Cheesman Canyon is technical fishing even under more-or-less “normal” conditions. Increase the flows to 1100 cfs, stain the water the color of Lipton tea, and you have yourself some tough fishing conditions. Before we left the shop for the “Learn to Fish Cheesman Canyon” class, Guide and Instructor Jon Easdon said “We’ll have to think out of the box a little today.” And, today, thinking out of the box really paid off.
After we walked in, Jon set up his seine and gave us a brief intro to entomology. He mentioned that Cheesman has a such a rich bug life that you can be on fire with caddis in one stretch, move up the river 50 yards and find that mayflies are the ticket.
What would the water hold today? Whoa! It didn’t take long to find out! Jon took some bug samples from different areas of the river -- no more than 10 feet out -- and found a smorgasbord of offerings. Stoneflies (in various stages of maturity), cranefly larva, caddis (HUGE!), BWO nymphs, PMD nymphs, various midges, annelids, scuds (LOTS) and even a green drake nymph were all available for hungry fish in these high flows.
Before the classmates and I spread out on the water, Jon gave us some techniques to combat the high flows. Jon mentioned that even though the flows were high, they have been consistently high over the past week or ten days. Fish have adjusted to the high flows. “It’s trickier to fish when the flows are up and down and inconsistent. Fish are thrown off.”
The focus of the day was on straight line nymphing. Shorten your drift to maybe ten or twelve feet, don’t worry about any long casts, get the fly patterns down fast. Find the seams in the flatter water tailing out from the more turbulent runs. Easdon added that “straight-line technique lets the angler almost instantly feel the strike. It puts the angler more in touch with his flies and the take.”
During the next 90 minutes of the class, Jon and Justin Brenner, made the rounds offering one-to-one “tutoring” for those in the class. They helped spot fish which were often just faint bodies holding themselves in the current. Or, as usual, we’d spot their shadow on the gravelly bottom first. Jamie Roth, a new Angler’s Guide who was shadowing Easdon and Brenner, said that the “best chance I’ve had today is casting to specific fish” as he netted his 20" rainbow.
Sight fishing did seem to pay off the best today even in the off-color water. Jon shows a nice rainbow, the first catch of the day, and newlyweds Eric and Julie celebrate his nice rainbow.
With the high, turbid water, Jon suggested that the straight-line method gives anglers the chance to move the fly up and down in the feeding column. Fish were moving in the water and big flies, with color, and a little bit of movement were getting action. Presentation mattered today – with depth and speed being critical (as is probably always the case – but even more necessary today). Rick had it dialed in with his presentation to land this fat rainbow!
I had always been a little hesitant – ok, more than a little – to fish with flows as high we encountered today. Taking a class increased my knowledge base of techniques, of the value of the seine (no more guessing what’s in the water!), and reminded me of the value of having a guide/instructor on the side to help correct and inform. Check out our calendar for upcoming classes in June here.
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