Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cheesman Tenkara

My most recent trip was to fish the South Platte in Cheesman Canyon with Jason Klass (of Tenkara Talk) and Daniel Galhardo (of Tenkara USA) while Daniel visited Colorado late October (click here).

This trip was special for me on many different levels, starting with finally meeting Daniel Galhardo and share some water with him, observing his techniques and strategies and exchange thoughts. But also by fishing the entire stretch of Cheesman Canyon. Having two cars, we were able to drop one car at the bottom of the canyon and park at the top, allowing us to hike and fish the full 3 miles of water. 

We got to the Deckers area around 8am and it was surprisingly cold - only 22F! However, the hike to the river warmed us up very quickly and the sun, once it crested, made it a very pleasant day to fish. The hike in was long and steep, the main reason why I don't hike to the river from the top - the return trip after a full day's fishing is just brutal (I did it once, pre-tenkara, during Summer when it was in the high 80ies, with my waders on and a fully loaded fishing vest).

Just below the dam of Cheesman Reservoir
Daniel in action
That's the hole I hooked with my first fish, after Daniel fished through it
Once we reached the water, Daniel was quick to start fishing and got a big brown trout to turn but unfortunately she did not take the fly. After I rigged-up with my new 14ft hand-tied line for the ITO from Tenkarabum, I got surprisingly quickly into a very nice rainbow, somewhere around 17", but I was not fortunate enough to land her (I really need to look into a tamo or landing net with a long handle!).

Daniel working some pocket water
Daniel with the only "landed" fish of the day

What seemed to be a good start proved soon to be pretty tough fishing, with the water level being very low (around 80cfs) and the river having lots of green, whitish and black algae. We were concerned that this would be Didymo, but a biologist of  Denver Water to who I reached out after the trip, confirmed, to our relief, that it's NOT Didymo. Over the course of the day, Daniel hooked two and landed one and I hooked two and lost both of them. I fished almost exclusively tenkara flies and both hook-ups were on a Sakasa Copperbari of Tenkarabum.

We had a great day on the water besides the "not catching many fish" part, the weather was great and the company was even better. Cheesman confirmed it's reputation to be a difficult river, but we were able to fool a few fish with flies that were not quite the "standard" fare for this technical tailwater, which really encouraged me to fish more with traditional tenkara flies.

new friends, tired but happy
Tight Lines, -K


  1. Very nice trip. Sounds like a great time 'except for lack of fish part'. Still, good friends and out on the river instead of work , looks fun.

  2. Karel,

    The Titanium Tenkara Net can be custom ordered with a longer handle.

    Looks like you had a nice day on the water in any event.

  3. It was great fishing with you Karel and I learned a lot from Daniel. It certainly was a tough day of fishing--both from a fishing and physical perspective. My hands got pretty torn up on the rocks from climbing (and slipping) up and down the steep banks. Next time, I'm brining wading boots with studs for better traction. I found myself using my new Ito more for a hiking staff than fishing rod!

  4. Very nice report Karel. The country is beautiful out there. I wish there was more of it closer to Long Island.

  5. Great report Karel. Fished there for the first time around the same time you guys were there. We had a rough day as well, only 2 lands but, at least something.

  6. Wait wait - you guys fished downstream? Tell us more about technique please. Looks like Daniel is fishing an enormously long line.

  7. Joel - you're absolutely right!

    Chris - have you tried one with a longer handle yet? How is it?

    Jason - always nice to get out and fish with you, regardless of catching fish. I agree, the hike was streneous and my old bones and muscles hurt for a few days...

    Kiwi - thanks! Looks like you have to come out here soon!

    Peter - thanks! The canyon is tough fishing but it's doable with Tenkara.

    Alex - we fished downstream since we hiked-in from the top and got out at the bottom. However, due to the topography of the canyon the how the trail follows the river, you wouldn't fish upstream in the "classic" way, you would hike to a spot, fish it, then hike to another spot. And yes, Daniel fished with an 18ft long line plus tippet I believe. He made it look very effortless.

  8. I'm very happy to read a news about Chessman canyon, especialy with Tenkara rods.
    In September 2000 have spend a fishing trip in Colorado, and I keep unforgetable souvenirs of fly-fishing in this scenic river.
    I remenber that most of time we don't need to make longs casts to get trout up to 22 inch, Tenkara will be very appropriate there.

  9. Yvon - thanks for your comments, Cheesman is indeed a special place and perfectly suited for Tenkara. You just have to do it. I have been following your blog, nice to see Tenkara catching-on in Europe.