Chaffee County the epicenter of these annual dry fly emergences

P.S. Bigger fish, better fishing in the Arkansas in 2013!

Rainbow Trout

Chaffee County, Colorado –After skiers lay their last tracks at Monarch Mountain, and before whitewater enthusiasts ply their paddles in Browns Canyon, there is a quiet period of time in the upper Arkansas River valley defined by the emergence of two aquatic insect species and the trout that rise to meet them. Anglers from around the country gather on the Arkansas River’s banks near Salida and Buena Vista, Colorado to test their skills and toast the spring as the baetis mayflies and brachycentrus caddis flies emerge from the river to complete their life cycle. These spring hatches represent a protein bonanza for brown and rainbow trout that have wintered in a state of near hibernation and awaken with a ravenous appetite. For anglers, the hatches bring some of the first dry fly fishing of the year, when small imitations of the insects can be drifted on the surface of the river, inducing aggressive strikes and long runs in the river’s swift current.

Beginning in late March, the baetis or blue-wing olive mayfly nymphs swim to the surface on cloudy afternoons to complete their metamorphosis, mate, and then lay their fertilized eggs in the river. At these times, trout will suspend just beneath the surface to take advantage of the vulnerable adult mayflies as they struggle to take wing. The resulting dry fly fishing is some of the first in Colorado and continues river-wide until spring runoff begins in late May.

Driven by rising water temperatures rather than low-light situations, the brachycentrus caddis hatch begins in the Canon City area around mid-April and is found further upstream each day as the light grows longer and the river warmer. Typically erupting in Salida around the end of April and in Buena Vista by May 10th, the caddis emergence brings out non-fishing spectators as well to watch the clouds of bugs come off the water and the behavior of the feeding fish. For dedicated anglers, a pilgrimage to the Arkansas River each spring kicks off the fishing season in high style. At a time when lodging occupancy is low and restaurants are moving few plates, the crowd of piscatorial persuasion following these hatches brings in a much appreciated revenue influx between tourism seasons. Affordable lodging, no waiting at great restaurants and a welcoming atmosphere at local watering holes make the après fish scene a key part of the experience. For six weeks each spring, fly-fishing takes over as the driving force of tourism in these communities.

New to the sport? Intrigued by the thought of tying on a fly and tying into a trout? Several local outfitters offer individualized instruction on private water and introductory level equipment can be rented for the day. Hobnob with local anglers at the Trout Unlimited annual chapter banquet on the first Saturday of May. Or visit local fly shops in Salida or Buena Vista where information is their stock and trade.

The Arkansas River is the most popular fishery in the state of Colorado. The quality of our fish, the diversity of our aquatic insect populations and the extensive public access are all cited reasons. With 80% wild brown trout and 20% stocked rainbow, the Arkansas River fishery averages 3,000 to 4,000 fish per mile. Our year-round fishing was enhanced by last year’s lower water levels. Trout grow faster (with lower water levels) when they do not have to expend a lot of energy fighting the current and impact of competition. The number of trout over 14 inches long increased 300% to 800%. These improvements are expected to persist for the next five years. In other words, GO FISHING!

For updated conditions, visit


Chaffee County is located in Central Colorado, the Heart of the Colorado Rockies. As Colorado’s Headwaters of Adventure – it stars the small towns of Buena Vista, Salida, Poncha Springs as well as Monarch Mountain.

Folks drawn here enjoy the welcome contrasts to the state’s more glamorous destination resorts. You don’t need the trendiest clothes or newest equipment to fit in with the locals. However, if you do have a thirst for adventure we have more than 100 miles of Arkansas River to raft, fish, float or kayak in. Fifteen of the states 53, 14,000 foot peaks touch the sky here in Chaffee County.

In spring, summer and fall Chaffee County is a mecca for the outdoor enthusiast. Visitors can choose from recreational activities such as hiking, biking, OHVing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, ziplining, camping, horseback riding, swimming, tennis and golfing. Winter sports fans can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at Monarch Mountain, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Year-around visitors in the “banana belt” can enjoy distinctive restaurants, unique shops, incredible art galleries and a large selection of antique shops in the historic towns of Salida and Buena Vista. Lodging options range from motels to rustic inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, and beautiful campsites to guest ranches.

For more information and a complimentary brochure, visit