Author: Trouts Staff
Every year when flows coming out of Cheesman Reservoir hit the magic 500 - 700 cfs mark, I grab my rod and head for what has become an annual ritual of dry fly madness on my favorite stretch of water in the state. So when flows began to drop earlier this week across the South Platte River basin, I knew that it was time once again to head into the canyon.
Arriving at the Gill Trailhead around 8:30am, I was pleasantly surprised to see 4 other cars in the lot, a true anomaly for any section of the South Platte in the summer. After loading up with a good assortment of big, bushy hopper patterns, I made my way into the canyon for what I hoped would be a great day of fishing. On most days, I would walk right on past the bottom 1/4 of the Canyon, as this tends to be where the highest concentration of anglers typically is. Yet when fishing hoppers, I find it important to move as much as possible, so on this day I decided to play leap frog with the other anglers, and start my day a bit lower than usual. As I was rigging my rod in Family Hole, there were two sounds that caught my attention. First was the rhythmic flow of a river, and second the distinct buzzing sound of hoppers. GAME ON! It didn't take long to hook into my first fish, and although it wasn't anything to right home about, the joy of seeing a fish eat a dry fly is something that I will never get tired of. As I slowly made my way upstream, I continued picking up fish in a variety of holding areas. Deep pools, pocket water along the banks, riffles and back eddies were all holding fish willing and eager to eat whatever dry fly I had on my line.
By around 1pm, I had made it about 1/2 way up the canyon, and had caught a respectable number of fish. What struck me about the day up to this point was the number of really "fishy" looking spots where I was never able to get a fish to eat. My past experiences fishing hoppers in the canyon had been that if one fish was willing to eat a hopper, most would be willing to eat a hopper. But on this day, I kept fishing places that looked like they would hold fish, but nothing ever came up (note: I knew that they would eat a nymph, but today was about hoppers, not thingamabobbers). So after lunch I sat in a good looking riffle and made continued casts up stream, covering and recovering water. Just as I was about to move on, a beautiful 17" brown moved about 2 feet and quietly slurped my hopper down. Now I know that this fish had seen my fly before, so I'm not sure what it was about that one cast that made him want to come up and eat it. After figuring out that I was going to have to work to bring fish to the surface, I started targeting "prime" looking water and made sure I was as thorough as possible in the manor in which I covered it. And sure enough, on about the 20th cast in each spot a nice 14"+ fish would come up and eat the hopper.
All in all, the day was one of the better one's I've had in Cheesman in recent memory, not because of the fish I caught, but because of what I had to learn that day to catch them. To me a day of fishing isn't about numbers, it's about the experience and the feeling that I ended a better angler than I started. After this day, I was a better angler.