Things to do in Denver

Fly-fishing the South Platte

Years ago I taught a fly-fishing class on the South Platte. The river is a marvelous place to catch big trout in crystal clear water—there is a healthy array of aquatic trout food like mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies, and the fish readily take imitations. The key to enticing fish here is presentation—the larger fish have seen many flies, and they're unlikely to approach anything that isn't drifting naturally.

My favorite stretch of river is below Cheeseman Dam—in the fabled waters of Cheeseman Canyon. Here, steep canyon walls have dropped house-sized boulders into the river, creating deep holes where lunkers wait for prey. Try dropping a size #14 Hare's Ear Nymph into the swirling waters. When the rainbows take, they launch like Trident missiles. Todd Andersen, head fly-fishing guru at Colorado Angler, goes into rapture talking about the Canyon: "There's an awesome wild trout population, the scenery and wildlife are fantastic, and you can fish year round."

If you make it to Cheeseman, prepare yourself for a strenuous day of hiking and boulder-hopping. From Denver, take C-470 to Highway 285 east into the mountains. Turn left at Pine Junction onto Hwy. 126 and go about 18 miles. Watch for a little sign on the right saying "Gill Trail." Park on the left side of the road. Hike down to the river, then wade to your heart's delight. It's three miles upstream to Cheeseman Dam.

You can also wade downstream, or drive a couple of miles further to the little town of Deckers. The river meanders through a valley to the confluence with the North Fork, and is a good bet year round.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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