Flat Tops Fishing Report (7/18/19)

Thursday July 18, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (7/18/19)

The summer temperatures are upon us in the Flat Tops. The remaining snow is rapidly vanishing from the high country and the run-off is slowly but surely coming to an end. River and stream flows remain high for mid-July, but visibility is good and conditions are improving each day. Wading in the rivers and streams is still hazardous in some areas and many trails, especially in the higher elevations, are still obstructed by downed trees and drifted 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. 

We expect the action on the North Fork to heat up over the next couple of weeks. The run-off has peaked and conditions on the river are becoming more favorable each day. We’re seeing some spectacular caddis and mayfly hatches. A dry-dropper rig is a good approach. Prince nymphs (#18-#20), BH red copper johns (#18-#20) and BH zug bugs (#16-#20) have all been effective trailing behind stimulators (#16-#18), caddis patterns (#16-#20) and PMDs (#16-#20). Ant, beetle and hopper patterns (#12-#16) are good bets as well. Our favorites are Amy’s ants and chubby Chernobyls.

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 the word on the South Fork as well. Action is picking up, but wading is still tricky. Expect to find fish wherever they can find relief from the heavy current. We’re getting reports of success with both dry-dropper and dry-dry rigs. Stimulators (#14-#18), parachute Adams (#16-#20, BWO emergers (#18-#20) and terrestrials (#12-#16) are bringing fish to the surface. For nymphs, we suggest a WD40 (#18-#20), BH pheasant tail (#18-#20) or a tungsten BH birds nest (#16-#20).

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.

Flows have risen on Marvine Creek over the last week, but water clarity remains excellent. Fish will continue to hang out in the side channels and quiet water as long as the flows remain high. 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 copper John (#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.

Trappers Lake has been hit and miss over the last week and we expect that trend to continue. Anglers are reporting success with green wooly buggers (#14-#16) with a small split shot, copper johns (#16-#18) and big hoppers (#8-#12). Late in the day, if the wind dies down, you’re likely to see caddis and mayfly hatches. If the evening hatches come off, we suggest going with elk hair caddis (#16-#20), stimulators (#16-#18) and BWOs (#18-#22).

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 starting to see the action slow at Lake of the Woods. That trend will likely continue until the fall. You might have some success with a float tube using small dry flies and scuds. Lake of the Woods holds some surprisingly large brook trout.

West Lost Lake can be accessed via multiple trails that connect to the West Lost Lake Trail #1103. We continue to get mixed reports from West Lost Lake. Your best bet is fishing early and/or late in the day with a caddis pattern (#16-#18) or parachute Adams (#16-#18). 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.

Big Fish Lake is accessed using the Big Fish Trail #1819. Big Fish has been hit and miss over the past week. We’ve received a few reports of large fish taken, but more reports of frustration.

The action on Skinny Fish Lake is slowing as it typically does as the temperatures warm. Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. Anglers are seeing some success with terrestrials (#10-#14), stimulators (#12-#14) and Pat’s rubber legs (#10-#12).

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. Virtually any caddis or mayfly patterns (#18-#24) are bound to bring fish to the surface.

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 trail to Wall Lake is finally clear of snow making the lake accessible. We haven’t received any reports on the fishing. Post a comment if you hear something.