Now that Roberts Tunnel is pushing more water into the North Fork, Cheesman Canyon flows are roughly 100 cfs lower than they were in previous weeks. However, a 40 cfs bump before the weekend moved flows closer to the ideal range (250 - 400 cfs). Trout are stacked up in pronounced sections of the river for the better part of the day. The exception to this is during a midge, BWO or caddis hatch. Trout will either feed on or near the surface in the deeper sections of the river or push into riffles, transitions and pockets to feed on emerging bugs. When flows are on the lower end and water clarity is high, like it is right now, picking apart faster moving water is our favorite way to fish. Maintain a heavy nymph setup and focus on short and deep drifts. The earlier your flies get deep in the drift, the better. UV Scuds, Pat’s Rubber Legs, SJ Worms, Buckskin Caddis, Caddis Candy, Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears and Pheasant Tails are productive lead patterns but if trout seem turned off by larger bugs, don’t hesitate to lead with a midge or baetis larva. For your trailer, match the hatch with the appropriate pupa/emerger. Top Secret Midges, Mercury Black Beauties, Cheesman Emergers, RS2s and Sparkle Pupas are some of our go-tos at the moment. Midges are active throughout the day, caddis hatch during the late morning and BWOs in the early afternoon. When the wind isn’t ripping, trout are motivated to feed on the surface. 5x – 6x tippet is ideal when targeting rising trout.
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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.