Friday September 1, 2017
Flat Tops Fishing Report (8/30/17)
The weather forecast for Labor Day weekend in Colorado’s Flat Tops Range couldn’t be much better and we’re forecasting outstanding action for anglers as well. If you’re looking for a place to spend the long weekend experiencing some of Colorado’s best fishing minus the crowds, the Flat Tops are the way to go.
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, many miles of public access are available on both the North and South Forks within the White River National Forest. Keep in mind that there is a two-trout limit on both the North and South Forks.
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 is generally excellent.
The flows on the North Fork continue running low and clear. We’re seeing good action both on and below the surface. We recommend a dry/dropper rig with enough tippet between your dry and dropper to ensure that your dropper is contacting the river bottom. We recommend Amy’s ants (#12-#16), chubby Chernobyls (#12-14) 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), BH golden-ribbed hare’s ear (#16-#18) or a BH psycho prince (#16-#18). The bead head patterns are a great way to get a quick sink without adding weight.
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. 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 is red hot right now. We’re seeing some very large fish taken in shady stretches near the banks. Large terrestrials, like Amy’s ants (#12-#14) and chubby Chernobyls (#12-#14), are especially effective for bringing those big fish to the surface. You’re also like to do very well either nymphing or adding a dropper to your dry to work below the surface. BH red copper Johns (#16-#18), BH zug bugs (#16-#18) and BH golden-ribbed hare’s ears (#16-#18) have been extremely effective nymph patterns.
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’re look to fill a pan full of brookies for dinner, Marvine Creek is a wise choice. The trout on Marvine Creek aren’t especially selective this time of year. The fishing pressure is minimal and the bugs are abundant. If it’s in your fly box, give it a shot. A good presentation is likely to draw a strike.
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.
We haven’t heard of many anglers fishing Big Fish Creek of late, but this time of year we typically see action using 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. Here’s what we’re hearing about some of the gems…
Trappers Lake continues to be hit and miss. We’re seeing warmer temperatures during the day, but it’s chilly at night. As we move into September, expect to start seeing the cuts cruising the shores. 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. 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 a good option.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the special regulations for Trappers. Only artificial flies and lures are permitted and the number and size of cutthroats in possession is restricted, but 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 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.
Access Lake of the Woods via the Trappers Lake Road and Lake of The Woods Trail #2263. The action at Lake of the Woods remains slow. You might see some success early and late in the day. In the middle of the day, we suggest you find a stream.
Big Fish Lake is accessed using the Big Fish Trail #1819. The reports from Big Fish Lake are a mixed bag. Big Fish is something of an enigma. When the bite is on, it’s on. When it’s not, it’s definitely not. If you’re fortunate to arrive when the bite is on, you’re likely to hook into a sizeable cutthroat.
Skinny Fish Lake is accessed via the Skinny Fish Trail #1813. The reports from Skinny Fish Lake are mixed at best. Anglers are reporting sporadic success with 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.
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 (#16-#20) 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.