09-07-2013, 04:25 PM
Some general advice on the Flat Tops and the RM backcountry
Hello all, I field lots of PMs regarding the Winds in Wyoming and the Flat Tops in Colorado. I am always honored to give advice from my experiences. Just thought I would share a recent reply to someone from the East regarding the Flat Tops. I have blurbed out the lake names in respect to the PM'er. I am posting this because I think others might benefit from the information. And it goes:
I was born -n- raised in Atlanta and my pops was a career USAF pilot, so I'd be honored to help out some nice southerners.
Nice! You're going to a lake that I've been meaning to get to for years. I've hiked to * Lake (one mile east of *) twice, once on the *Lake Trail that originates from the south, and once from * Lake which is to the north. Regretfully, I know nothing of the fishing on * due to failed attempts to get there on both * hikes (one was due to a small injury, the other due to a murderous thunderstorm). But * and * both have nice fishing for Colorado River cutthroats to 14". * Lake used to be a trophy lake before my day, but it gets hammered by outfitters and the fishing has suffered. But there is still solid fishing on these waters. * and * Lakes are both rimmed with extensive weed beds which harbor tons of scuds. Bring your scud patterns!
As for the time period you will be visiting, I know very little about the conditions. I rarely hike into the high country after September, but I do know if you have warmer temps (for the Fall), the fishing can be very good. The onset of Autumn has a way of invigorating high trout. They tend to strike at stuff just as they do after ice-out in May & June.
Generally speaking, fishing for brookies and cutts in the backcountry is pretty straightforward. The usual suspects are important: standard nymphs, wooly buggers, adams, gnats, humpys, etc. But for high lakes the most important fly is the scud. I suggest olive/gray scuds if viewing conditions are good, and bright orange/red scuds if the water is roiled. If spotting conditions are frustrating and you see no fish, don't be discouraged. My favorite tactic on high lakes is to prospect around feeding flats and weed beds with scuds and wooly buggers/worms using long, enticing strips. Switch up the intensity of your strips to see what might get strikes. * and * both have shallow pan profiles, so I only pack in floating lines and long tippets and use heavily weighted flys if I need to get a good sink rate.
There is some bad news about * and *.........they both don't really have quality inlets and outlets which takes away a little fun, but don't worry. The cutthroats are in there. And as for the ponds that abound in the Flat Tops, in my experience the vast majority are fishless, but I know of some other folks that have stumbled upon large brookies on impossibly small and out of the way ponds just like those around * Lake.
Another thing about fishing high lakes - scout ALOT and fish very little. Your legs are your best scouting tool in the high country. Don't just find a good casting station and spend the day there (unless the fishing is outstanding of course!). Covering more water will mean more hookups over the course of the trip, so come prepared to stay mobile. A daypack with extra clothes, rain gear, food and water are essential to be able to stay moving.
As for the elk on the plateau, you chose a great area. I am not a hunter, but I have seen the Flat Tops herds more than once. They are a true sight to behold indeed. One time while I got lost trying to reach Deer Lake on the east side of the plateau, I beelined off trail to find refuge at Surprise Lake. I crested a small, bouldered ridge and to my disbelief, I was looking into a herd that must've contained over 3-400 elk including some MASSIVE bulls!!!
BTW I am going to post this reply in the RM region but bleep out the names of the lakes to respect your PM inquiry.