Goodbye To A River: A Sweet Afternoon On The Big Ark Near Salida, CO

Late October 2019

For some earlier articles on fishing the Arkansas River, see my posts from late 2018

I was well into packing up for my annual migration to the Florida Everglades for the winter.  The first snow had already fallen, leaves were falling fast, and the wind had been blowing like a banshee all week, making fly fishing a dangerous sport.

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Early October Snow Cools Fishing Fever!

But then as if by magic, the winds relented and the angling gods beckoned, an irresistible siren’s call.   I hadn’t been out on my old home water, the Arkansas River, that flows close by my cabin near Salida, Colorado, since March.  When I moved to Colorado back in the late 80s, the Big Ark was undiscovered.  I could fish all day on a weekend back then and rarely bump into another angler.  But it wasn’t long after that rafting on the river turned into a big business, industrial-style tourism.  Then the state designated the Arkansas as Gold Medal trout water, followed soon thereafter by creation of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area.  Both events were the equivalent of putting a big neon sign that said come on over, ye hordes from Denver and recreate.  And they did.

Today Denver has over a million more residents than back then with easier access to Salida, the result being flotillas of rafters, kayaks, SUPs, float fisherman, and other assorted riffraff to drive wade fisherman berserk.

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It’s virtually impossible to find a quiet spot on the river for piscatorial pursuits, even on weekdays.  Now if I am sounding like an old curmudgeon, I plead guilty.  Rant completed.

But suddenly to my wonder, the winds have died down, the water level on the Ark is 275 cfs, perfect for wading but too low for most rafters and kayaks, and the cold weather dipping into the 30s at night has sent fair-weather anglers scurrying to warmer climes.  Now if I can dodge the increasing legions of placer miners on the river and avoid the smoke bellowing down valley from the big Deckers fire, I may find some solitude like the old days and even some fish.

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Mission Impossible? Searching For Fish And Solitude In South Park

Late September 2019

The big broad valley that is Colorado’s South Park is known mainly for two things—its eponymous TV cartoon show and great fishing on the South Platte river and its tributaries.  Problem is, just over an hour away looms the booming Denver metro area with its millions of residents, not to mention Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs.  The result is evident every day on two Colorado fishing groups I belong to on Facebook.  While anglers show photos of nice browns and rainbows on famous stretches of the South Platte like the Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon, more and more they rail about the crowds and report increasing incidents of near-fisticuffs over prime fishing spots.  To make matters worse, access to private waters that were formerly open to the public for a modest fee, through programs like the now-defunct county sponsored South Park Flyfishers, is shrinking.

Crowds are not my cup of tea when it comes to fishing.  However, when I drive from my home near Salida to Denver through Fairplay to see my sweetheart granddaughter Aly, I see miles of water just off U.S. Highway 285 on the South Fork of the South Platte that look inviting.  I fished some of this area several years ago on the 63 Ranch State Wildlife area, public water just above Antero Reservoir.  A friend and I got there early in the morning one summer day and caught some nice rainbows and browns, but by 11 a.m., the hordes descended—we could see eight other anglers, several of whom had no clue that you are not supposed to jump into the water right ahead of other anglers already fishing just below who are working upstream.  We flew the white flag and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, I was intrigued when I tooled down Hwy. 285 and saw few anglers upstream of Antero on the miles of public water between the main public access points located on the 63 Ranch and Knight-Imler State Wildlife Areas. (Caveat:  Anglers must stay within 25 feet of the river when fishing the Knight-Imler SWA–see maps below for boundaries of both areas.)

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Public Access And Parking Areas On 63 Ranch SWA And State Trust Lands
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Knight-Imler SWA Public Fishing Easements A Few Miles North Of The 63 Ranch SWA

To further whet my angling appetite, I have heard tales of huge spawning browns migrating out of Antero Reservoir up the South Fork in the fall.  As I drive, I cook up a strategy in my mind:  Pinpoint the several designated public access parking areas along this stretch and then avoid them like the plague.  So on my next several trips I keep a hawkeye out for alternatives and discover several possible walk-in access points from service vehicle-only gates.  The next step is to find a day when the wind isn’t blowing like a banshee in South Park, an all-too-often condition.

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Chokoloskee Up Close: Chasing Snook, Tarpon, And Reds In The Everglades

October 2019

As the temperatures start to dip into the 30s and below here in the Colorado high country, my thoughts are starting to turn from trout to chasing snook, tarpon, and redfish in my winter home in Florida’s Everglades.  I live on a little island in the Glades called Chokoloskee surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful saltwater teeming with big fish.  Here’s a sampling of my favorite places that can be reached easily by kayak or small skiff from my latest article from Florida Sportsman with the inside skinny on lures and technique as well.  Come on down when you want to thaw out and catch some fish this winter!

Click on the link below to view a copy of the article “Chokoloskee Up Close.”

Chokoloskee Article FS

Day One Fishing The Hidden Waters Of Saguache Park: The North Fork Of Saguache Creek

August 2019

Photos By Fran Rulon-Miller and Chris Duerksen

For my earlier adventures fishing the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek, see my articles from the summer of 2017 and 2018.

As my readers and angling friends know, the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek, coursing out of the high peaks of the La Garita Mountains in south central Colorado, is one of my favorite fishing haunts.  Because it is a fetching, secluded water with very cooperative fish, I usually look no further when I venture into the broad expanse of Saguache Park about two hours south of Gunnison, Colorado.

But earlier this summer when I was scoping out a new stretch of the Middle Fork on a topo map that I had not yet fished, my eyes wandered to some of its obscure tributaries like the North Fork, Johns Creek, Bear Creek, and several others.  All looked a tad hard to access which usually means good fishing.  So I resolved to give them a try, the first on my list being the North Fork.

The dozens of times I have fished the Middle Fork over the last decade I often forded the little North Fork just above Stone Cellar campground with hardly a second glance.

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The Red Dropped Pin Denotes Start Of Hike Along The North Fork

It’s overgrown and only a few feet wide at that point, nothing to really pique my interest.  But my topo map reveals that just upstream in a canyon away from the road or any official trail it looks less brushy with some interesting twists and turns.  Who can resist!!

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Running Rings Around The Runoff: Tips To Ferret Out Those Elusive Fishable Waters

Late May/June 2019

There is nothing more disheartening for a Rocky Mountain angler than to drive over a favorite creek or river in late May or early June and discover overnight it’s transformed from a clear rushing stream into a churning chocolate brown runaway torrent.  It’s a sure sign that the snow-fueled runoff is underway and with the high-elevation lakes still iced in, that the fly rods will be mothballed till July.

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HEARTBREAKER!

But wait!!  It does not have to be.  With a little sleuthing there are almost always some waters that are  fishable.  Here are some tips on how to find them and a list of likely candidates in my neck of the woods—south central Colorado.

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Runoff Antidote

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