The Arkansas Tailwater is approximately two hours south of Denver. What you spend in driving time will definitely be made up with gin clear water and actively feeding fish through the cold winter months.
Fly fishing the tailwater of the Arkansas River in Pueblo during winter is certainly not a secret to the angling community, but with these tips you’ll see your hookup rate grow exponentially. My main fishing partner and cousin, Chris, is going to hate me for posting this blog but I’m going to give you all the pro’s tips to catching a trophy trout down on the tailwater!
Beat the crowds: Anyone who has been down there knows the crowds, and subsequent etiquette with your fellow anglers, can be somewhat unpleasant. My best advice here is to park and fish at the Nature Center section of the river. You’re going to find some really great runs, and a couple of great weirs, and a fraction of the crowds. Sure, you could head east of Pueblo Blvd, but I’ve found the Nature Center offers the best balance between catching trophy sized trout as well as a lack of pressure that the upper sections receive.
Bring the midge patterns: During these winter months in The ‘Blo, I’ll fish a triple nymph rig and typically it’s a combination of different colors and different life cycles of midge patterns. So as an example, I’ll have my first two flies be a red zebra midge (represents a larva) and then an olive zebra midge (again, represents a larva), then trail those two flies with a purple medallion midge emerger. Now you’re going to want to think of the size of your flies—think size 20 and 22s. If you’re comfortable fishing size 24 hooks then more power to you, and congratulations, because you’re definitely going to get a fair amount of action. With all that said here are my go-to winter midge patterns:
- Black Rojo Garcia Midge
- Tungsten-bead Olive Zebra Midge
- Brassie (size 22 or smaller)
- Chocolate Foamback Emerger (size 22)
- Dorsey’s Top Secret
- Dorsey’s Medallion Midge
- Bling Midge
Fish the structure: The tailwater is loaded with diamond shaped rock formations which offer great trout habitat. I call these boulder clusters “Baseball Diamonds”, with the bottom boulder being ‘home plate’, the one up and to the right ‘first base’, then ‘second’ and ‘third base’. The key is to fish every side of all four bases/rocks. Get your presentation behind each rock, get it to the side of each the rock, and definitely fish in front of each boulder as well! Use a nice high stick presentation so only your strike indicator is in the water while fishing these baseball diamonds for the best chance a trophy trout.
This is a highly pressured fishery: With that in mind we want to give ourselves every advantage we can. During the winter months I always use 6x fluorocarbon tippet. It can absolutely mean the difference between hooking into a piggy and not hooking into one on a highly pressured river. Also, and as small as this may seem it definitely helps, but I use brown colored split shots. The river bed in the Arki varies between a light to dark brown coloration so camouflaging your weight will help stack the chips in your favor.
There is of course more than this to catching fish on this river, or any river for that matter, but keep these four pointers in mind and enjoy your next day out on the Arkansas Tailwater!