Cheesman Canyon Fly Fishing Report
Latest update: 6/24/18 -- Flows below Cheesman are currently at 105 CFS. There might not be a better summertime setting than the Canyon. With some of the best scenery around, it is hard to say no to spending a day hiking up Cheesman. Generally one of the more technical fisheries in the state, summer offers the angler a little better chance at success. With an abundance of hatches going on, including Caddis, PMDs, Yellow Sallies, Stoneflies and Tricos, there are a ton of options beyond the standard Cheesman Midge rigs. Look for fish to be feeding hard in pockets and at the shelves of just about any drop off or bucket throughout the canyon. The one advantage of the low water is it provides great sight fishing opportunities. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT.
- Flow: 320 cfs
- Wind: N/A MPH
- Temp: N/A °F
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.
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 spring 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 spring. 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 their time and place here. Being the the textbook tailwater that it is, 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 the approaching Caddis can all bring these fish to the surface.
Our 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. 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, though they are usually pretty eager to eat with a perfect presentation.
Recommended flies: scuds, leaches, eggs, small san juan worms, hares ears, nonbead/nonflash pheasant tails, flashback pheasant tails, jujubaetis, barr's bwo emerger, pure midges, mayers tube midge, midge larvae, juju midges, foamback emergers, black beauty, mercury black beauty, rs2, mercury midges, slumpbusters, sculpzillas, griffith's gnat, adams, bwo dries
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.