Ben McGee working his way into some of the goods in the canyon.
1. Adjust your standards. I would consider a day where you get 10 fish in the net to be a great day on the water, especially on this tailwater. Most people will take 2-6 fish on average. This is not the middle of summer where 20 fish days are more common. So enjoy each fish during the day.
2. Kill your Drift. The canyon is a place where a dead drift will mean the difference between a refusal and a take. If you don't have a good drift the fish wont even look at your flies. Often times they will slide out of the way to hide out in deeper water, spooked by a bad presentation. Instead of bombing long casts into a run and mending like crazy, wade in deeper and dissect the run with short accurate, drag free drifts. I guarentee this will be a big help.
This brown took a size 22 red juju midge on a dead drift.
3. Flies. This time of year people get crazy about fishing the smallest flies in their box. A size twenty midge, as the attractor, down to a 26 on 6x and 7x. This is a recipe for heartbreak and tough to rig with cold hands. My typical rig is 5x down to my first attractor fly, usually a size 16 Tungsten Serveryor or Prince Nymph, to a size 20 midge on 6x. Give them a meal that is worth eating. Its also nice to land bigger fish on a larger hook, stack the odds in your favor.
4. Sight your Prey. The low flows of winter offer up shallow gin clear water. If you move slow enough you will see fish sitting in their lie waiting for food. Take advantage of knowing where the fish are holding and make the appropriate cast. Then guide your flies into their feeding lane. This techniques requires you to be very stealthy and get close to your target fish. It just so happens to be one of the most exciting ways to fish as well.
Textbook high-sticking. Line off the water and guiding flies into the feeding zone.
5. Target quality holding water. While fishing in the canyon I pass a lot of anglers who fish what I consider "summer water". The riffles, heads of runs, and faster water. I'm not saying that fish do not hold there in the winter, but the vast majority of fish are going to be in the deeper slower water. Winter lairs where they don't have to work too hard to stay in position and feed.
FRA Guide, Wallace found this rainbow sitting at the top of a slow deep pocket.
These are a few tips that will help you make the most of your winter fishing experience in Cheeseman Canyon. The upcoming winter months can be some of the best times of the year. Put in your time and you will see some of the largest fish in the river come to hand.