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Where to Go South Platte River – Cheesman Canyon

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WINTER HOURS- 9am to 6pm Daily

Covey Guide Jon Easdon. Photo: Jared Sanders

Report Date: 2/6/2023

Current Conditions: 

The flows are currently 110 cfs. and just about average for this time of year.  We could see the flows fluctuate substantially in this area through the rest of winter and into early spring. This will be done to support downstream water demand.  If we get a stretch of nice weather, you can expect the flows to come up. Denver Water will be augmenting downstream water demand through Cheesman and the North Fork later this winter. It would be wise to keep an eye on the flows in this area. Water temps are cool but stable in the canyon. Conditions are technical and perfect drifts should be the anglers' primary focus.  Please be mindful of snow and ice on the trail as it can become a little treacherous to hike.

Hatches: 

It's primarily a midge game in the canyon right now. While you may still see a mayfly here and there, midges are king!  Be sure to have a large assortment of small BWO and midge patterns. Pattern sizes 20-26 are common. With the increase in flows, it would be a good idea to try some larger food sources too like winter stoneflies, scuds, and even worms.

Tactics: 

 Its pretty status quo in the canyon right now. Fishing will still be very technical and anglers will need to go smaller on their terminal tackle and flies. Sight fishing and nymphing are the most effective methods. Focus on good presentation and try nymphing WITHOUT an indicator! Overall, the canyon has been fishing very well.

Weather: 

 This weekend was gorgeous in the canyon as we had a little "spring preview". Temps for the most part, will continue to be slightly above average this week. Thursday we could see some snow and colder temps. This coming weekend looks great as well. Next week could be a little more interesting though. We will keep an eye out on that. Make plans to go fishing, it will be well worth it!  The mornings will still be chilly , Give it some time before you hit the water. There is no need to be there early.  

Keep this in mind while fishing in cold temperatures: While winter time fly fishing is not impossible, a couple of things should be considered. In temps below 20 degrees, be sure to take extra special care of the fish after you catch them. Keep them in the water and handle them the least amount possible. The eyes and the gills of the fish can freeze in temps colder than 20 degrees. Add in some wind and this freeze can happen almost instantly.

Tips: 

Even though it's winter, Cheesman has been busy (especially on the weekends). There is still plenty of water to fish here -- especially for those that are willing to hike in a little. Remember this: If you arrive and there are no spots left in the parking lot, don't park on the road. You will get a ticket!

This is an area we offer guided walk/wade and float trips, please give us a call if you are interested! 

RECOMMENDED PATTERNS 

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

Our Top 6 Nymphs for Today:

  • Black Beauty, size 20 & 22 
  • Mercury Midge, cream. Sizes 22 & 24 
  • Cheesman Emerger, green. Size 22
  • Bling Midge, brown. Size 22 & 24
  • RS2, grey. Sizes 20 & 22
  • Foamback Emerger, brown. Size 22 

Our Top 6 Dry Flies for Today:

  • Mole Fly, brown. Size 22 
  • Neils BWO, green. Sizes 22 & 24
  • Matts Midge, black. Size 22
  • Iwane Dun, green. Sizes 22 & 24
  • Comparadun, green. Size 22
  • Griffiths Gnat, black. Sizes 22 & 24 

Our Top Streamer Patterns for Today:

  • Laser legal, Natural. Size 4
  • Double Gonga, yellow. Size 4
  • Butt Monkey, brown. Size 8

 

Standard nymph rig set up for the South Platte:

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

 

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR "WHERE TO GO" PAGE FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON OTHER AREAS!

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