South Platte: Cheesman Canyon

Weekly Overview:

February 24, 2020: 

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  • Technicality: 4/5

  • It’s been an incredible winter in Cheesman Canyon and it doesn’t appear the good times will be stopping anytime soon. Flows jumped late last week and currently hold just below 200 cfs. At this level, anglers should come prepared to fish heavy nymph rigs and cover a lot of water. Recently, we’ve found trout in everything from the pronounced pools/runs to shallow riffles. As a general rule of thumb, fish the slow stuff in the morning and the “faster” moving water in the afternoon. Regardless of the section, make sure to have plenty of weight on your line to get your flies down quickly. Larger patterns such as scuds, leeches and searchers are productive lead flies when a double midge rig isn’t getting the job done. Aside from that, having a midge larva or baetis larva pattern followed by a midge emerger has been the key. Continue to use the high water clarity to your advantage and sight fish whenever possible. Finding feeding trout is always the most productive strategy.

  • Ideal Days to Fish: Monday, Thursday & Saturday

  • Suggested Flies:

    • Sub-surface: RS2 (#20-22), Barr's Emerger (#20-22), Chocolate Thunder (#20-22), JuJu Baetis (#20-22), Mercury Pheasant Tail (#20-22), WD 40 (#20-22), Mercury Midge (#22-24), Black Beauty (#22-26), Zebra Midge (#20-24), Blood Midge (#20-22), Disco Midge (#20-22), Guides Choice Hares Ear (#16-18), red Copper John (#18-20), Rainbow Warrior (#18-20), pink/green scud, leech pattern and San Juan Worm.

    • Surface: Parachute Adams (#22-24), Griffiths Gnat (#22-24).

      • Need flies for your trip? FlyCast has collaborated with our friends at Anglers All ​to package a dozen flies that are hot in Cheesman Canyon right now - Click here for hand selected flies

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Credit: Colorado Division of Water Resources

Detailed River Info:

Background:

The Cheesman Canyon stretch of the South Platte River is arguably one of the most popular and beautiful tail water fisheries in the state. This stretch sits directly below Cheesman Reservoir, which provides for great water clarity and quality fishing year round. While you might think the 1.5-mile hike to the river would detract anglers, the canyon experiences heavy crowds all days of the week, morning, noon and night. Due to the heavy fishing pressure that the canyon receives, the trout are spooky and difficult to catch, but don’t worry, your efforts will be strongly rewarded with large resident Browns and Rainbows. Cheesman Canyon was the first section of river in Colorado to be designated as catch and release only. Therefore, if you land your dream trout snap a quick picture for bragging rights and quickly release it back to the water.

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Angling:

Cheesman Canyon is known as one of the most technical fisheries in the state and arguably the country. We have heard time and time again that if you can catch a fish in the canyon, you can catch a fish anywhere. Due to the high fishing pressure and clear water, anglers must be stealthy in their approach and precise with their casts. To be successful, we encourage anglers to use light tippet (no larger than 5x), long leaders and delicate strike indicators. Reckless casts and sloppy presentations won’t be rewarded here. While the canyon boasts some incredible dry fly fishing opportunities, the most consistent form is nymphing with flies in size #20 -#24. Cheesman is also famous for subtle takes, so sight fish whenever possible and keep a close eye on the opening of the trout’s mouth. If you’re able to achieve this, you’ll be in for a productive day.

  

River Access:

Cheesman Canyon can be accessed by two trailheads. The most popular trail head is the Gill Trailhead that is located 3 miles from the town of Deckers off CO Rd 126. From Denver, take Highway 285 south towards Pine Junction. Once you’ve hit Pine Junction, take CO Rd 126 south towards Deckers for roughly 21 miles. You will see the trailhead on your right with a parking lot full of anglers and hikers. The second option is to drive up a dirt road to Cheesman reservoir. Less than a half mile past the Gill Trailhead, turn onto CO Rd 211 and follow this road until you hit the reservoir. The road will dead-end but will have plenty of space to pull off and park. There is a trail sign at the start of the trailhead where anglers can begin a 30 – 45 minute to fish the top section of the canyon.

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