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Where to Go South Platte River – Cheesman Canyon

Current Reports

Updated 2/25/2021

With low flows the fishing is as technical as ever. Class is definitely in session. Be careful if you are venturing in there after a snowstorm, as the trails can be quite difficult to hike on. And try not to fish alone...

Flows are very low. This coupled with the cold weather will make things difficult. We don't expect any flow increases for several months at least. Chessman Reservoir is only at 57% capacity, so Denver water will be trying to fill it this spring.

With our current snowpack in the South Platte basin at 90% of average, we will need to hit at least an average year to return to normal flows this summer.

 Cover ground slowly and methodically. The fish are extremely spooky right now. GO SMALL ON YOUR BUGS!

Don't let the off season fool you, though; Cheesman has been extremely busy this winter. Most weekend days the parking lot is full. Remember this: If you arrive there and there are no spots left in the parking lot, don't park on the road. You will get a ticket!

With all that being said, the fishing has picked up a little in the canyon the last week.

Midges are making up most of the bug activity but blue winged olives are still hanging around with the nice weather. Cloudy days provide some great dry fly opportunities. Fish are moving into riffles and feeding during the warmest parts of the day.  With nighttime temperatures getting pretty cold, the fishing doesn't really turn on until well after sunrise. Think small on your nymphs,dries, and tippet and consider using a very small or no indicator.

Effective Patterns


Miracle midge, Black Beauties,  Money midge, buckskins, Top Secret, red larva, blindside midge, zebra midges, medallion midges, bling midge, Mercury midge, pale ale, Juju midge, red larva, all in sizes 20-24.
Sniper baetis, Jedi Master, foam back emergers, pheasant tails, RS2 (grey and black), cheesman emergers, ice emergers, Stalcups baetis, all in sizes 18-24


Matthew's sparkle dun (20), Mole fly (20-22), Neils BWO (20-22), Almost Dun (20), Griffiths gnat (20-24), I-wan-E dun (22), Matt's Midge (22)


It's not a bad idea to lug the streamer rod along with you. While you won't turn a ton of fish with the meat, the ones you do will likely be worth it.

Baby gonga-green, white, yellow. Dungeons and mini dungeons in white, black, and green. Autumn splendors, wooly buggers.

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, 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 ile 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.

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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