Trip Report: Cheesman Canyon 1/2/24
When it comes to mid-winter trout fishing, there is no better option than your local tailwater. My most recent visit to Cheesman Canyon proved just that.
We hiked quite a ways in from the trail to find what we believed to be the best area for trout that were willing to eat. With flows sitting at 149 CFS, we knew we were in good shape compared to weeks prior. The weather was for the most part sunny with very few clouds. The conditions were optimal.
We spoke with a fellow angler who had braved the early chill and 9-degree temperatures, but we chose to let the temperature rise a bit before making our move.
Timing is everything, and we hit the trail around 11 am - just as the temperature was climbing above freezing. Prime situation and ideal conditions in my opinion.
That is one thing about winter fishing that I find important - let the water and air temperatures warm up a bit! Sure, I’ve caught a trout at sunrise while it was 20 degrees on a tailwater. Though realistically it is not necessary to get there that early, unless you’re trying to beat those weekend crowds! That’s why I also say there are no rules to trout fishing on a fly rod, I’ve seen some wild conditions and unconventional fly choices catch fish with no problem. All I’m saying is that there are many factors when considering winter fishing, along with many ways to find success. This is simply what I experienced during my most recent outing.
The first half of the day was looking like we were going to walk away with a couple lessons rather than a successful day on the water. That’s the thing about winter, these fish are very specific in what they want and more importantly when they want it. You could sit in the same hole all day without a nibble then the same hole could produce 5 trout in 20 minutes when the conditions are right. Air temperature and air pressure can come together to produce the perfect conditions. That right there is the key; be patient, be persistent, get creative and most importantly… fish hard!
And that's exactly what we did. Which made for a slow day initially - about 5 fish hooked, 3 to the net in 4 hours. But, that quickly turned into a dozen adult trout in a short 45 minute window. We were so blown away. If there is one secret to becoming a successful fly angler it is TOW - time on the water. There are so many people that spend 2 hours on the water, find it’s slow (at that time) and head out. I get it - not everyone can spend endless hours on the water at a time, just do your best to do everything you can to find what is going to bring success with the time you’ve got.
Of course, the part that everyone wants to know.. When, Where and how we ended up with such a successful day. Earlier we fished the deeper pools, where you can sight fish trout with success. Everyone thinks like this, cold water, deep holes equals fish. They are not wrong. However if it is not working something has to change.
We ended up finding them pushing into some moving water and feeding directly off the shelves below riffles. No, not fast water, but not dead water either. You want a spot where you can show the fish that fly without giving it too much time to inspect it. After hours of changing flies we found our best luck on various baetis patterns and a ton of egg and midges patterns as well.
In terms of eggs, you want the most natural looking egg fly you can find, no flash! Especially in gin clear water. Those Brown Trout just finished spawning and there are eggs everywhere. Utilize that information. I had my egg fished on 4x fluoro and they did not seem to blink twice. Each egg rigged was followed by two small midge patterns on either 5x or 6x.
The success comes from putting your flies in the right spot rather than any specific pattern. 4-5 feet deep to your split shot and each fly one foot apart. Following that should be perfect.
If you do have trouble choosing specific fly patterns, that is where our extremely knowledgeable shop staff come into play. Stop by and they will gladly give you the recipe for success!
Flies we had success on:
Embryo Egg #12
Spot-on egg #16
Perdigons #18 (pick any one - can’t remember all the names)
Darth Baetis orange #20
Any size Midge #22 + #24 (Pick a few - lighter colors.)