July 7-8, 2007 - Arkansas River - Salida area (Big Bend, Rincon, Hecla)
Flows 1080 cfs, tea green in color - days were in the 70's, big puffy clouds gave way to dark grey clouds and thunder, then back to puffy clouds. Sunday was slightly overcast.
With the wife away I decided to play. After having such a great day in RMNP on Wednesday I was excited to go somewhere and go fishing. I called Brian (Hydedrifter) on Thursday night and he told me that he was having phenominal days fishing - some of the best of the summer - so that sealed the deal - I was headed for Salida! I packed up the truck bright and early on Saturday morning, popped the camper on the back, threw the dog in the back and off we went. About Bailey is when it happened - I realized I had forgotten my boots. Crap. I was in a dilemma - with a log ride ahead of me, and holiday traffic coming home the next, I almost bagged it. But, I was already about an hour into the drive and so I pulled over and let the dog play in the Platte along highway 285 for a bit.
Obviously I decided to keep going. I just had to make a stop at WalMart to find a pair of wading boots. On the way I decided to drop the camper of at Brown's Canyon at a state park camp ground - a great spot over looking the river at Hecla Junction. On my way to WalMart I did manage to get lost on the back streets of Salida and stopped at a place called Riverworks to ask directions. If you have never heard of Riverworks, I'm sure you have seen their work - especially if you have fished in Salida. Riverworks is where rafters and kayakers go to get frames built for their boats. It isn't much of a place - just a three stall garage with a couple guys and a work bench with a computer. They were working on a couple of boats when I came in - one had this cool anchor seat that hung out over the back of the raft - the anchor rope went through one of the hollow pipes out the side - pretty cool. They pointed me the right direction, and wish me luck on the weekend. I pulled into WalMart around 11, grabbed a pair of $25 boots, and was at my secret spot by noon - we jumped out - it was beautiful - about 75 degrees, partly cloudy and only one other guy in our parking lot. We went down to check out the river and it was roaring. I have never fished the Ark above 600 cfs, so this would be a test.
I didn't get into fish right away - I was trying a streamer and that lasted about 15 casts and I was done. I moved on to a green weenie (as Brian calls it) size 16, this is a pattern that Brian showed me a couple years back and the thing is always on. It is basically a pheasant tail, with mylar body, charteuse wire ribbing, a big gold bead and peacock herl behind the bead (you can add some hen soft hackle for a variation that works just as well). I tied a red version up top and a green version on the bottom and began nymphing around rocks and along seams. The fish weren't on right away and the normal spots, so I kept working my way down. We disturbed a gaggle of geese on one of the little islands, they wanted to attack me, but dog trumps goose every time - although my dog is afraid of fish. I set up below a huge boulder in the middle with a long slow slot with fast moving water in the seam. I'd cast into the slow stuff along the edge and the fish would take it at about the 1 o'clock lie. I hooked and landed about 10 or 12 in this section - all browns except one bow. Two browns were pushing 17 inches and all were fiesty as heck. Cabo kissed each fish and looked for them when I plopped them back into the water. It was 3 pm and I had worn out my welcome here, so I headed down to Howard to see if Brian and Mary were around - and they were. We chatted for about an hour and then I was on my way to fish some more.
I stopped just above Rincon at a nice area where Brian had floated me by last year. The spot was very nice with a sand bar in the middle and downed logs in a jam along the shore. I fished the edges and the flat stuff and hooked and landed several nice fish - one was easily 17 inches and fought great. I think two were rainbows and they were fat. I moved up to a rock wall area that the water pushed up against and created an eddy. I hook and lost a HUGE brown - I saw him flash and I would estimate him at 18 inches - he broke everything off. I hooked and landed a small bow out of the hole and then called it a night at 7:30 ish.
We camped at Hecla Junction at the base of Brown's Canyon - I figured I'd fish the next morning and then head out. The canyon is a great place to fish IF you can get across the river to the tracks. I drove the 3 miles on the dirt road - stopped at the boat ramp to throw the ball for Cabo for 30 minutes while chatting with some rafters packing their gear. Cabo and I made cheeseburgers, had a Pepsi, then went to bed. I read for an hour or so, I surprisingly got a text message while in the canyon - somehow I had just enough reception (strange).
Woke up at 7:15, packed the camper, moved the truck and camper down to the lot - and was fishing by 8am. We hiked down the canyon (not up the canyon since I couldn't get across!!) and hit some holes the looked fishy - but weren't. On all the websites they say the fishing has been on from 5am to 10am - that's crap. The day before I caught all my fish from noon on, and this morning I didn't catch a single fish until almost 11am. I was making my way back to the truck along the shoreline and casting up ahead tight to the bank - I was hooking into tons of fish (finally). And these fish were pretty big - all were over 14 inches (with the occassional youngin'). There's an island right below the boat ramps that a guy was fishing on - the island made for some great slack water behind rocks and there are tons of fish there - he was hooking into lots of them, but they were all small. I was working the shoreline - ducking under tree branches and dodging bushes to get in the perfect spot to cast along the bank ahead. It paid off as the big fish were in the hard to reach water. One brownie was about 16 inches and string. Again, Cabo kissed all my fish and then dunked her head under the water to see where they "went".
That was it - I hike out of the canyon and was out at the highway at 12:15pm and home by 2:30pm. I had to wash the wife's truck and vacuum it as it was well worn with bug splats and wader sauce on the floormats.