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Where to Go South Platte River – Cheesman Canyon

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Report Date: 4/19/2024

Current Conditions: 

 The flows have come back down and are currently at 83 cfs from the dam. With moisture falling and Strontia Springs reservoir already being over full, they do not anywhere to put water right now. Ultimately this is a good problem to have, but we will see some varied flows in this section for a little while. We do expect the flows out of Cheesman to fluctuate pretty good through spring. Denver Water will be running ALL downstream water demand through Cheesman. We expect the flows to vary between 100-200 cfs. through at least May.

 The fishing has been great in the canyon, even with the lower flows. Fish are feeding opportunistically throughout the day, but especially when the midges start hatching. When the river bumps in flows, be sure to augment some larger patterns into your offering. It has been extremely busy in the canyon recently. Keep in mind that there are parts of the trail that can get a little sketchy.

Cheesman reservoir is currently 93% full.


  As usual for this time of year, Midges are the staple. We are also seeing some great BWO hatches starting around noon each day.  Dont be afraid to add larger food sources into your offering. Scuds, cranefly larva and leaches. Mix these in with your standard small fare.


For Nymphing- Depth and weight will be very important right now. The fish will not move much to feed. Sometimes you will need to get your flies right on their noses. Stay persistent and adjust your rig.This will be more important than what flies you are fishing. Pay attention to your presentation.

 The dry fly fishing (BWO's) has been very good on most days. Cloudier days have afforded some of the heaviest early spring BWO's we have seen in quite some time here. Fish are venturing out into more riffle type water when the midges and baetis are hatching. A focus on presentation will remain the most important component of your tactics.

This can also be a great time of year to throw some streamers.


 Be mobile and move around for the most success. Fish are occupying deeper water but are willing to move around a fair amount when there are good hatches. Focus on areas of the river that see more sun (There are some stretches that do not see any sun for months) These areas will promote more bug activity.  Nymphing will be the most successful method at this time, but your fly location (depth) will be the biggest factor in success.


Short Term-  Today and Saturday we will see some variable weather in the area. There is actually a winter storm warning in this area tonight. Temps will be chilly today and Saturday with highs only in the 40's. Precipitation chances are also around 90%, so you can expect some snow/rain. It does look like we could see sustained precipitation for about a 24 hour period. Starting on Sunday, we will see a good rebound to nice spring temperatures and sunshine. Things will stay nice through the week and we will again have some precipitation chances around 4/23. Temps next week will be in the 60's and 70's.

Long Term-  After this next week, it looks like we will largely remain in a typical spring pattern. Some very warm days followed by some precipitation chances. Spring is one of the most difficult times of the year to predict weather, and we will have to take the forecast in shorter periods for the most accuracy. All signs are pointing to a good weather event on or around 4/26. Right now this looks to favor higher elevations east of the continental divide. This area could see a significant amount of moisture. As always, we will have to wait and see how that pans out. The south platte basin is currently sitting at 99% of average with less than a week to go until we peak in snowpack. While there is still some time to add to our snowpack, that time is getting thin.

*Seasonal snowpack update*

Denver Water has informed us that snowpack levels look very good for this season. With most reservoirs already full, they do anticipate filling all of their reservoirs this spring. One thing to add is that soil moisture is also very high. This goes hand in hand with our snowpack and can also help predict how good our water season will be. We should see a bit higher and more consistent flows along the south platte river this season. Of course, the flows are all strictly based on water demand so we will have to see how this pans out. Overall, great news for our season ahead.



This is an area we offer guided fly fishing trips. We are one of two outfitters permitted to operate in Cheesman. There is not better way to learn an area like Cheesman Canyon than hiring one of our Orvis endorsed professional guides!


For a custom fly assortment for this location, click here! 

Our Top 6 Nymphs for Today:

  • RS2, grey, sizes 20-22
  • Anneworm, red, sizes 18-22
  • Massacre midge, brown, sizes 20-22
  • Wader midge, sizes 20-22
  • Barrs emerger, sizes 20-22
  • Stalcups baetis, olive, sizes20-22

Our Top Dry Flies for Today: 

  • Mole Fly, brown. Size 22 
  • Neil's BWO, green. Sizes 22 & 24
  • Matt's Midge, black. Size 22

Our Top Streamer Patterns for Today:

    • Wooly Buggers, black, green, brown, Natural. Sizes 12-8
    • Baby Gonga, brown, grey. Size 6
    • Zoo Cougar, Olive. Size 6



Standard nymph rig set up for the South Platte:

Screenshot the diagram above to reference while you're out on the water!



Cheesman Canyon is one of the most technical and rewarding tailwater fisheries in Colorado. A half-hour hike from Gill trailhead through some hilly terrain gets you to the base of the canyon where the trail splits into a high road and low road. This stretch of the river is catch and release only and is known for holding large rainbows. Almost the entire length of the river that runs through this gorgeous boulder-filled canyon is loaded with deep pocket water and fast runs that provide different challenges depending on where the fish are located. Most of the time the fish are hanging close to undercut boulders and other structure.

Before going to Cheesman, load your box with these patterns: Cheesman Emergers #22-24, Amy's Ants #10-14, hoppers #8-10, Murphy's Bubbleback Midge #20-24, Blindside Midges #20-22, Dorsey's Top Secret and Medallion Midges #22-24, Stonefly nymphs #14-18, Caddis larva #16-20, Tan and orange scuds #14-18, Sparkle Wing RS-2's #18-22, BWO Barr's Emergers #20-22, Copper Johns, Black Beauty #22-24, and Stalcups baetis #20-22.

This is an area we specialize in and are permitted to guide in, so give us a shout if you have any questions or if you're interested in working with one of our Orvis- Endorsed guides to conquer Cheesman.

My favorite stretch of the South Platte. What can I say: technical, challenging, humbling, and rewarding. It is often said that if you can catch fish in Cheesman Canyon, you can catch fish anywhere.

Jon Easdon, Guide and Director of Services

Accessibility: There is a 1.5 mile trail from the parking lot on Co 126 to the river.  At the river the trail splits into a high and a low section that runs approximately 5 miles upstream from the Wigwam Club (posted) to Cheesman Dam.

Elevation: 6,600 ft

Distance: 42.5 miles from Colorado Springs / 55 minutes .

Season: Fishable all year depending on flows

Fish species: Brown, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Cutbow trout

Fishing Regulations: Catch and release, flies and lures only

Techniques & Tips: Fishing is technical and calls for 9-12 foot leaders and  fine tippets - 5X to 6X

Camping: Not in the canyon, though there is camping nearby at Lone Pine and Wigwam Campgrounds on Co 126.

Kids: Yes, but parts of the trail going down to the river can be very steep.

Additional Information: Cheesman Canyon can be crowded, especially in the summer.  The further upstream you walk, the fewer crowds you will encounter.

South Platte River – Cheesman Canyon.

Interested in Booking a Trip?

Directions - 42.8 miles - 55 Minutes

  1. From Angler's Covey head west on US 24 W/Cimarron St, go 16.7 miles
  2. Turn right at CO-67 towards Deckers, go 23.1 miles
  3. Slight left at the town of Deckers and CoRd 126, go 3.0 miles
  4. Parking area is on the left