Cheesman Canyon Fly Fishing Report
Latest Update: 10/16/16- Cheesman is fishing well but has been technical the past few weeks. Lower flows have finally arrived and have been helping the dry fly bite tremendously. Tech-style baetis cripples/emergers should turn some noses. In-between the Blue-Wings, throw Golden Stonefly Nymphs, Cranefly Larva, and small midge/baetis emergers below small indicators. Throwing a flashy white or tan streamer during the brightest points of the day can also pull some good fish out from their holding spots. -Austin Manthey, Professional Fly Fishing Guide for Trouts Denver
- Flow: 64 cfs
- Wind: 0 MPH
- Temp: 34.7 °F
- High/Low: 75/47
Cheesman Canyon is without a doubt one of the prettiest places you could hope to fish in the Rockies- all while being just over an hour from Denver. This tailwater, fed by Cheesman Reservoir, is one of the most technical rivers in the state to fish, however can also be one of the most rewarding. A sight fisherman's paradise, Cheesman grows some very large trout and is home to a wide variety of aquatic insect life. Aside from the fishing, the scenery, wildlife, and sheer grandeur of the canyon is worth the trip alone. This stretch of river is known for its large Rainbow trout, however holds a good population of nice brown trout as well. It typically runs crystal clear. Cheesman Canyon sees a considerable amount of pressure and a successful angler here will need light tippets, small flies, long leaders and fair bit of stealth. This three mile long canyon is strictly catch and release.
Match the Hatch
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It would be tough to pick a 'best' time to fish Cheesman Canyon as it is almost always guaranteed to show you a great day on the water- and Fall is certainly no exception to this rule. The Canyon without a doubt one of the most scenic places in the state to spend a day on the water and the fact that it's just a little over an hour outside of Denver makes it a popular place to wet a line for countless anglers. That said, if you can manage to get up there during the week, you can likely expect to find quite a bit of solitude.
With over 3 miles of water to explore, Cheesman Canyon should be on your list of places to fish this Fall. The crystal clear waters of the canyon will provide some of the best sight fishing opportunities to be found anywhere and dries, nymphs and streamers all have thier time and place here. Being the the textbok tailwater that it is however, nymphing is always going to be your most consistent bet. That said, I still wouldn't head in here without your dry flies. Midges, baetis and hoppers (while the warmer weather holds on) can all bring these fish to the surface.
My personal biggest rule here is to avoid the 'aquarium holes'. If you've been here before, you likely know what I'm talking about. While those deep pools full of fish are fun to look at, they're rarely the best place to catch fish. Focus on the shallower zones with moving water (riffles, runs, buckets, shelves, rock gardens, tailouts, etc) to be holding the most actively feeding fish in the canyon. Don't get caught up in fishing one area too long either. Keeping on the move is the best way to ensure a successful day on the water here.
Lastly- as is always the case here- think small flies and light tippet. I almost always can get away with 5x in here but I'd be lying if I haven't found myself reaching for 6x more times than I can count. Lastly, use plenty of weight (even in the shallows) to make sure you're presenting your flies right in front of the fishes faces. These fish will rarely move to grab a fly however are ususally pretty eager to eat with a perfect presentation.
Recommended flies: scuds, leaches, eggs, small san juan worms, nonbead/nonflash pheasant tails, jujubaetis, barr's bwo emerger, pure midges, midge larvae, juju midges, foamback emergers, black beauty, rs2, mercury midges, slumpbusters, sculpzillas.
Cheesman Canyon sits just a few miles west of the town of Deckers, on CR 26. Park at the Gill Trailhead and get ready to hike. Anglers should be prepared to hike in at least 30 minutes or more to get to the more productive sections. Once in the canyon, cover ground and try to target individual feeding fish.