Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/27/19)

Thursday June 27, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/27/19)

Last weeks snow and cooler temperatures provided a brief break from the heaviest runoff, but warmer temperatures are forecast for the next several days. The warm temperatures combined with the new snow in the high country will undoubtedly produce very high flows and poor water clarity over the next several days on most of the rivers and streams in the Flat Tops. Many of the high lakes remain frozen or difficult to access due to deep snow. Conditions are changing rapidly, so give us a call for the latest.

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, Rio Blanco County, the town of Meeker and Trout Unlimited. 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. 

We hate to sound like a broken record, but the North Fork is once again nearly impossible to fish due to the runoff. Fishing from the banks on the North Fork is difficult on most of the stretches of public water and wading is just plain foolish given the current flows. You might find some better conditions by moving to higher elevation 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.

High flows are also impacting the South Fork, but the water clarity is better than what you’ll see on the North Fork. Wading is very treacherous in some sections where the water is deceptively deep and the currents are swift. You might see some success swinging large streamers or drifting a San Juan worm, Pat’s rubber legs or an egg pattern through some of the deep runs.

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.

The majority of the lakes in the Flat Tops remain frozen or difficult to access because of deep snow. If the warming trend continues, we expect to see the remaining ice come off the lakes and the trails become passable.

The reports from Trappers Lake this week suggest that the action is slowing as the cutthroats begin to move into the inlets to spawn. Keep in mind that fishing in and near the inlets is prohibited. You might see some action on scuds (#14-#16), wooly buggers and elk hair caddis (#16-#18). 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, the action will begin 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. Several sections of the trail remain covered in snow. We’re also get reports from Big Fish that the action is slow due to the cutthroat spawn.

Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. Skinny Fish and McGinnis Lake are open, but you might need snowshoes to get there. If you’re ambitious enough to brave the snow, you’re likely to find some outstanding action.  

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.