Effective Patterns: #20-22 Jujubaetis, #22 Stalcup's Baetis, #22 Smith's Baetis, #20-22 Mercury Midge, #20 Mitchell's Split Case Baetis, #20 Barr Flashback Emerger, #20-22 Manhattan Midge, #20-22 Mercury Flashback RS 2, #20-22 Sparkle Wing RS 2, #20-22 Mathew's Sparkle Dun (BWO), #24 CDC Biot Trico Comparadun, and #22 Matt's Midge.
Stream Conditions & Tips from Pat Dorsey for Fly Fishing Cheesman Canyon in Colorado
The picturesque boulder-filled Cheesman Canyon portion of the South Platte River is considered by many one of the most pristine fisheries in the world. This area, often times simply referred to, as “the Canyon” is an experience you’ll never forget. It’s the perfect scenario, magnificent beauty in combination with great fly fishing.
The South Platte River carves its way through a granite canyon lined with ponderosa pines, willows, fallen tree trunks, and various other assorted ground foliages. Boulders as big as Volkswagens Beetles create structure for the super-selective trout residing in the river. Mule Deer, Black Bear, Raccoons, Mountain Lyons, and Bald Eagles all add to the experience. Anglers can expect to catch mostly large rainbows supplemented with a few nice brown trout. The aforementioned “canyon” is as technical as they get, and if you can catch trout here, you can catch them anywhere in the world. This three-mile section is primarily a nymphing fishery requiring tiny midge and mayfly imitations with fine 5 and 6X tippets. Ideal flows for Cheesman Canyon are between 250 and 400 cfs. The regulations are flies and lures only. All fish must be returned to the water immediately.
Cheesman Canyon is one of the best tailwaters in the country. There's a common belief among "canyon regulars" that if you can catch fish on the South Platte River, you can fool fish anywhere in the world. There's no substitution for good technique in Cheesman Canyon.
Tips & Other Information:
Cheesman Canyon is fishing tough right now with outflows at 65 cfs. Cheesman Reservoir is extremely low (58,000 acre feet) so look for low flows for the remainder of the year. This is the lowest I can remember reservoir levels this time of year. Denver Water is leaving on the Roberts Tunnel this winter (so that means lower flows on the South Fork), so look for flows to range between 50-100 cfs for most of the autumn and winter season. Anglers can expect to see a good a.m. midge bite, followed by mid day mayflay hatches. Go-to bugs have been size 22 Jujubaetis, size 22 Stalcup’s Baetis, and a size 22-24 Chocolate Foam Wing Emerger. Overall, fishing is quite challenging with the low flows, so be prepared for technical fishing.