Cheesman Canyon flows recently dropped and now sit in the low 200 cfs range. Flows are at a great level, so if you’ve been itching to fish the canyon, now is a great time to do so. Absent a hatch, trout will stack up in pools, runs, outer seams and slack water. During a hatch, tailouts, soft riffles, transitions and seams along structure are highly productive targets. While crowds tend to make it difficult, covering a lot of water is a great tactic right now. In regards to fly selection, caddis and BWOs are stealing the show. Bright green caddis larva patterns and Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ears are productive lead patterns when trailed by a baetis emerger or caddis pupa. Baetis emergers will be particularly effective over the next 5-7 days, due to overcast skies and precipitation. If you’re not seeing results, swap out your lead pattern for an orange scud, San Juan Worm, Mini Leech or Gummy Crane. Dry fly fishing has been hit or miss but should improve with the current flow. Hi-Vis BWOs and Parachute Adams are great dry fly patterns for the BWO hatch. Elk Hair Caddis and All-Season Caddis will attract attention during a caddis hatch. If you have a hard time tracking small BWO patterns, lead with an Elk Hair Caddis and trail a BWO pattern. With both of these hatches occurring around the same time, fishing a double dry fly rig can be highly effective.
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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.