Hayden Mellsop ... top guide for the Arkansas RiverWith the evenings getting longer, and the days incrementally warmer, thoughts are turning more and more to the river, and away from the ski area. So much so that even with the report of a foot of fresh powder in the hills, I decided to forego a drive up the pass to Monarch, and instead turned the truck in the opposite direction, heading down the canyon a little way to Howard.
My buddy Pink, after taking a five year sabbatical back to his home state of Vermont, returned to the valley recently and purchased himself a little place down on the river. After inspecting the lay of the land, and deciding the best place to excavate for his new boat ramp, we rigged up and headed upstream, nymphing as we went.
It’s hard to tell whether the river is fishing better than it did ten years ago, or if I am just getting to be a better fisherman. Probably a little of both, but whatever the reason, we enjoyed a great hour or so on the river, each catching multiple fish – primarily browns, with a couple of rainbows thrown into the mix.
This is the time of the year when golden stonefly nymphs tend to work well. The nymphs undergo periodic molts, called ‘in – stars’, during which they shed their old skins to grow into a new one. Their new skin is quite yellow in color until it hardens and darkens, and the fish seem to find them particularly tasty at this time, kind of like a good feed of lamb before it has a chance to turn into mutton.
Trailing below the stone fly was the ever reliable pheasant tail, and each pattern caught multiple fish. In tandem with my inaugural 2011 float a month ago, the fishing season is off to a great start, and it won’t be too