John Swincinski

Afternoon in Cheesman
48 x 42 in

“The Cheesman Canyon portion of the South Platte River is a legendary fly fishing tailwater and a place I return to whenever I can. In the summer of 2002, it was all but destroyed in the Hayman Fire that ravaged nearly 140,000 Colorado acres. I first fished Cheesman in 2005. At that time, it was like fishing on another planet. The canyon is rocky with sandstone boulders the size of small houses and steep unclimbable cliffs box the water and the angler in. Still charred, the vegetation had just started to re-emerge. I questioned the nature of this kind of destruction and whether the river could ever fully recover from the ash runoff and loss of habitat. Ironically, I was experiencing a change of my own, as I had just re-entered the Marine Corps and felt like my own previous existence was somewhat scorched. Over the last 15 years, I’ve watched mother nature repair this magical place. Every time I returned, the forest surrounding the canyon was stronger. Now the Hayman fire is barely perceptible, and the water holds some of the strongest rainbows in all of the West. Yet another parallel to my own existence. If I can only pick one more day of fly fishing for the rest of my life – it will be in the Cheesman.”