Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/1/19)

Thursday August 1, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/1/19)

We’ve seen a week of incredible action on the lakes and streams in the Flat Tops. It’s prime time for dry flies. Fish are hammering terrestrials, mayflies and caddis on the surface. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to catch beautiful trout in one of Colorado’s most remote and scenic areas.

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. 

Anglers continue to see steady action on the North Fork. Flows have dropped considerably over the last two weeks and wading is becoming less of an adventure. Heavy rain is in the forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday, so we may see some increases in flows and a decrease in visibility. We’ve seen some great action on the surface this week and that should continue for the next few weeks. Stimulators (#14-#18), Amy’s ants (#12-#16), hopper patterns (#12-14) and elk hair caddis (#16-#18) have been productive. If flows continue to drop, expect to see the larger fish move to the deeper runs. If you aren’t seeing much action on the surface, try to get a nymph into the lower parts of the water column in those deep runs. Our favorite patterns are zug bugs (#16-#18), red copper Johns (#16-#18) and BH prince nymphs (#16-#18).

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. You’ll find the best action on the South Fork if you hike upstream about 2.5 miles to just above the falls.

The action on the South Fork seems to get better every day. The flows have dropped to levels more conducive to wading so anglers have better opportunities to get to those hard-to-reach places. PMX (#12-16), foam post emergers (#16-#18), stimulators (#14-#18) and caddis patterns (#16-#20) are producing fish on the surface. Below the surface, zug bugs (#16-#18), BH pheasant tails (#16-#18) and rubber leg copper Johns (#16-#18) are solid.

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. 

This week Marvine has been heaven for any lover of catching brook trout on a small stream. You can’t go wrong with a stimulator (#12-#14), PMX (#12-#16), Goddard caddis (#16-#18) or parachute Adams (#16-#18). If a day spent surrounded by the beauty of the Flat Tops Wilderness topped off by a pan full of brookies for dinner sounds like a good day, Marvine Creek is the place to be.

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.

Big Fish has been productive of late. Anglers are reporting success with various terrestrials (#12-#16), BWOs (#16-#20) and elk hair caddis (#14-#18).

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 action on Trappers Lake has picked up this week. The cuts are moving in to feed close to shore, especially early and late in the day. Fish are rising for elk hair caddis (#16-#18), stimulators (#12-#14), parachute Adams (#16-#18) and hoppers (#10-#12). If you aren’t seeing any action on the surface, try working below the surface with an RS2 (#16-#20), golden-ribbed hare’s ear (#16-#18) or a scud (#14-#18).

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.

West Lost Lake can be accessed via multiple trails that connect to the West Lost Lake Trail #1103. West Lost Lake has been hit and miss. Anglers are doing well early and late in the day, but things slow down considerably through the mid-day hours. We recommend trying a caddis pattern (#16-#18), blue dun (#16-#18), parachute royal coachman (#16-#18) or parachute Adams (#16-#18) on the surface. A BH scud (#14-#16), BH hare’s ear (#16-#18) or BH WD40 (#16-#18) is worth a shot lower in the water column. 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 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. The action on Big Fish has been slow. You’re more likely to see some success on the creek both above and below the lake.  

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. Mirror and Shamrock are red hot. Fish are hammering hoppers (#12-#14), parachute Adams (#16-#20), elk hair caddis (#16-#18) and PMDs (#16-#20).

Wall Lake offers an excellent opportunity to do some fishing while enjoying spectacular views. Wall Lake can be accessed via the Wall Lake Trail (#1818). The reports from the lake have been mixed. You’re most likely to have success with caddis patterns (#16-#20) early and late in the day.