Flat Tops Fishing Report (7/11/19)

Friday July 12, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (7/11/19)

The runoff has peaked in the Flat Tops and we’re finally starting to see improving conditions on the rivers and streams. Flows remain high and off color, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The trails through the high country are also opening up making the high lakes more accessible; however, some of the highest elevation lakes remain difficult to access because of deep snow.

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. 

Conditions on the North Fork remain challenging but less so each day. Above Ripple Creek, flows are a little high, but the water is not as muddy. If you choose to take a crack at the North Fork, we recommend trying the stretches of public water above Ripple Creek (between the Big Fish Trailhead and Trappers Lake). Working the pockets and banks in slower sections is a good appoach. Don’t shy away from throwing big dries and terrestrials.

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 is also running high, but water clarity is better than what you’ll find on the North Fork. Wading remains hazardous to impossible in many stretches of the river. You might experience is likely to be the result of swinging large streamers or drifting a San Juan worm or Pat’s rubber legs 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.

Marvine Creek appears to be the one stream in the Flat Tops on which an angler might find some steady action. Flows are high, but water clarity is good and Marvine offers plenty of side channels and structure for fish seeking respite from the current. We recommend Amy’s ants (#12-#14), stimulators (#12-#16) and Goddard caddis (#16-#20) for dry flies. Trailing a dropper behind is also a good idea. For droppers, we suggest a BH zug bug (#16-#20) or a BH hare’s ear (#16-#20).

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.

We’re getting reports that up to three feet of snow still blankets some of the higher elevations in the Flat Tops. The lower elevation lakes are open and accessible while the higher elevation lakes are open, but many remain extremely challenging to access. We recommend contacting the Blanco Ranger District or giving the lodge a call for the latest.

The action at Trappers Lake is picking up a bit. As water temperatures warm, fish will begin to move to deeper, cooler water. Anglers are having the most success early and late in the day. Parachute Adams (#14-#16), mosquitoes (#14-#16), elk hair caddis (#16-#18) and light Cahills (#14-#16) are recommended patterns. You might see some action below the surface on BH hare’s ears (#14-#18), scuds (#14-#16) and wooly buggers (#10-#14). 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.  Things are slowing at Lake of the Woods as the water temperatures rise. You’ll likely see some action and lots of mosquitoes early and late in the day. Recommended dry patterns are elk hair caddis (#16-#22), parachute Adams (#16-#22) and PMDs (#16-#22). Below the surface, we suggest scuds (#14-#16) and BH soft hackle hare’s ears (#14-#18).

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 remains 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. We have not received any reports from either lake.   

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. Our latest information is that the ice is off both lakes, but the Mirror Lake Trail is difficult on horseback and treacherous on foot due to deadfall and drifted snow.

We hope to have some more details on the lakes in the next several weeks as we take more guests into the high country. If you’ve been fishing the Flat Tops recently, get in touch and let us know how you did.