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Fly Fishing the Arkansas River, Colorado


Fishing the Arkansas River

Nothing beats a day on the river fly fishing. If you’re in Colorado one of the best rivers to find yourself on is the Arkansas River. There are multiple options for fishing these churning waters from the headwaters in the Rocky Mountains to the southern portion of the state and while each spot presents its own unique challenges you can’t go wrong fishing any hot spot on the Arkansas. Let’s learn about fly fishing this Colorado honey hole including which fish frequent the waters, what type of techniques bring in the best fish, when to fish, and where to find local help.

Where is the Arkansas River?

The headwaters of the Arkansas begin near Leadville, Colorado before meandering down through the mountains, past Pueblo, and eastward into Kansas. There are several spots across the Centennial State where you can fish the Arkansas but the Buena Vista / Salida and Pueblo area are among the most popular.

What Fish are in the Arkansas River?

There are a variety of fish in the Arkansas, but several varieties of trout are fishing favorites. The most popular include brown trout and rainbow trout but there are more species to be found including brook trout. Set yourself up for success by keeping brown trout as your primary target species.

Best Bets on Equipment

You can fish multiple sets of roads, reels, and flies with success on the Arkansas, but an ideal rig is a 9 foot 5 to 6 weight rod with a floating line. 9-foot leader is a great base for great bites. For flies you can use dry flies, nymphs, and streamers, depending on the hatch. The Arkansas has many distinct hatches and you can easily find success by matching the hatch. Unlike other spots in Colorado fish on the Arkansas hit a wide variety of flies so bring plenty of tackle to find the biggest fish. You can fish from the shore, wade, or float the Arkansas River so match the waders to your fishing. Chest waders are recommended if you know you’ll be wading into deeper spots.

Best Time of Year to Go

There are a few good hatches on the Arkansas, but the Mother’s Day caddis hatch is the primetime to find yourself on this river. The best season according to locals is March 1st through October 31st but you can catch fish all through fall and winter with the right flies and right timing. Like any other trip look to local resources to figure out your best strategy depending on the time of year.

Best Time of Day to Fish

Finding yourself at the river during the wrong time of day can result in plenty of great views but zero fish. Let’s go by the season so you don’t waste time angling at the wrong time.


The summer season offers the longest fishing hours. Late dawn to late afternoon offers excellent angling during the summer though you’ll need to monitor water temperature to find the best windows. If you have the right equipment you can try night fishing too.

Spring / Fall

In fall trout are still hitting and the changing leaves offers spectacular scenery while you enjoy your favorite pastime. Fish will move more slowly during the spring and falls months, but you know they’ll be out for any hatch including the spring caddis hatch. Booking a trip around Mother’s Day is an easy way to secure great fishing. During spring and fall fish are found in the heat of the day from morning to afternoon.


It’s usually environmental factors and not fishing conditions that make fly fishing the Arkansas in winter a bad choice. You can still fish the Arkansas during winter but brings chest waders and a warm outfit for cold waters. You’re only likely to find fish from late morning to early afternoon. Make sure any areas you’re targeting are free of ice before booking your trip.

Arkansas River Fly Fishing Resources

The Drift Fly Shop: Pueblo, CO

The Drift Fly Shop is a true fly fishing outpost – no live bait. The Drift is a great all-around resource for fishing the Arkansas with all the equipment and flies you’ll need, local knowledge on fish, and guided tours. If you’re heading to the Arkansas empty-handed the Drift can fully outfit you and get you on the fish.

ArkAnglers: Buena Vista, CO

When the spring hatch starts smart anglers find themselves at ArkAnglers. Adjacent to the Arkansas River, ArkAnglers can get you the right flies, the right equipment, and can put you on the water with a guided tour by float, on waders, from shore, and more.

Good Times and Great Fishing

If you’re looking for a favorite Colorado fly fishing spot you can’t beat a day on the Arkansas River. Use our resources, local know-how, and rig your line up right for a successful day nailing brown trout. It doesn’t get much better than pulling out a lunker in the shadow of Colorado mountains.