Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/20/19)

Thursday June 20, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/20/19)

The melt continues in the high country. The flows on the rivers and streams remain high, but we expect the runoff to peak very soon. Many of the high lakes are opening up and the fishing is likely to be outstanding if you’re able to negotiate the remaining snow. Ripple Creek Pass remains closed at the time of the writing of this report. We expect warm temperatures and continued melting for the next day or two, but cooler temperatures return for the weekend. Give the lodge a call for the latest 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. 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 a single prey species.

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 brookies and smaller cutthroats, cutbows and rainbows is generally excellent. 

Again this week, the runoff is the story. We are seeing some improvement in clarity on the North Fork, but fishing from the banks of the North Fork is difficult to impossible in most places and we don’t advise wading given the current conditions. If you’re in the area and decide to wet a line on the North Fork, we recommend trying the stretches of public water above Ripple Creek (between the Big Fish Trailhead and Trappers Lake).

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 provides more public access than the North Fork, especially for those able and interested in to doing 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. The South Fork offers both solitude and outstanding fishing for the price of a little leg work.

The South Fork also continues to run fast and high. Target the areas along the banks, the side channels and slower runs through the deep pools. Accessing these spots will be a challenge since wading will be treacherous in most stretches of the river. Stoneflies and colorful streamers and nymphs will be the patterns most likely to provoke a strike.

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’re not hearing any information about the conditions on Marvine Creek. You’re likely to run into some drifted snow in the shady areas along the trail and near the creek. If you can make your way back to some of the more 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.

Many of the lakes in the Flat Tops remain frozen or difficult to access due to the remaining snowpack. With warmer temperatures in the forecast, we expect to see some rapid melting. As soon as you’re able to access the lakes, you’ll likely find some hungry, aggressive trout.

As we reported last week, the ice is off Trappers Lake. The road to the campgrounds and the Scott’s Bay Trailhead is now open. You should see some excellent action on Trappers for at least the next couple of weeks. Scuds (#14-#16), wooly buggers (#8-#12), renegades (#16-#18) elk hair caddis (#16-#18) and Adams (#14-#16) are tried and true patterns. If the winds pick up in the afternoon, an ant or beetle pattern (#12-#16) would be worth a shot.

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. 

Access Lake of the Woods via the Trappers Lake Road and Lake Of The Woods Trail #2263.  We’re hearing that the action has been good on 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 and streamers. As the days warm up, expect the action to slow on Lake of the Woods.

Big Fish Lake is accessed using the Big Fish Trail (#1819). Big Fish Lake is ice free and open. Accessing the lake remains challenging though. Several sections of the trail remain covered in deep snow. We wouldn’t recommend attempting to hike to the lake unless you’re familiar with the route.

Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. We’re finally seeing some open water on Skinny Fish and the nearby McGinnis Lake. The challenge now will be finding your way through the remaining snow. Give us a call for the latest as Skinny Fish is always red hot when the ice comes off.

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. As of the date of this report, both lakes remain frozen and much of the trail virtually impassable on foot or horseback.