There are a few things everyone knows about the Cheesman Canyon tailwater fishery:
1) It’s a short drive from Denver;
2) The fish have Ph.D.’s in entomology; and
3) You don’t trespass on Wigwam Club grounds.
What many don’t know is that the upper canyon (i.e. closest to the dam) is stellar water, and much less crowded than that accessed via the more popular Gill Trail head. They also don’t know that said hike in begins and ends with sections that will make you think you are climbing a thousand flights of stairs made of quicksand (although having the ground frozen is a help). But you will have to deal with it, along with frozen fingertips and blocks of ice constantly forming on the bottom of your boots, if you want to fly fish the upper Cheesman Canyon in December.
Despite the slight adversity, which included zero fish landed in roughly four hours of attempts, it was a good time. There were plenty of hookups to be had – you just had to have a sense of humor because each time a bite came, the fish were bolting for the closest four inch wide gap between rocks and bound to snap you off. Landing is always an issue here, but it’s even more pronounced when the water is flowing at winter lows. Breakoffs happened all day, which was fine by me – regardless of losing a half-dozen WD-40s, flashback pheasant tails, and zebra midges, I was cringing at the thought of getting my hands wet. The action alone was enough to satisfy, and you’ll know why I felt this way the moment you go down there…
The sun absolutely does not shine on this water during the winter!
ADDITIONAL NOTES: 6X tippets carrying Black Beauties, brown WD-40s, and Pheasant Tails produced the most strikes – stay small. Copper Johns in blacks, silvers and whites were used as attractors, although we’re not sure if that really helped. Leading with an orange or pink egg did help, at least as far as seeing flies in the water against dark bottoms and consistent shadow. A little grease on the line keeps water from beading and freezing up on it – I generally wipe with a little Armor All for this purpose. And don’t hike in ready to fish – it’s a workout, and you don’t want to be standing around in sweaty waders once you arrive. Last but not least, bring food, plenty of water, and watch your step (ice is slippery, don’t ya’ know)!
MORE: The flow was 51 cfs. That’s very low for Cheesman, although not out of the norm for this time of year.