hours and are climbing into the 70’s by early afternoon. If you plan of fishing below the Nature Center we recommend having a thermometer with you and calling it quits when mid channel water temps reach the mid 60’s. Regardless of where you fish on the tailwater, or the time of day, it is important to take a few precautions to ensure the fish you release survive to fight another day. In addition to the obvious “wet you hands, keep the fish in the water and pinch the barb C&R practices,” here are a few additional steps you can take to avoid post-release, fish mortality:
- Play fish aggressively!!! Even if it means loosing fish during the fight. This rule is always important, but it becomes critical when water temps rise are in the mid-to-upper 60’s and dissolved oxygen levels drop. Over played fish may initially appear fine and swim away upon release, only to succumb to their exhaustion 12 to 24 hours later. To assist in landing fish quickly, we recommend using 5X tippet on flies size 18 and smaller, 4x on flies 12 – 16, and 3x on flies size 10 and larger. (during low light periods go up a size in tippet!)
- Use a net to assist in landing fish and keep them submerged while removing the hook. A small (but important) detail is to remain in the current after you’ve netted the fish. In higher flows and cooler water temps it’s perfectly fine to move into slack water, but right now that water is notably warmer than in the channel, with poor dissolved oxygen levels.
- If you are going to take a picture be sure to keep the fish in the net with it’s head facing into the current. If you have a friend there that can take a picture you can start reviving the fish while they get into position to snap a pic. If it’s a big fish and you’re alone, resist the temptation of taking a picture. Take a mental snapshot, give thanks and say goodbye!! (Yeah I know, it feels good to show fish pics to your friends and family; but it really sucks when you go back the next day only to see that big, beautiful fish lying belly up in the river.)
- Finally, when releasing your catch, be sure to hold the fish upright, facing into moderate current, and stay with the fish until it swims off on its own accord.
ARKANSAS RIVER – CANON CITY TO BUENA VISTA
Flow: 311 cfs at Wellsville
Water Temp: Buena Vista to Wellsville 58-66, Down Stream of Wellsville 58-72
Clarity: Good above Wellsville and generally poor downstream due to lingering sediment from burn scar.
The “Upper Ark” is a story of two rivers at the moment. The stretch of river from Wellsville all the way upstream to Leadville has been running low and clear, with good water temps throughout the day. From Coaldale down to Canon City, water clarity is still being adversely affected by accumulated sediment from the Hayden Pass burn scar, coupled with water temperatures that are reaching the low 70’s in the afternoon hours. Therefore, if you are heading up river we recommend fishing anywhere from the Wellsville Bridge access on up.
The low flows are ideal for wade fishing and the dry fly action has been fairly consistent in the morning and late afternoon. When fish are looking up, a good assortment of terrestrials, some red quills in sz 16 and 18, and a few caddis dries should be all you need. Once the sun is high overhead you will may need to add a weighted nymph on a long dropper to get down to where the fish are holding. The fish on this stretch of the Ark tend to be smaller than on the tailwater, but the scenery is always great and when the fish are feeding on top it’s hard to complain about size.
Current Flow for the Arkansas River Tailwater in Pueblo
Current Flow for the Arkansas River near Wellsville
Flow Charts are courtesy of the Colorado Division of Water Resources http://www.dwr.state.co.us