One of the most defining features of Chaffee County, Colorado is water. Water in the Arkansas River flowing through the valley. Water in the creeks and streams that feed the river. Water in the alpine lakes and reservoirs that dot the high country. So it makes perfect sense that fishing is one of the most popular activities near Salida, CO. Locals and tourists alike flock to the peaceful pastime, particularly in fall when the water is slow and the weather is cool. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, you’ll find plenty of fish out there waiting for you.
Angling on the Arkansas River
Fall fishing on the Arkansas River is an angler’s dream. The water has slowed down for the season and the muddy waters of spring runoff are a distant memory. This makes fall the time to find your perfect day of fishing. And since this section of river runs through the “Banana Belt”, it often has warmer weather than the surrounding areas. With weather often staying mild into November and sometimes even December, you can stretch your fishing season further.
If you’re fishing late September through mid October on the Arkansas, you can also expect a beautiful show of fall colors. From the aspens in the high country to the cottonwoods right along the river, it’s a magical time of year to experience the scenery.
The Upper Arkansas River earned a Gold Medal Waters designation. This status is given to rivers of the highest quality. The fish in the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Canon City are predominantly brown trout and rainbow trout. Expect to find about 70% brown and 30% rainbow.
The fish are plentiful: according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the river has about 5000 trout per mile. Fly fishing is the most common fishing method for locals and visitors, although some might use the traditional spin rod.
If you enjoy the peaceful tranquility of fishing solo, you’re in luck. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports over 80 miles of riverside public access for walking and wading. This means it’s not uncommon to find you have a stretch of water all to yourself for an idyllic morning or afternoon of fishing.
On this stretch of the Arkansas, you’ll have two choices for fishing the river: walking/wading or floating. Either make for an amazing day, depending on your time constraints, level of knowledge and personal preference.
If you’re new to fishing but up for an adventure, or a seasoned pro looking for a local guide, there are multiple fly shops and guided services to choose from. All of the shops below offer both walk and wade and float trips. All these shops are happy to help, whether you’re already a pro or a never ever angler.
- The Next Eddy runs out of their full service shop storefront on 1st Street in downtown Salida.
- Ark Anglers is the longest running shop in the area, serving the Arkansas River Valley in both Salida and Buena Vista locations.
- Up River Fly Fishing runs out of downtown Buena Vista from their convenient storefront at the corner of Main and Highway 50.
- Salida Anglers, established in 2019, is located off Highway 50 in Salida.
If you’re a seasoned angler and feel ready to head out on your own but you’ve left the gear behind, The Next Eddy rents rods and waders and is located right downtown, making it easy to pick up and return your gear. Ark Anglers also offers a detailed fishing report on their website.
As you check out these sites, you’ll notice that many outfitters also offer trips to the high elevation lakes and streams in our area. These beautiful alpine locations make for a great day of fishing combined with scenic views and short to moderate hikes.
Fishing in high alpine lakes and streams near Salida, Colorado
Creekside Chalets sits on Highway 50, south of Monarch Pass. Just moments up the road you’ll find many lakes, streams and small reservoirs perfect for fly or spin fishing. The location makes Creekside the perfect jumping off point for your fall fishing adventure. These gorgeous spots are perfect for anglers ready to take a hike with their gear and cast a few lines into cold mountain waters.
Waterdog Lakes are a group of three lakes at 11,130 feet. They are situated just to the north of Highway 50 and can be reached via a moderately difficult trail. The hike to the lake takes you through beautiful aspen and spruce-fir forest, so a fall approach will have some leaf-peeping opportunities. Once you arrive, you’ll find three small lakes and a few shallow tarns. Anglers can expect to catch lake trout and brook trout in this picturesque location. It should be easy to find a secluded spot with the availability of water in this area.
Boss Lake and Hunt Lake These beautiful high alpine lakes are accessible off County Road 230, just off Highway 50. Access to the road is just across the highway from the Monarch Mountain Lodge. The road is suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles when roads are dry–in winter this is a snowshoe and snowmobile access only road to Chalk Creek Pass. Traveling in fall, you’ll notice beautiful leaves on your approach.
During fall and summer, it’s a short yet steep hike from the dirt road up to the lakes, but once you’re there, fishing is bountiful and views are incredible. In fall, you’ll see clumps of changing aspens on your drive, around the lake and on the peaks in the distance.
Anglers will find the endangered Greenback Cutthroat trout in both lakes. State Wildlife regulations apply for these endangered native fish–use flies and lures only. No bait fishing permitted. Anglers must also adhere to “catch and release” practices and return fish to the water immediately.
This small reservoir is just off of Highway 50 and collects water from Fooses Creek upstream. The lake was created around 1905 for hydro-electric use but today it is best known as a beautiful spot for fishing.
The lake is regularly stocked with Rainbow trout. Anglers can expect to find fish from 8-12 inches in length. This lake makes a great spot for a leisurely day by the water. Shore is accessible from the car with no extra hiking required and day use bathrooms are available. Those wishing to hike can make the drive up the road to the Fooses Creek trailhead. 4- wheel drive is not required but it is helpful and all vehicles should have good clearance to avoid potholes and rocks.
The North Fork Reservoir is a stocked, shallow reservoir popular with anglers fishing from shore or heading out to float fish. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department stock the waters here with trout, so fishing is reliable.
The access to North Fork is just up County Road 240 at the junction of Highway 50. Creekside Chalet is located at this junction, keeping your drive to a minimum. But be aware–the road is not easily passable and requires a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle and some patience. (Expect to drive about 45 minutes from Creekside Chalets.) Once you’ve arrived, this beautiful, high alpine spot is a fishing dream and a great way to spend a bluebird fall day in the high-country.
Billings is just up the road from North Fork Reservoir, about a 10 minute walk from the campground, making it a good option for anglers looking to hit more than one lake in a day. It’s another gorgeous high alpine location that locals love for the abundance of fish. The shoreline is open for good casting. (Note that the directives for travel up 240 apply–be sure you have a solid 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance.) If you’re in the area, Island Lake and Arthur Lake can also be scouted for their excellent high alpine fishing.
Rules and Regulations of Fishing near Salida, Colorado
Before you head out for a day of fishing, keep these important tips in mind.
The most important first step if you’ll be fishing is to secure your fishing license. If you’re planning to book a trip through an outfitter, it’s a good idea to call and ask their opinion on your license before you arrive for your trip.
If you’re fishing on the Arkansas River, be sure to check for any private property signs. While there are over 80 miles of public lands along the river, there are also many privately owned sections of the riverbank. Use this handy AHRA fishing map, ask for advice from local fishing shops and be aware of your surroundings before you head out. If you’re not accessing the river through a well-marked public site, you might be on private property.
When traveling to high alpine lakes, be aware that temperatures can vary dramatically, particularly in the fall. Weather comes in fast at all times of year, so be prepared. Always bring warm layers of clothing, particularly if you’re planning to be out late. If you’re heading up a trail, always notify a friend or relative of your planned route, especially if you’re going solo.
Staying at Creekside Chalets One of our favorite things about our property is the access we enjoy. Whether you’re here as a dedicated angler heading to high mountain lakes or simply on vacation and looking to try something new, we feel sure that you’ll love our location. We’re right in the Heart of the Rockies, after all! Check availability on our site or feel free to Contact us directly. We’d love to hear from you and can’t wait to see you on the property.
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