Cheesman Canyon
Rob Herrmann Photography

South Platte River: Cheesman Canyon

Difficulty Advanced
Ideal Days To Fish 4/1, 4/2 & 4/3

Weekly Report

Report DateMarch 30, 2023

Cheesman Canyon flows decreased yesterday by 30 cfs. Trout may be a little pickier the next couple of days and favor smaller midge and baetis patterns. However, trout should adjust by Saturday and become less selective. Deep and clean drifts through pronounced pools and runs will produce results during the morning hours. As water temps rise and bug activity increases, trout will move up in the water column in the pronounced sections or slide into their feeding lies (slow riffles, transitions, seams and tailouts). At this point, trout are actively feeding and will be less selective. Midge pupa patterns and baetis emergers have been hot from 10 am – 6 pm, so make sure to stock up on Top Secrets, Mercury Black Beauties, Jujubee Midges, Chocolate Foam Back Emergers, Cheesman Emergers, RS2s and Barr’s Emergers. For your lead fly, you have more options. Leeches, scuds, worms, eggs, baetis larva and flashy attractors are all viable options. We’re starting to see more trout looking up at the surface during midge and BWO hatches. Start with a single dry fly such as a Matt’s Midge, Griffiths Gnat, Parachute Adams or Parachute BWO. If that doesn’t do the trick, trail a Chocolate Foam Back Emerger or RS2 10 inches behind your dry. Sunken dry flies will work as well. This will attract trout sipping below the surface.

Recommended Flies

River Flow

Flow Region

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.