Author: Will Rice
Fall fly fishing has finally arrived in Colorado! With the recent rain event behind us, it is great to see a more regular weather pattern developing here in the Front Range. The flows on the main stem of the South Platte River were all over the place in September - yet the river fished extremely well. Flows were as low as 50 and as high as 300+ and the river has settled down to 154 out of Cheesman Reservoir through the Deckers area. The water clarity right now is excellent and the fishing remains consistent.
During the big rain event of September, Trouts Guide Service kept a watchful eye on the weather and the flows in the Front Range and we were lucky to be able to run guided trips down to the South Platte River throughout the month and we did our best to keep anglers up to date.
A Happy Trouts Guide Service Client on the South Platte in September
“I was able to fish the Deckers area of the South Platte River almost every day when the big storm hit in September,” said Dave Lovell, Head Guide at Trouts Guide Service. “We were wet – but the water actually dropped and the river fished really well. And… we had the river to ourselves.”
Since the storm has receded, we have continued to take clients on the water and it is great to see the Deckers area settling back in nicely - and more importantly so are the fish.
“The trico hatch continued really late this year, and we’re still sporadically seeing them come off around 9:00am," said Lovell. "Now that the water is up we’re having luck with larger, brighter attractor nymph patterns. San Juan Worms in red and pink continue to produce as do Two Bit Hookers (18-20), Juju Baetis (20) and Rainbow Warriors (18-20). We’re also using “Alaska Style” egg patterns with solid and consistent results.”
A nice, chunky South Platte Rainbow
If you get a day with decent cloud cover, be prepared for a fast and furious BWO hatch.
“There have been quite a few really nice brown trout getting active as well as rainbows and cut-bows,” continued Lovell. “When the flows are higher and if you don’t see fish actively rising, nymph fishing with an indicator, split shot and two sub surface flies is going to be the most effective rigging. The key is to get your flies down to where the fish are feeding."
Tucker Ladd was able to fish Cheesman Canyon in the latter part of September with excellent results.
"I find best results in covering as much water as possible when fishing Cheesman Canyon," said Tucker after a recent trip to the canyon. "Finding feeding fish is paramount, and with nearly 4 miles of fishable water it's advantageous to try and find water that hasn't been fished by other anglers. During September I found great results fishing a variety of patterns; from general attractors, to terrestrials, to mayflies, to your standard tailwater midge patterns, everything seemed to get the fishes attention."
Cheesman Canyon is a tailwater fishery and runs roughly 4 miles from the Gill Trail parking lot to Cheesman Dam and is designated “Gold Medal” water. This fishery will test the skills of the most advanced angler - fishing Cheesman Canyon is not about numbers. Because this section of the South Platte River is located below Cheesman Reservoir, flows are regulated by reservoir releases but this allows this river to be fishable 365 days a year – making it a great fall and winter fly fishing option close to Denver. There are two access points for this fishery, one at the bottom of the canyon and one at the top of the canyon. The bottom access is much easier and is the recommended route into Cheesman.
"Cheesman Canyon is by far my favorite Colorado fishery," said Ladd. "Unlike so many other rivers in Colorado, Cheesman offers anglers an opportunity to fish ultra challenging water in a breathtaking environment. While there is little argument that the fish that reside in Cheesman Canyon are well educated, I think many people get overly intimidated about fishing this area. I have always found best results when fishing this river like any western freestone river, particularly in the fall months."
For October and November, fishing brighter attractor patters followed by an assortment of midges should be very effective in both Cheesman Canyon and the Deckers area.
"My last day fishing Cheesman Canyon this season was phenomenal. I had good success fishing a dry dropper rig for most of the morning, and then switched over to an unweighted nymph rig in the afternoon," concluded Ladd. "The flows were right around 295 cfs, which is still a fairly ideal flow for wade fishing."
Flows have since dropped and are right around 150 CFS as of the publication of this report.
One thing to note now that we are into October: brown trout have a difficult enough time reproducing on their own in normal outdoor conditions. Both Cheesman Canyon and Deckers are highly pressured fisheries so we ask that you steer clear of any and all actively spawning fish, especially those that are on redds. If you do not know what a trout redd looks like, CLICK HERE. Actively spawning fish are much more interested in propagating their species than eating your fly – and this helps ensure a strong fishery for years to come.
For more information about fishing the Deckers area or Cheesman Canyon, feel free to stop by the shop or call. To learn more about strategy and tactics that will be useful in the winter months, join our FREE Winter Fly Fishing presentation here at the shop on October 24th. If you would like to explore this area of the South Platte River, give us a call and we can get you set up with a full or half day guided trip - 303.733.1434.