Weekend Angler: Denver

The South Platte
By Chris Gentry
  |  Gorp.com
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Species: Rainbows averaging 1418 inches, many up to and over 20 inches. Browns averaging 1216 inches, some to 20 inches, and a few lunkers that are hard to entice.

Equipment: 9-foot, 5-weight rod. Lots of 6X and 7X tippet for clear water and selective trout. Lightweight waders in summer, neoprene waders in spring, fall and winter. Felt-soled boots.

Flies: Brassies, Miracle Nymphs, Black Beauties, Baetis Nymphs, and RS-2s (#18#24). Orange & Olive Scuds (#10#16). Parachute Adams, Comparaduns and Griffiths Gnats (#18#24).

Fly shops: Flies and Lies, Deckers, (303) 647-2237.

Directions: From Denver take South Santa Fe (Highway 85) to the little town of Sedalia, then get on Highway 67 and follow it to the town of Deckers. There is lots of public access in this area; to reach Cheesman Canyon, drive about a mile upstream of Deckers. Once you pass the Wig Wam Club, start looking for two small pull-outs on the right side of the road. Park here and catch the Gill Trail on the other side of the road. It is a brief hike into the canyon. See map.

Lodging: Fairplay is the main hamlet in South Park but it isn't much closer than Denver. The Western Inn (719) 836-2026, is an adequate inn to rest your head if you choose to stay in Fairplay. Anglers can camp in the national forest and canyon. There are also a handful of rental cabins in Deckers. Many folks just drive the hour and a half back to Denver to catch a meal, toss a beer and stay in a nice hotel. Colorado Division of Wildlife (303) 291-7230; U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Regional Office (303) 275-5350; South Park Chamber of Commerce (719) 836-3410.

Suggested reading: Fly Fishing the South Platte, by Roger Hill, (Pruett Press); Fly Fishing Colorado's Front Range, by Todd Hosman, (Pruett Press); Fly Fisher'sGuide to Colorado, by Marty Bartholomew, (Wilderness Adventures Press); Guide to Fly Fishing in Colorado, by Jackson Streit, (Banks Communications).


One of the Denver area's best and best-known fisheries is the South Platte River, that runs near the sleepy town of Deckers and tumbles through famous Cheesman Canyon.

Flowing beneath Cheesman Dam, the South Platte is a tailwater renowned for its fabulous but ultra-demanding nymph fishing. As is typical with most tailwaters, the bugs are small, and dead-drifting mayfly and midge patterns in the size 20 24 range are the norm.

Cheesman Canyon, which lies a mile or so upstream of Deckers, is locally referred to as the"Holy Waters" for its outstanding angling and breathtaking canyon scenery. Following a brisk 20-minute minute hike into the canyon, be prepared for some of the most spectacular fly water you will ever see, from pocket water flowing between cabin-size boulders to riffles, runs, and mysterious, deep plunge pools.

This section of the South Platte downstream through Deckers is world renowned for its educated and finicky trout. You can easily see pods of 20-inch trout feeding lazily and moving about in the canyon's gin-clear runs and pools — but enticing them to nip your fly will require perfect presentations. Be prepared to cast from behind boulders and from your hands and knees.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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