January 15th - Upper River: The cold nights on the upper river will make fishing the upper Arkansas very difficult this time of year. It has iced up a lot above the Twin Lakes confluence, and can be challenging to effectively fish, if you can even find any active fish in the limited open water. Better conditions will be found further to the south below Buena Vista and near Salida throughout the winter.
January 15th - Middle River: Excellent weather on the radar today, with highs in the 50s and lots of sun. Since we look to cool down the next couple of days, make today count. Fish are definitely holding consistently near deeper water as temperatures cool down, but will not hold in the heavier, faster current at these flows. In fact, fish can still be found in shallow water when food is available as the sun warms the streambed. Midges are becoming more and more important, particularly subsurface in the mornings. At these flows, don't be afraid of tying on smaller patterns. Midges as droppers in the morning behind a stonefly nymph have been productive, and mayfly nymphs sizes #16-18 work well through the afternoons. The key is finding the right water. Spend more time picking apart likely lies out just inside the main current and adjusting dropper depth til you find the sweet spot.
January 15th - Below Salida: Beautiful weather continues today, with highs in the mid-50s in Salida today to wrap up the weekend. There was no slush in the river this morning and with the reduced flow of about 350 cfs (exactly at the long-term average for this date), the structure is well-defined, the winter water obvious, and the current very wadable. Upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon offers much more good winter water and winter fishing opportunity than the lower canyon. This is not what people expect, since the lower canyon is more arid and at a lower elevation. But the upper canyon, and indeed the river corridor all the way upstream to Stone Bridge, gets much more direct solar radiation in the winter than the lower does. It's been a great winter to fish from Stone Bridge to Coaldale (Over 30 miles of water).
Fish are now podded up in or near winter (deep) water, so where you find one fish, there are usually more. Current flows make for ideal wade fishing conditions near Salida. Though floating is still possible, current flows require you to boat right on top of lots of the best holding water, whereas wade fisherman can target the prime lies without disturbing fish.
Strong midge activity gets fish moving in the morning and active through the afternoon on the warmer days. The volume of subsurface food has made for better nymphing lately. Midges are active throughout the day, and mayfly nymphs sizes #16-18 work well through the afternoons. The key is finding the right water. Spend more time picking apart likely lies just inside the main current and adjusting dropper depth til you find the sweet spot. Deeper water fished with a tandem fly rig should be your best bet in the morning, but don't ignore shallower runs and riffles in the afternoons. Best hours of the day are 10am - 3pm where sun is on the water.