This past Tuesday I traveled up to Cheeseman Canyon and spend the day trying to fool some of the toughest, high pressure trout that Colorado has to offer. This was my third time fishing the canyon since moving to Denver in October. Like the previous two outing on this section of the South Platte River, Cheeseman’s scenery and fishing did not disappoint.
I left the trailhead around 8 am at a chilly 0 degree’s and started the 1.5 mile hike to the river along Gill Trail as it winds up the mountainside. The sun was just beginning to crest over the mountain tops and made for a wonderful setting.
During the two outings prior I had hiked up another 20-30 minutes from the first couple views of the river. Today I decided to hike down to the river early in the hike and fish part of the lower canyon. When I got down to the river I found dazzling hoarfrost crystals covering the plants and trees lining the banks.
I wasted no time and began throwing streamers with my 11′ 3wt rod. Lately I have really been loving this rod for high-stick streamer fishing. It works great to be able to get streamers deep into pockets and pools and you can give the flies a nice jigging vertical motion that is hard to achieve with a shorter rod unless you are fishing much smaller water. After fishing some faster water that didn’t look to be holding any fish I eyed up a nice, deep looking pool downstream from me. I stalked my way towards it making sure to move slowly and keep as low of a profile as I could. As I got closer I noticed a big, shoulder height boulder along the edge of the water about halfway down the pool. This was a perfect spot to hide behind to conceal myself from the vary trout that I knew the hole had to contain. A couple drifts with a 2/0 Frick’s Fix later and I had a nice sized rainbow follow the fly downstream and swipe at it a couple time. I watched the fish swim back into his feeding lane and I presented the fly in-front of him again. This time he smacked it hard and took off into the rapids below. Battling a ~15″ rainbow on that 11′ 3 wt was an awesome battle.
The second fish of the day was a unique one. When I first saw it I had no idea what it was. Once in the net I could tell that it was an extremely dark brown trout, like almost black. This fish must have lived in the shadows for the majority of its life.
For the next hour or so I continued to have luck with the fix for a couple more small brown trout.
Around 11 the streamer bite shut off and I transitioned into nymphing for the next few hours. As far as the nymping went, Cheeseman kicked my butt. I had a few fish look at my flies and one fish may have even took a bite but I didn’t hook a single fish from 11-3.
Not that I didn’t see any fish… this river is filled with 18-24″ rainbows that you can see swimming around in some of the aquarium like pools that this canyon contains. They are big, smart fish and I am not a skilled enough nymph fisherman to be able to fool them yet.
Before calling it a day I threw on a fix again and fished it for the last 20 minutes before starting the hike out of the canyon. A couple pools in I hooked into a stunning little brown. Incredible colors on this guy!!
With that I called it a day and hiked out. Along the way I ran into a guy that I had shared a conversation with at the trailhead parking lot at sunrise and we hiked out together. We compared our days and fish wise we had each had similar luck, landing half a dozen trout each with most of the fish being caught in the morning. He had done well with a size 22 blood midge. I had told him in the parking lot that I was going to try throwing streamers early on in the day and he was shocked to hear that it had actually worked out for me. I told him that I still have yet to catch a fish in Cheeseman with a nymph and we had a good laugh. When we got to the parking lot and started packing up for the drive home we each set goals for the next time we try to take on the canyon; for me to catch a trout here on a nymph and for him to give streamer fishing a shot. I look forward to challenging myself to nymph up a fish in Cheeseman the next time I come here.