Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/15/19)

Thursday August 15, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/15/19)

Hot, dry weather is forecast for most of Colorado over the next several days. It’s a great time to escape to the cooler temperatures in the high country. In the Flat Tops you’ll find those cooler temperatures as well as some great fishing opportunities.

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’ve seen some exceptional dry fly action on the North Fork over the last week. Flows are nearly ideal and the water is clear. We recommend caddis patterns (#16-#18), Amy’s ants (#10-#12), foam post emergers (#16-#18) and stimulators (#14-#18). If the dry fly action slows in the mid-day hours, try a rubber legs copper John (#16-#18), BH hare’s ear (#16-#18) or a BH prince nymph (#16-#18) lower in the water column.

Public 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.

Like the North Fork, the South Fork is fishing great. Stonefly hatches have almost come and gone, but the caddis and mayfly hatches are going strong. Various terrestrials (#12-#16), parachute Adams (#16-#18), caddis patterns (#14-#18), parachute light Cahills (#16-#18), PMX (#12-#16) and parachute midges (#16-#18) have all proven effective dry flies. Green copper johns (#16-#18), zug bugs (#14-#18) and BH hare’s ears (#14-#18) have been producing below the surface. As always, on both the North and South Forks, presentation is more important than pattern.

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 within the Flat Tops Wilderness. If you’re looking to catch a mess of brook trout on dry flies, Marvine Creek is a great choice. The parking lot at the trailhead is often full of vehicles and horse trailers, but the creek receives minimal fishing pressure. 

We are seeing a few rainbows and cutthroats taken from some of the deeper pools, but most of the fish taken are brookies and they aren’t especially selective. Nearly any well-presented pattern should do the trick

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.

Trappers Lake continues to be a hit and miss proposition. If you’re able to fish from some sort of watercraft (non-motorized only), you’re more likely to have success. Parachute Adams (#14-#18), blue duns (#14-#18), light Cahills (#14-#18) and caddis (#16-#18) patterns have been producing some rises. If the wind picks up, a terrestrial would be a good idea. A golden-ribbed hare’s ear (#16-#18, scud (#14-#18) or green wooly bugger (#12-#14) is always worth a try below the surface.

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 continues to run hot and cold. Early and late in the day you’ll see the action pick up. A nap or a walk to a nearby creek is a good idea during the middle of the day. Caddis patterns (#16-#18), blue duns (#16-#18), parachute royal coachman (#16-#18) and parachute Adams (#16-#18) are your best bets on the top water. A BH scud (#14-#16), BH hare’s ear (#16-#18) or BH WD40 (#16-#18) is worth a shot beneath the surface. 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.  

Skinny Fish Lake and McGinnis Lake are accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813 and the McGinnis Trail #2213. The reports from both lakes are mixed at best. Anglers are reporting occasional action on orange stimulators (#12-#16), royal coachman (#14-#16) and irresistibles (#14-#18). Trailing a copper John (#16-#20) or a scud (#16-#20) behind a hopper (#10-#14) can be effective as well.

Shamrock Lake and Mirror Lake have picked up this week. Both lakes are accessed via the Mirror Lake Trail #1821. Anglers are seeing success on a variety of caddis and mayfly patterns (#16-#18).

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.