In an attempt to match the outflow of Cheesman Reservoir with the inflow, Cheesman Canyon experienced volatile flows over the past week. Flows dipped earlier this week but are now back up to 350 cfs. The water is cool and water clarity is intact. Similar to last week, trout are in flux as they adjust to changing flows. As a result, experimentation will be your best friend. Focus on softer water such as pronounced pools, soft runs, pockets, tailouts and outer seams. Start by getting your flies into the deepest water column and adjust as needed by adding or removing weight. While nymphing has been the most productive, dry and dry dropper setups are still a viable option when trout are feeding near the surface. Parachute Tricos, Sparkle Duns, Parachute PMDs, Resting Caddis, Parachute Sallies and foamy hoppers will attract trout looking up. If you go the dry dropper route, trail a baetis emerger behind the smaller mayfly patterns. On the other hand, caddis, stonefly and hopper patterns are ideal for heavy or double dropper setups. Sub-surface, trout are keying in on UV Scuds, Gummy Cranes, Hare’s Ears, Pat’s Rubber Legs, Iron Sallys, Electric Caddis and baetis emergers/midge pupa with a dash of flash. Whether you’re nymphing or fishing a double dry dropper, lead with a larger attractor and trail an emerger/pupa.
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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.