Thursday June 10, 2021
Flat Tops Fishing Report (6/9/21)
Spring came early to the Flat Tops this year. The lodge is open. Ripple Creek Pass is open. The ice is off of the lakes and, while the flows on the rivers and streams remain high, it appears that we’ve passed peak runoff. Some deep snow remains on the trails in shaded areas and high elevations and most of the trails have not been logged out, so caution when hiking is advised. 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.
Both above and below the confluence, several public access areas have been established on land managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Rio Blanco County, the BLM, the Blanco Ranger District and the Town of Meeker. You’ll find several locations along the river with informational kiosks showing maps and details of public fishing access opportunities. Above the confluence, both forks of the White offer miles and miles of public access within the White River National Forest and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
Neither of the forks of the White receives heavy fishing pressure and bugs are diverse and abundant. Long leader and light tippet are rarely required and fish almost never key on any one insect.
The North Fork of the White River produces some nice cutthroats, cutbows, rainbows and whitefish; many in the 16-20-inch range. Downstream, toward Meeker, 24 inchers are not uncommon. Upstream from the Himes Peak Campground, the fishing for brook trout and smaller cutthroats and rainbows is generally excellent.
The North Fork is still running high and a little off color, but peak runoff is in the rearview mirror. We expect flows to drop steadily and visibility to improve over the next two weeks. Look forward to prime summer conditions by the last week of June.
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. 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. Most fisherman do not venture more than a few hundred yards from the campground, so do not be deterred if the trailhead parking lot is busy. The South Fork offers both solitude and outstanding fishing if an angler is willing and able to do some hiking. You will find the best action on the South Fork if you hike upstream about 2.5 miles to just above the falls.
The South Fork is running fast and high, but visibility is better than what you’ll find on the North Fork. Fish will continue to seek relief from the current by hugging the banks and holding in the side channels and deeper pools. In most stretches, wading will remain tricky for at least another week. 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). Marvine Creek is a great smaller fishery that offers amazing scenery along with excellent fishing opportunities in the Flat Tops Wilderness. If you love dry fly fishing and are not concerned with opportunities for hero shots, Marvine Creek is an ideal destination. The brookies are not picky, fishing pressure is light and the bugs are plentiful. You might hook into an occasional healthy cutthroat or rainbow, but netting a monster is unlikely. The parking lot at the trailhead is often full of vehicles and horse trailers, but the creek receives minimal fishing pressure. Most riders and hikers are traveling to the upstream lakes.
Marvine Creek is a good option with the larger streams still seeing the effects of the runoff. A good presentation with any dry fly will likely be rewarded with a rising brook trout. Stimulators (#12-#14), yellow sallies (#14-#16) and elk hair caddis (#16-#18) are our flies of choice.
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 and hikers. The creek is narrow and brushy in many places, but negotiating the brush is often worth the effort as the creek holds some surprisingly large rainbows and cutthroats as well as plenty of brook trout.
Big Fish is another stream that sees less impact from the runoff. Terrestrials (#10-#14) and stimulators (#12-#16) are good patterns for Big Fish Creek.
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 are looking for information on a specific lake, which you do not see listed here. Feel free to get in touch with us and we will tell you what we know.
As we noted, the ice is off Trappers Lake and all of the campgrounds are open. Trappers has been red hot over the last couple of weeks. Scuds (#14-#16), wooly buggers (#8-#12), renegades (#16-#18) elk hair caddis (#16-#18) and Adams (#14-#16) are solid patterns. Late afternoon breezes often yield action on terrestrials. 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.
If you are not having any luck at Trappers Lake, we suggest you make the short hike up the Little Trappers Trail #1814 to Coffin Lake or Little Trappers Lake. Both lakes can be finicky, but Coffin holds some large cutthroats.
Lake of the Woods is accessed via the Trappers Lake Road and Lake of the Woods Trail #2263. We’re getting reports of steady action on Lake of the Woods, especially from watercraft. 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. Don’t forget your bug spray.
Big Fish Lake is accessed using the Big Fish Trail #1819. We haven’t received any reports from Big Fish Lake. The majority of the trail should be open, but segments might still be covered in drifted snow.
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. Shamrock Lake has been the better fishery over the last couple of weeks. Virtually any dry fly pattern (#16-#18) is likely to draw the attention of an aggressive brook trout.
The reports from Skinny Fish Lake are excellent. Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. Anglers are reporting good results with PMDs (#16-#20, elk hair caddis (#14-#18) and irresistibles (#14-#18). Trailing a BH hare’s ear, copper john (#16-#20) or a scud (#16-#20) should also produce some action. You might still run into some deep snow drifts on the trail.
West Lost Lake can be accessed via multiple trails that connect to the West Lost Lake Trail #1103. The action has been good at West Lost with some decent brook trout taken. PMX (#12-#14) and caddis patterns (#16-#18) are producing on the surface. Lower in the water column, scuds (#16-#18) and red copper Johns (#16-#20) are generating some action. West Lost Lake is a short walk or ride from Deep Lake, Dines Lake and East Lost Lake. If you’re not having any luck at West Lost, you have some additional options. A guided horse trip from Ripple Creek Lodge is the perfect way to enjoy all four lakes.
You’re likely to run into some drifted snow and downed logs on your way to either of the Lost Lakes, so be prepared.
Wall Lake offers an excellent opportunity to do some fishing while enjoying a spectacular view. Wall Lake can be accessed via the Wall Lake Trail (#1818). The reports from the lake are also mixed. You are most likely to have success with caddis patterns (#16-#20) early and late in the day.
*Please note that this will be our last report of the year as we prepare for hunting season.