Flat Tops Fishing Report (9/23/16)

Tuesday September 27, 2016 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (9/23/16)

Fall has definitely arrived in the Flat Tops. The leaves are turning. The elk are bugling. The possibility of a dusting of snow is in the forecast and this will be our final report for the year. Now is the time to get out on the water and take advantage of the last few weeks of great conditions before the snow really flies.

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 is available on both the North and South Forks within the White River National Forest.

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 action has been slow early on most days, but picks up considerably later in the day. When temperatures warm later in the afternoon, we’re seeing some nice BWO hatches. Anglers are reporting success with BH golden-ribbed hare’s ears (#14-#18), stimulators (#12-#14), Ugly Duckling BWOs (#16-#20) and foam beetles (#14-#16). You’re most likely to see success by focusing on the deep holes with slow to moderate current, particularly along banks where there is some structure.

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 24 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. 

A small fire is currently burning in the Lost Solar Creek drainage. The creek runs into the South Fork approximately 5 miles up the trail from the South Fork Campground. At this point, the South Fork Trail remains open, but the Lost Solar Trail (#1828) has been closed. We recommend checking the Blanco Ranger District web site or call (970) 878-4039 for any updates before an extended trip.

The action on the South Fork has been slower than on the North Fork over the past week. You’re more likely to see success if you venture at least two miles upstream from the trailhead. You’ll find more cover and some deeper pools which tend to be more productive as water levels drop. Stimulators (#14-#16) and PMDs (#16-#20) are producing the best results as far as dry flies. BH golden-ribbed hare’s ears (#16-#20) are the way to go if you choose to use a nymph pattern or a dry/dropper rig.

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 feeders 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.

Big Fish is fishing well, particularly in the morning and afternoon hours. Anglers are reporting success with PMDs (#16-#20), elk hair caddis (#16-#20) and some terrestrials (#14-#16). 

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…

With the drop in nighttime temperatures, the action at Trappers Lake has picked up. The cuts are cruising the shores and shallows at Trappers. The trick now is to get one to take an artificial pattern given the large amount of natural food available. Your best options for dry flies are Ugly Duckling PMDs (#16-#20) and Ugly Duckling BWOs (#16-#20). BH olive woolly buggers (#10-#14), BH orange and green scuds (#14-#16), foam ants (#14-#16) and foam beetles (#14-#16) are good bets as well. 

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 of 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). This time of year, Lake of the Woods affords an excellent chance to land a large brook trout if you’re willing to work for it.  Spawning brookies often stack up in the inlet stream in the fall, some as large as 18 inches.  The hitch is that reaching the stream requires negotiating the treacherous surrounding deadfall, which remains from the 2002 Big Fish Fire.

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 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.

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 also 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.

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