Arkansas River Fly Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Spots

arkansas river fly fishing

The Arkansas River is one of the most popular fly fishing destinations. This river is located in Colorado and offers some of the best fly-fishing experiences in the United States. It’s no surprise that the river is a favorite among anglers, with its diverse fish species and scenic beauty. This article will explore the best fly fishing spots on the Arkansas River, the fish that live there, the gear you’ll need, and some tips for a successful fishing trip.

Why Fly Fish the Arkansas River?

The Arkansas River has one of the highest concentrations in the United States of trout. This river is home to brown trout, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. Fly fishing is a popular pastime for many anglers.

The Arkansas River also offers a variety of fishing opportunities. There are sections that are ideal for beginners, and others that will challenge the most experienced fly fishermen. Anglers of any skill level can enjoy the 150 miles of river.

Best Arkansas River Fly-Fishing Spots

There are several sections of the Arkansas River, each offering a unique experience to fly fishermen. Here are a few of the best places to visit:

  1. Browns Canyon – Browns Canyon is one of the most popular fly fishing destinations in the world because of its beautiful scenery and rainbow and Brown trout. This section of river is classified as Gold Medal Waters. It has a high fish population and can produce large-sized fish.
  2. The Numbers – The Numbers is an excellent spot for experienced fishermen. The fast-moving waters and technical casts required to fish this area can be challenging but the reward are large brown and rainbow Trout.
  3. Bighorn Sheep Canyon – This section of river is located south from Salida. It is known for its brown and rainbow trout. The Bighorn Sheep Canyon makes for an excellent float trip.
  4. Upper Arkansas River – This section of the river is ideal for beginners because it has slow-moving waters and easy wading. This section of the Arkansas River is dominated by brown and rainbow trout.
  5. Lower Arkansas River: This section of the river is known for its cutthroat and beautiful scenery. Many fly fishermen love it.
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Fish Species of the Arkansas River

The Arkansas River offers some of the best fly-fishing opportunities in Colorado. This is mainly because of the variety of fish that are present. Here are a few of the fish you can expect to see:

  1. Brown Trout Brown trout is the most common species in the Arkansas River. These fish can grow to be very large, and they are extremely sly. They are difficult to catch.
  2. Rainbow Trout Rainbow trout is a favorite species of fly fisherman. These fish are beautiful and hard-fighting. They are abundant in the Arkansas River.
  3. Cutthroat Trout Cutthroat Trout are smaller than most trout species, but they are still highly sought after by fishermen. These fish are known for having a unique appearance with a red slash beneath their lower jaw.
  4. Mountain Whitefish Mountain whitefish can be found in Colorado and are abundant along the Arkansas River. They are not as popular with fishermen, but they can be a lot of fun to catch.

Fly Fishing Gear to bring

It’s essential to have the right equipment if you want to enjoy a successful experience fly fishing on the Arkansas River. Here are some items you must have:

  1. Fly Rod and Reel – A 4 to 6-weight rod is best for the Arkansas River. You will also need a reel capable of handling the weight of fish you plan to catch.
  2. Fly Line: The most versatile fly line is a weight-forward floating line, which can be used both for dry and nymphing fishing.
  3. Fly patterns: The best fly pattern for the Arkansas River includes nymphs like Pheasant Tail and Hare’s Ear; dry flies such as the Adams, Blue Wing Olive and Elk Hair Caddis, and streamers like Wooly Buggers or Zonkers.
  4. Waders and Boots. Waders will keep you dry while you fish the Arkansas River. A pair of quality wading shoes will also provide traction for the river’s slippery stones.
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Tips for a Successful Arkansas River Float Fishing Trip

  1. Knowing the weather will help you decide what clothing and gear to bring.
  2. Get a fishing book: A fishing book can be very helpful, especially if it’s your first time fly fishing or you are unfamiliar with the Arkansas River.
  3. Use the right fly pattern. The Arkansas River is home to a variety fish species. Bring a variety fly patterns to increase your chances of catching fish.
  4. Be careful: The Arkansas River is dangerous and the water level can change throughout the year. Wear a life jacket, and bring a wading stick with you before entering the water.
  5. Catch and release is essential for the Arkansas River fish population.


Fly fishing enthusiasts will love the Arkansas River. There’s no better way to spend a day on water than with the wide variety of fish species. The Arkansas River offers something for everyone, whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice. Follow our tips and bring the right equipment to get the most out of your experience. Fly fishing is fun!

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