Flows through Cheesman Canyon increased over the last few days to 250 cfs. Due to a string of frequent increases, trout are still trying to normalize to the new flow. If flows continue to increase, trout will remain in flux, which may lead to hit or miss fishing. If flows stabilize, productivity will improve within a couple days. Sitting in the mid-200 cfs range, the river is moving quickly in the tighter sections, which can make it difficult to get a slow, clean drift. On the other hand, wider sections are easier to navigate and get a clean drift and presentation. Regardless of the section, trout are favoring softer water such as pronounced pools, slow runs, outer seams, tailouts and shelves. While you won’t see consistent surface activity, hopper droppers and dry droppers are a viable approach when targeting the banks. Trail your dropper(s) 14 – 18” behind your dry fly. Stonefly, hopper and caddis dry fly patterns are ideal for these setups. When targeting deeper or faster moving water, nymph rigs are the way to go. UV Scuds are hot right now but if you don’t have scuds on hand, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Hare’s Ears, Mini Leeches, Gummy Cranes and worms are effective lead patterns. Flashy baetis emergers, midge pupa, caddis pupa and attractors (Rainbow Warrior, Perdigon, Frenchie) will get the job done in the trailer position.
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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.
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.