South Platte: Cheesman Canyon

Weekly Overview:

January 14, 2021: 

  • Difficulty: Advanced

  • Prior to last weekend, flows dropped from 70 cfs to 60 cfs. Holding at 60 cfs, the river can feel a bit limited as trout are stacked up in the pronounced pools and runs. Soft runs, pools and pockets that are at least 2-3 feet deep will hold trout right now. Heavy nymph rigs with 6x tippet have been the most consistent but don’t be surprised if you see a few rising trout in soft runs during the early afternoon. If you see trout rising, tie on a #24-26 Parachute Adams or Griffiths Gnat (7x tippet may be necessary to fool trout on the surface). When nymphing, lead with either a heavy attractor pattern or midge larva. Last weekend, we had success trailing a Mercury Midge and a Top Secret behind a Perdigon. While that worked, this is the time of year when experimentation is important. If we don’t see success right away, the first thing we do is adjust our depth. We start deep and slowly work our way closer to the surface. If that doesn’t work, decrease the size of your flies. If trout don’t respond to small and imitative midge patterns, lead with a larger meal such as a leech, scud or Pheasant Tail. While there is considerably less ice in Cheesman Canyon compared to Deckers, we still recommend letting the river sit during the morning and fishing hard from 11 am – 4 pm.

  • Ideal Days to Fish: 1/13, 1/14 & 1/15

  • Suggested Flies:

    • Sub-surface: RS2 (#20-22), Barr's Emerger (#20-22), Chocolate Foam Wing Emerger (#22-24), JuJu Baetis (#20-22), Mercury Pheasant Tail (#20-22), WD 40 (#20-22), Top Secret Midge (#22-24), Mercury Midge (#22-24), Black Beauty (#22-24), Zebra Midge (#20-24), Blood Midge (#20-22), Miracle Midge (#22-24), Bling Midge (#22-24), Disco Midge (#20-22), Buckskin Caddis (#18), red Copper John (#18-20), Rainbow Warrior (#18-20), Pat's Rubber Legs, pink/green scud, leech pattern and San Juan Worm.

    • Surface: Parachute Adams (#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

Detailed River Info:


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.


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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