I see that there is another post about Rocky Mnt. Nat. Park inquiring about a trip in July, but just today I find out that I'm heading to Estes over memorial day weekend (5/24-5/27). I'm a little disappointed because I've never been up there, and would probably rather go in the fall (and not memorial day weekend, when I'm sure there will be a larger crowd than normal). I checked and they hope to open trail ridge road on 5/25 (conditions permitting).
Am I going up there at the wrong time? and does trail ridge road being closed take away from the experience? I'm taking someone who won't want to hike more that a couple miles, does anyone have any suggestions of high lakes with easier access? Should I expect a lot of lakes to still be frozen over? And will the Big T probably be in full run off and not fishable above Estes? I like to fly fish rivers/creeks, and I also like small lakes/ponds that have good shore fishing, so any recommendations to have some semi-privacy would be appreciated.
CDOT always shoots for an opening of Trail Ridge Road on Memorial Day. The snow pack was below normal this year, so unless they get some unusually heavy snow this month, they should be able to open the road. The high mountain lakes might still be frozen. As you get closer give Kirk's Fly Shop in Estes Park a call: 877-557-5221.
Here is their fishing report: Fishing Report - Kirks Flyshop - Estes Park Fly Fishing - Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) Fly Fishing
Scroll down and you will see what they are currently saying about the high mountain lakes.
As for the Bear Lake area, the lakes close to the trailhead are all completely ice free. Lake Haiyaha and Dream Lake hold greenback cutthroat and are only an easy mile hike in. Sprague Lake is roadside and has small brookies. I've never fished it, but Glacier Creek is popular with anglers and is also roadside.
Even though I have always found it hard to catch fish, the Thompson through Moraine Park is fun. It is very close to the road and you will have company, but it's a big area and there is plenty of creek for everybody. I also like the Roaring River above the Lawn Lake trailhead. You have to go through the Fall River Entrance to access this area.
If you can make the hike, The Loch is well worth it. It's a fairly easy three mile hike (6 miles round trip obviously). The fishing is very good and the scenery backdrop is spectacular.
The lakes are a little tough to fish from shore. I always bring lightweight waders to buy me some backcasting room. You don't need waders to fish Moraine Park and the Roaring River.
All lakes you will be able to access (incl The Loch) will be completely ice free by the time you are in town. I was up at Sandbeach Lake (over 10K) the other day and half of the lake was ice free and the drifting ice was breaking up quickly.
Trail Ridge Road is very cool to see and drive, but it's not a total loss if it's closed.
Excellent information, thanks you so much for the replies, Countr21 especially for the info on those specific lakes. I was perusing some maps of the area looking at those lakes, but you never know until you go, or someone tells you. I've never caught a greenback, so I sure hope to get into some while I'm there.
I'm glad to hear that you guys expect most of that water to be open. Now I just have to decide if this is the trip I teach my lady how to fly fish!
I fished the Big T the trail in the park this weekend and you might be in luck. Flows were at 80 CFS and this time of year we usually are over 200 (last year over 300). Just make sure you get there early to get a parking spot and avoid the downtown estes mess.
Just an FYI that weekend the Big T might be combat fishing so possibly spend an hour and go over to the Colorado and fish those headwaters. It is usually way less packed over there.
Shameless plug, Steve S book Fly fishing Rocky MT park and or his website is awesome.
I went most of the way up the fern lake trailhead and there was no snow. Reports were it is clear all the way up to 9500 feet right now. Unfortunately I dont have any 411 on the roads as I just went in to Moraine and then started hiking.
The park is great in late May. You'll have a choice of rivers/creeks or high alpine lakes. No snowshoes needed at all. Runoff will not be crazy this year, so don't hesitate to hit rivers/creeks even if they are a little high. Fish seem to be stacked up inthe same soft locations. The only lakes that you may not have access to yet would be at 10000' plus (e.g. loomis). But those are usually best as an overnight trips anyway b/c of distance to get there.
Rivers I would recommend are:
-Roaring river above alluvial fan. Lots of plunge pools with greenback after greenback. Not many hikers past horseshoe falls b/c lawn lake trail is vertically above the river.
-Glacier creek. Either along bear lake road (several pullouts) or from Glacier gorge trailhead up to and beyond Alberta falls. Crowds drop off significantly beyond Alberta Falls b/c river diverges from hiking trail.
-Big T in Moraine park. If you stay on the south side you will have much less company than on the north side.
Lakes I would recommend:
-Fern Lake is always good for me. Inlet, outlet, banks...doesn't seem to matter for me.
-Loch Vale: I've had a hard time here, though it is a beautiful location. Others I've spoken to have done very well here, I just haven't figured it out yet.
-Dream Lake: Great for greenbacks, but it is extemely crowded with hikers b/c it is part of bear lake group. I mention it b/c if you don't mind casual hikers watching you, then it is a good place to catch fish at the outlet.
I would call Kirk's Fly Shop or Laughing Grizzly Fly Shop as soon as you arrive for the most up-to-date information what is fishing well.
Just wanted to bump this thread to thank those who gave information.
Me and the girlfriend hiked up to the Loch this weekend, and I caught my first greenback on an ant pattern. There were lots of small bugs on the water, and the trout were hip to the sip. I'm not a strong caster, and I found that even when I had a good cast, the fish were not interested. I suspect it was due to ridiculously clear water, and the leader being visible. The fish that I caught was when I was fortunate enough to have an elevated advantage, where I could get my fly on the water, with the leader still in the air.
Only question now is which lake to hike to next time. I have my sights set on Sand Beach Lake, Lawn Lake, and maybe Arrowhead someday.