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Trouts Journal

Weekend Report: Cheesman Canyon

Ivan Orsic / Nov 25, 2014

The guide season seems to have finally wound down. And while I love taking/teaching people about fly-fishing…..I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small smile on my face upon pondering this realization. The reason for this smile is simple- now I get to go fishing!! This past weekend was the first of many to come throughout the next several months that involved the fly rod being back in my hands. Now, I know I took the trip to Montana last month, (which if you didn’t know, click HERE to read about) But when it comes to fishing in Colorado, even though I’m on the water almost every weekend, I haven’t spent a whole day fishing the South Platte since July!

So now the consideration of where to go. Oh the options. I met up Thursday night with my good friend and local angler (and also part of the Montana trip) Lee Molvie, to discuss Saturday’s plans over a few cold ones. Upon checking flows during round one, we were faced with somewhat of a dilemma. For all intensive purposes, there was no water in the South Platte. Now I realize “no water” may seem like a strong statement, but after fishing it all summer at 300-500cfs, the 75cfs currently running between the banks sure feels a little bit like it. While this is by no means a dangerously low level for the fish, it certainly makes them much more spooky. The Blue River was brought up, however the thought of I-70 and the accompanying ski traffic made that a short lived consideration. The Arkansas River? Perhaps the Arkansas tailwater below Pueblo?...ehh.. still not getting us that excited.

So there we were, sights set back on the South Platte, even with the less than ideal flows. What can I say, maybe I really am a ‘Platte Rat’. So now onto the next piece of the puzzle- which stretch? Dream Stream? Below 100 cfs really is pretty low there so cross that off the list. Deckers? Maybe…While we both felt confident we could put together a good day at Deckers , we figured if we’re going to go to Deckers, we might as well go to Cheesman. I mean why not take on some of the techiest trout in the country during low flows?

Anyone who has fished Cheesman Canyon before knows it’s like an aquarium. Lots of fish, many of them very large, can be spotted all over. It was no surprise that the low water had a ton of fish concentrated in the deep pools. Even though we knew these spots were going to be difficult to fish, it’s tough (perhaps impossible) not to cast into a pool where you can see multiple fish pushing the 20 inch mark. After several failed attempts at connecting with a fish in these locations, we shifted our focus. We knew we needed to find some shallow fish that were actively feeding. Upon hiking back to the top of the trail, we took our time walking along upstream taking a birds-eye view of the river. To our delight, we started finding the type of fish we were looking for. Shallow, happy fish. A sight fisherman’s dream. Many times, even with our best attempts at stealth, there was still nothing you could do to keep from spooking fish off their shallow holds. Thankfully though, not every encounter went this way and after putting a few fish in the net, (and enjoying a celebratory brew), our confidence was high we could repeat this pattern throughout the afternoon. The next few hours were spent carefully stalking the shallows, spending substantially more time looking for fish rather than actually casting, and (thankfully) adding to the day’s total.

As the light left the canyon and we began the hike out, our spirits were high and our hands smelled like fish. You can’t ask for much more than that.

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