Greetings from the Upper Arkansas Valley.
Even though we know Spring is not really here yet, it sure feels like it’s close. March and April can see their share of Winter weather and the occasional heavy snow, but for the most part, the River is waking up.
The recent warmer weather and reduced flows, have really gotten the fish active and feeding for parts of the day. Midges, Baetis (BWO) Mayflies, Stonefly nymphs, and caddis larva are all evident among the rocks and adult midges are hatching periodically throughout the day. I have found good numbers of active Browns in slower edge water, less than 2 feet deep, and fat hungry Rainbows in the heads and tailouts of deeper runs.
If you get started fairly early in the morning, a deep nymph rig and indicator is a good way to begin prospecting likely runs. A good size stonefly nymph followed by a black beauty, zebra midge, or similar trailer is a great strategy. Replace the midge with a small pheasant tail, or try small red or green patterns.
On overcast or spring snow days, there’s a good chance for a Blue Wing Olive mayfly hatch. Look for fish nosing around eddy lines, rythmic rises, and tiny, blue/gray sailboats on the water. Using a Parachute Adams trailing a Baetis emerger can be the ticket. Snowy Spring days can bring some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. Enjoy!
Float fishermen have the river mostly to themselves this time of year, and the fishing can be excellent. Flows are low and the water is clear, so getting casts away from the boat is critical. If you like throwing a dry-dropper rig, target the slack water a foot or two deep near the edges, and behind rocks. If you are going deeper, under an indicator, cast to the current seams and the heads of deeper runs. Mending for a good drift, and staying tight to your flies, are critical. Happy Spring!
Bill Dobson is a professional fishing guide. He can often be found guiding clients down the Arkansas River in search of a lunker.