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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North Fork Sampler: North Fork Reservoir–An Alpine Movable Feast

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake”…Wallace Stevens

Late July 2018

Photography By Jody Bol

CAVEAT: The North Fork Road has reopened, but is still very rough. Call ArkAnglers in Salida, CO for latest information.

For more information on fishing other waters in the North Fork Valley (Island, Arthur, and Hunky Dory Lakes) see my blog articles:

https://hooknfly.com/2016/08/17/north-fork-sampler-island-lake-high-above-salida-colorado/amp/

https://hooknfly.com/2016/07/16/north-fork-sampler-arthur-lake-near-salida-colordo/amp/

https://hooknfly.com/2015/08/17/hunky-dory-lake-near-salida-co/

 The rugged North Fork of the South Arkansas River Valley is loaded with a bevy of beautiful lakes and streams.  I’ve explored its remote high mountain lakes—Arthur, Island, and Hunky Dory—and was rewarded with some gorgeous cutthroats, but ignored the large North Fork Reservoir at the upper end of the valley.  I’m not a big fan of waters where you can drive up to the shoreline, walk a few feet, and settle in a lawn chair to fish.  But in this case, boy, I didn’t know what I was missing!  I discovered a proverbial movable feast replete with a smorgasbord of big fish and stunning carpets of wildflowers all in the shadow of breathtaking scenery.  It’s particularly well-suited for family outings.  But the reservoir is a body of water that takes a while to figure out.  Here are some tips to connect with its finny denizens 

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