Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/03/20)

Wednesday June 3, 2020 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/03/20)

Ripple Creek Pass is open for the season! The spring runoff has picked up again after we saw a slight reduction in flows last week. Conditions on the rivers and streams are extremely challenging. We’re starting to see more open water on some of the mid elevation lakes, but the high elevation lakes remain frozen. Caution is advised when using the trails in the area this time of year. Hikers are almost certain to encounter obstacles such as downed trees and drifted snow, particularly on the higher elevation trails, and tree snags are always something to be aware of in burn areas.

Facilities and campgrounds are beginning to reopen in the Flat Tops. The North Fork and Himes Peak Campgrounds will be opening June 5th. The remaining Blanco Ranger District Campgrounds are expected to open June 12th. Check the White River National Forest/Blanco Ranger District web page for the latest updates on restrictions related to the COVID-19 as well as general forest conditions.

Flat Tops Rivers and Streams:

The White River is often overlooked by anglers due in part to the perception that the best fishing opportunities require access to private property. Significant stretches of the White, both above and below the confluence of the North and South forks, do require access to private land; however, the perception that no public water exists is far from accurate. Below the confluence, several public access areas have been established by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Above the confluence, both forks of the White offer miles and miles of public access within the White River National Forest and Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Neither of the forks receives heavy fishing pressure and bugs are diverse and abundant. Long leader and light tippet are rarely required and fish almost never key on one insect.

The North Fork of the White River produces some very nice cutthroats, cutbows, rainbows and whitefish; many in the 16-20 inch range. Downstream, toward Meeker, 24 inchers are not uncommon. Closer to Trappers Lake, the fishing for brook trout and smaller cutthroats and rainbows is generally excellent. 

The North Fork below Ripple Creek is going to be borderline unfishable for at least the next week or so. The river is high, off-color and littered with deadfall from the burn area upstream. The public water above Ripple Creek (between the Big Fish Trailhead and Trappers Lake) is in better shape in terms of water clarity, but the water is high and coming down fast. Some of the public water above Ripple Creek is difficult to access due to deadfall and thick streamside vegetation.

Access on the North Fork is restricted in some stretches, but the public water within the forest boundaries is not heavily fished. Be sure to respect private property boundaries. Most are well-marked.

The South Fork of the White River offers more public access than the North Fork, especially for those willing to do a little walking. The South Fork Trail (#1827) follows the river for about 15 miles within the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. The trail is an easy to moderate walk and is well-traveled by hikers and horseback riders, but most fisherman don’t venture more than a few hundred yards from the campground, so don’t be deterred if the trailhead parking lot is busy. 

Waiting out the runoff is also the name of the game on the South Fork. As is almost always the case, the water clarity on the South Fork is much better than what you’ll see on the North Fork. The challenge is reaching water that holds fish. Wading is extremely dangerous and streamside vegetation makes for difficult casting from the shore. If you’re able to find a casting window, we recommend throwing big patterns—streamers, chubby Chernobyls, San Juan worms or Pat’s rubber legs. Try to work close to the banks and through the deep runs. Fish will be looking for respite from the heavy currents.

Please take note of the special regulations in the White River drainage by visiting:


Marvine Creek is accessed via the Marvine Trail (#1823).  The parking lot at the trail head is often full of vehicles and horse trailers, but the creek receives minimal fishing pressure. 

If you’d like to spend a day experiencing some of the beauty of the Flat Tops Wilderness topped off by a pan full of brookies for dinner, Marvine Creek is the place for you. The trout on Marvine Creek aren’t especially selective. The fishing pressure is minimal and the bugs are plentiful.

We haven’t received any reports from Marvine Creek. Deep snow and deadfall on the trail are likely this time of year. If you can make the short hike back to the open meadows, you might have some luck as the runoff does not generally impact Marvine to the degree that it does the larger streams.

Big Fish Creek runs along the Big Fish Trail (#1819). The Big Fish Trailhead is on the left as you enter the Himes Peak Campground. The campground is on the Trappers Lake Road 6 miles from the intersection with County Rd 8. The trail sees some heavy use in the summer months, primarily by horseback riders. The creek is narrow and brushy in many places, but negotiating the brush is worth the effort as the creek holds some surprisingly large rainbows and cutthroats as well as plenty of brook trout.

Flat Tops Lakes:

Over 100 fishable lakes are just a hike or trail ride away from Ripple Creek Lodge—far too many to include in this report. If you’re looking for information on a specific lake, which you don’t see listed here. Feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll tell you what we know.

With the stretch of warm weather in the forecast, we should start to see some of the higher elevation lakes open and become more accessible over the next couple of weeks.

As we reported last week, Trappers Lake is ice free. Anglers should see some of the best action of the year on Trappers over the next couple of weeks. Caddis and mayfly hatches should be picking up early and late in the day. We suggest elk hair caddis (#16-#20), BWOs (#18-#22), black gnats (#18-#20) and Adams (#16-#18) if you prefer to work the top water. Below the surface, hare’s ears (#16-#18), pheasant tails (#16-#18), scuds (#18-#20) and wooly buggers (#8-#10) are solid picks.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the special regulations for Trappers. Only artificial flies and lures are permitted. The number and size of cutthroats in possession is restricted, but free to keep all the brookies you’d like! The lake sits within the boundaries of the Flat Tops Wilderness, so motorized vehicles and watercraft are prohibited. 

Lake of the Woods is accessed via the Trappers Lake Road and Lake of the Woods Trail #2263. Reports are that the action is good at Lake of the Woods. Fish are feeding both on and below the surface especially early and late in the day. You’re likely to have some success with nearly any small dry flies as well as scuds. This is the best time of the year at Lake of the Woods as the mosquitoes aren’t in full force and the fish are hungry.

Skinny Fish Lake and McGinnis Lake are accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813 and the McGinnis Trail #2213. At the time of this report, Skinny Fish is fifty percent ice free. The ice is just beginning to come off McGinnis. The trails are still covered in deep snow is some places. Contact the lodge for the latest. Skinny Fish is always red hot when the ice comes off.

Big Fish Lake is accessed using the Big Fish Trail #1819. We haven’t received any reports from Big Fish Lake. Most of the trail should be open, but you’ll certainly hit some deep snow and downed trees along the way.

Shamrock Lake and Mirror Lake offer beautiful settings to pull in brookies all day long. Both lakes are accessed via the Mirror Lake Trail #1821. Both lakes are likely frozen and the trail virtually impassable.

If you’ve been fishing the Flat Tops recently, get in touch and let us know how you did.