Central Colorado - Arkansas, Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers

28th September - 14th October 2012

In Salida (pronounced almost as "slider", rather than the Spanish version of the word), the friendly folks at Ark Anglers Fly Shop pointed out the best fishing spots on their map of the river and suggested first we try the fishing access point at Salida East.

Not only was this spot fishing well, there was also a free camp ground. A perfect spot for the weekend, we found a spot level almost enough for our levelling blocks to deal with and settled in with our eclectic group of neighbours. Free camp grounds always seemed to attract a more varied clientèle.

The first afternoon's fishing netted three trout, including a large rainbow Christine had spotted in a pool close to the bank.

Beautiful Arkansas River near Salida, CO.

Scenes from the banks of the Arkansas River

Look Out - bears about!

The next morning's first task was to introduce our successfully humanely trapped stowaway mouse to his new home on the Arkansas river. After this we were free to wander the river bank all day, Phil in search of fish, Christine in search of whatever cropped up along the way. This included a picture frame with the words "punk love" painted on it, about three-quarters of a stainless steel steamer, numerous bear footprints, a wallet filled only with mud and water, a loudspeaker, a bicycle frame, a bra and finally a very dishevelled American passport. Being responsible folks, the latter was scooped up to be deposited later at the local police station, well at least in theory.

When we headed into town the next day, it turned out that evidently Salida is crime free on a Sunday. When we finally got a set of directions which actually led to the police station, it was closed and the next best solution we could come up with was to deposit the document, in a ziploc bag, under the windscreen wiper of a police car parked outside, with a note. Two days later it was still there......

The town's Chamber of Commerce kindly provided an RV dump station and drinking water supply for passing campers, a wonderful find when we split our time camping between Walmart and the free campground. It being already almost the end of September, the nights were freezing, literally on some occasions. Although we'd succeeded in getting Harvey-the-RV's propane heater working, the fan was hungry for battery power, so it couldn't be run continuously. It was OK once you were snuggled in bed, so long as you left most of your clothes on under your nightwear ready for a cold start in the morning!

Phil all dressed up to cook dinner.

It's too early and too damn cold.

Heading into Brown's Canyon

After a few days around Salida, we headed north to Brown's Canyon, still on the Arkansas River, reported to be another good fishing spot. Here, once you had waded across the river, there wasn't a trail as such, you actually had to walk along the railway tracks alongside the river. Fortunately they were disused! From here you could scramble down to the river to fish, although Phil's first catch was made from high above the water, leaving him in a mad scamper down the slick rocks to get near enough to his fish to release it!

In the crystal clear, low water, the fish proved to be very spooky. In effect, you only had one chance to cast to catch them before they'd be on to you and scarper. Still by the end of a long, energetic and tiring day's fishing, Phil had landed seven fish.

Phil finally gets to his fish.

After another night at Salida's Walmart, which was starting to feel like home, we made seventy or so mile trip to Eleven Mile State Park, home of the famous "Dream Stream". We'd visited this spot on our previous visit to Colorado and when we got there, began wondering why we had returned.

It was a beautiful but bleak spot, especially in the persistent, howling wind. We spent a frustrating afternoon walking downstream from the bridge towards the Eleven Mile reservoir, Phil struggling to cast his flies in the strong wind, Christine just struggling to stay standing sometimes. Later we walked upstream and had marginally more success. At least the camp ground had electricity, to run our electric heater.

With the stream being a popular spot, Phil was eager to get fishing early next morning to beat the crowds. The river was beginning to feel like the "combat fishing" we'd experienced on the Frying Pan river. Despite our 8 am arrival, as the temperature crept above freezing, we found the car park already almost full, the riverbanks lined with determined fly fishermen. After a long walk, we managed to find some vacant spots and spent the morning fishing. By lunchtime the wind began to howl again and Phil quickly abandoned his afternoon fishing trip. In fact we abandoned the camp ground too, for which we'd already paid, on hearing the forecast of snow. We decided it would be more fun to head back to Salida and spend more time enjoying the Arkansas River.

Dream Stream

Finally managed to land a fly somewhere near a fish!

One of Phil's favourite fishing spots on the Arkansas.

Arkansas river fish.

Our return to Salida wasn't without its traumas. Phil's favourite fishing rod got trapped in Harvey's door (it wasn't easy getting a 10 foot fly rod out of the door on a 22 foot camper), when the wind unexpectedly slammed it shut. The rod was swiftly converted from a four piece to a six piece rod and a replacement section had to be ordered quickly. An expensive gust of wind!

Another couple of fun days were spend catching countless fish in the Arkansas at Salida and enjoying the town's other amenities. We split our camping loyalty between the free but exposed camp ground on the river and Walmart's more sheltered car park. One morning we raised our blinds to find that our Wally-hopping had been shared by a truck emblazened with the logo of their rival company Target, the equivalent of an Sainsbury's lorry spending the night in a Tesco's car park!

We encountered another technical problem. The waist high waders Phil had bought in Gunnison only 11 days earlier and only used about three times had sprung leaks along the seams. Now we were faced with a sixty mile drive back to Gunnison, including the tough climb over the Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet, to exchange them.

Gunnison River

Blue Mesa Reservoir - or what's left of it.

Whopper at Ridgeway State Park

Beaver at Ridgeway

Well, as we found ourselves back on the Gunnison, we may as well spend a couple more days enjoying the fishing (and the campground with electricity) there. Then of course, we were only sixty miles away from Montrose, so we could just fish the Uncompahgre again. It also gave us the chance to meet friendly and very helpful Tim from Toad's fly shop and some of his family. He gave us pointers on where to fish near town. It turned out that the most productive water was located behind Target, perhaps that truck we'd camped with was an omen! We could camp right opposite at Walmart.

From Montrose it was only 20 miles to the Ridgeway State Park, we could go there again, enjoy a night of electricity and a day of fishing ......Were we ever going to leave this part of Colorado? Hopefully before the first snowfall......

A selection of trout from Target's range!

Return to homepage