Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/23/18)

Thursday August 23, 2018 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/23/18)

Labor Day weekend is just around the corner. Take advantage of the long weekend with a visit to the Flat Tops and experience some of the best fishing in Colorado.

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. 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 one insect.

The North Fork of the White River produces some very nice cutthroats, 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 and rainbows is generally excellent. 

The North Fork continues to pay dividends. We’ve seen a slight uptick in the flows and little less clarity due to the recent wet weather, but the action has remained steady both on and below the surface. A dry/dropper rig with enough tippet between your dry and dropper to ensure that your dropper is contacting the river bottom is a good approach under current conditions. We recommend Amy’s ants (#12-#16), stimulators (#12-16) and PMX (#12-#16) for dry patterns. If you choose to add a dropper, you’re best going with a BH zug bug (#14-#18), San Juan work (#12-#16) or a BH psycho prince (#16-#18). Try to get some immediate sink on your bottom fly by added some weight or utilizing a bead head pattern.

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 offers more public access than the North Fork, especially for those willing to do 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. 

There is no report from the South Fork this week due to the closures related to the Cabin Lake Fire. Good containment progress was made this week thanks to some rainy weather, but County Road 10 remains closed starting at the intersection of County Road 10 and County Road 17. For additional closure information in the South Fork area check for updates at the address below.


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 this time of year. The fishing pressure is minimal and the bugs are plentiful. If it’s in your fly box, give it a shot. A good presentation is likely to draw a strike. 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. 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 continues to fish well. 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’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. Here’s what we’re hearing about some of the gems…

A hint of fall is creeping into the morning air. We’ve seen nighttime temperatures drop to the high 30s this week, so expect the cutthroats to start becoming more active and begin cruising the shore before too long. Early in the morning and late in the day, if the wind is calm, you’re likely to see fish feeding on caddis and mayfly hatches. When the wind picks up, a terrestrial is always a good idea. For dry flies, we recommend elk hair caddis (#16-#20), BWOs (#18-#22), black gnats (#18-#20) and Adams (#16-#18). Hare’s ears (#16-#18) and pheasant tails (#16-#18) are effective nymphs and scuds (#18-#20) are always good options.

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. 

West Lost Lake can be accessed via multiple trails that connect to the West Lost Lake Trail #1103. We’re getting a few more positive reports from West Lost this week. Stimulators (#12-#14), caddis patterns (#16-#18) and BWOs (#16-#18) are proving the most effective dry flies. Scuds (#16-#18) and wooly buggers (#12-#14) are generating some attention below 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 some additional options. A guided horse trip from Ripple Creek Lodge is the perfect way to enjoy all four lakes.

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 mixed. You’re most likely to have success with caddis patterns (#16-#20) early and late in the day. A guided pack trip from Ripple Creek Lodge is the perfect way to enjoy Wall Lake.

Lake of the Woods is accessed via the Trappers Lake Road and Lake of the Woods Trail #2263. Cooler temperatures will soon jump start the action at Lake of the Woods, but it remains slow for now. You might see some success early and late in the day. In the middle of the day, we suggest you find a stream. 


Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. The reports from Skinny Fish Lake have been that the fishing is very slow. Anglers who are having any success are doing so with nymphs and some terrestrials. Try a BH pheasant tail (#18-#22), a BH copper john (#18-#22) or a Chernobyl ant (#16-#22).

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.

If you’ve been fishing the Flat Tops recently, get in touch and let us know how you did.