Flat Tops Fishing Report (9/5/19)

Thursday September 5, 2019 comments

Flat Tops Fishing Report (9/5/19)

A few days of stormy weather in the forecast in the Flat Tops. We might start to feel the touch of fall in the air. We expect to see some outstanding fishing over the next several weeks. Get out there and enjoy a nice day on the water. It won’t be long before the first snow 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, 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. 

With a good chance of moisture in the forecast, we’ll likely see some variations in flows and water clarity on the North Fork over the next several days. Any significant rain will wash some hoppers, ants and beetles into the river along with worms and caterpillars. Our recommended dry patterns for the week--hoppers (#10-#12), Amy’s ants (#12-#14), foam beetles (#12-#14) and caddis patterns (#16-#18). For working lower in the water column, we suggest BH San Juan worms (#12-#16), BH wooly worms (#8-#12), BH zug bugs (#16-#18) and BH golden-ribbed hare’s ears rubber legs (#16-#18).

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.

We continue to get reports of great action on the South Fork. The unsettled weather pattern should also factor into your approach over the next several days. As on the North Fork, hoppers (#10-#12), Amy’s ants (#12-#14), foam beetles (#12-#14) and caddis patterns (#16-#18) should be productive on the surface. BH pheasant tails (#16-20), BH wooly worms (#8-#12), BH zug bugs (#16-#18) and BH golden-ribbed hare’s ears rubber legs (#16-#18) will likely provoke some strikes below the surface.

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. 

If you’re look to fill a pan full of brookies for dinner, you’d be wise to spend the day on Marvine. You might hook into an occasional cutthroat or rainbow, but the brookies aren’t especially choosy, fishing pressure is light and the bugs are plentiful. 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 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.

We’re beginning to see some hints of the cooler nighttime temperatures, especially in the higher elevations of the Flat Tops. Lower water temperatures and the diminishing summer fishing pressure will likely produce some excellent action at Trappers Lake in the next several weeks. Early and late in the day the wind tends to calm and you’ll 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. 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. Cooler temperatures should heat up the action at Lake of the Woods as well, but it remains slow for now. You might see some success early and late in the day. During the midday hours, you’re better off finding a stream or a place to take a nap.

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 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 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) is worth a shot.

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 have been hot over the last couple of weeks. Virtually any caddis or mayfly pattern (#16-#20) is likely to provoke a strike.

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.