Cheesman Olives

In June of 2016, I hiked down into Cheesman Canyon to fish that stretch of the South Platte River in Colorado. Cheesman is known as a tricky body of water with “well educated” fish, fish that have seen every fly flung by many of the best anglers in the business. I do not typically enjoy fishing “technical” waters like this. I like easy, dumb uneducated fish. But a part of my fly fishing journey was to hit as many of the big name waters as I could.

Lone Rock Campground
A sweet spot to set up base camp on the South Platte.

I had started earlier in the week downstream at Lone Rock Campground near Deckers.  This was the first place where I observed the phenomenon of trout using the angler as a food source. There’s a run just behind my bike in the above photo that has a fine gravelly bottom about  thigh deep, deepening to the outside of the bend.

Standing there and casting a wet fly across and down, I noticed movement in the water below me. Looking closer, I saw a group of fish feeding, less than a rod length away. I shuffled my feet and and watched the trout speed up their darting about as they ate bugs that I’d dislodged.

Deckers Baetis
Blue wing olive nymphs tagging along for a ride on my waders.

After watching this for a while and trying to figure out if it would be improper to catch one of these fish, I got out of the water and sat on a rock to think. Then I saw the bugs that the fish had been gorging on, several of them clinging to my boots and waders.

I didn’t have any flies that matched what appeared to be baetis nymphs, otherwise known as Blue Winged Olives.  So I went inside and set up the vise to try and make something that might work. The result was one of my favorite things about this fly fishing game, I caught fish with flies I had just created after observing the life in the river. Fantastic!

Deckers Brown
A nice brown trout from the Deckers stretch.

Back to Cheesman Canyon, I fished this little olive fly all day, and it was tough fishing. I was using a small yarn indicator with a heavier leading fly and then the size 18 baetis. Classic sight fishing: I spotted a pair of big rainbows finning in a pool. I crept slowly up to them to avoid spooking them, cast up and across to float the bugs into their feeding lane… one cast… two casts… the big white mouth opens and eats my new fly. Fish on!  Unfortunately, that fish dove into a tangle of wood in the bottom of the run, and broke me off. But it was still a delight.

I managed to land a couple of smaller ones further up the canyon, and it really was a thoroughly satisfying day.

Cheesman Rainbow
A small but gorgeous rainbow from Cheesman Canyon


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