Fulling Mill rep Anthony Marrese, shares what it is like being on the road most days of the year and how he sneaks in a few fishing days here and there at some of the best water the North West has to offer. A few weeks ago he got the opportunity to hit the Cheesman Canyon section of the South Platte with a group of fishing guides from Rocky Mountain Anglers, read all about it below:
“Colorado as a state has some of the most well-known trout fishing opportunities in the United States, from the seemingly limitless miles of moving water to the relatively untapped stillwaters of the Colorado high country. With my career as a sales rep, I am lucky enough to have access to a wide array of water throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest on a regular basis. As a lot of the reps in the country will tell you, we are on the road during substantial portions of the year. Though we get to fish somewhat frequently, we are often travelling during the shoulder seasons when there is some of the best fishing to be had. From May to October, when everyone else is fishing, we are often tethered to our phones. The sales rep fishing season is generally restricted to the odd day while on the road (some of my favorites) and the dead of winter.
Due to our work schedules, I know a lot of reps absolutely cherish the few times we can get out during primetime on our territory’s freestone rivers, but because these are often locked up with ice, we often find ourselves on some of the legendary tailwater fisheries that Colorado has to offer. Rough life, I know.
Living in Boulder, CO positions you in between two productive winter tailwater fisheries, the Big Thompson and the South Platte. The late fall on the South Platte is one of my favorite times of year to fish this river. The South Platte’s tailwater is still usually pumping out some decent mayfly and midge hatches, crowds are usually down, and the weather is still mostly enjoyable.
On this particular day, a group of fishing guides from Rocky Mountain Anglers and I met up to go and fish the Cheesman Canyon section of the South Platte. Even in the late fall, a Cheesman canyon day starts early. We met at the fly shop at 5:00 am ready to go. The drive down 285 is beautiful and feels quick, all the way until you reach the turn for 126, and then the drive drags on forever. The total drive time to Cheesman from Boulder is about 2 hours. Upon arrival that morning at the lower parking lot, the tuck thermometer read 2 degrees above zero. We knew that it would be below zero in the canyon, and after a long thought about what exactly we were doing, we got out and geared up.
After about a 30 minute hike in, we decided to start fishing. Since we knew we would have to nymph, I set up a rig with a size 18 barbless freshwater shrimp. I’ve caught a lot of fish in Cheesman with this fly, so it’s always a go to attractor. The scud was followed by a size 24 Ginny midge, a known killer fly for the picky trout of the South Platte.
It was just after 8 am by the time we waded into the first run. We only managed a couple fish between the group until about 10 am, all on the midge. Once the sun warmed the canyon up slightly, we started to see a small hatch of midges, and some fish began to move around in the pools of the canyon. Between 10 and 11:30 it was on. We each hooked several nice fish and brought many to hand. Because of the visible midge hatch, we cut off our first rigs and tied new ones. Again, these consisted of two flies, but now we were running a BB split shot to a size 18 red Tungsten Zebra Midge as an attractor, followed by a size 22 M&M midge trailed 2 feet from the attractor. One angler in our group decided to try and throw dry flies since there were a pretty high concentration of midges on the surface. Unfortunately, even with the bugs hatching, the fish were still holding close to the bottom and eating small midges in large numbers.
In normal Cheesman fashion, we worked our way up the canyon, stopping and fishing all the open runs we found. Our fishing slowed significantly after 11:30, and from 11 to 1 pm we only caught a few more fish. By the afternoon, the temperature was still frigid, and we were ready to head back to the truck and enjoy some hot cider and a pull or two off the flask while we recapped the day.
Once we arrived back at the truck, the parking lot was still almost empty, which is a rare sight for Cheesman on any given day. Reflecting on the day is always a good way to wrap up, and any day in Cheesman when you can catch double digit trout, have the place to yourself, and still be home for dinner is a win in my book.”
Thank you to Hurley Kane – Manager, Rocky Mountain Anglers for letting us use this photo of a stunning trout!