by: David Coulson 8/26/2011
Sometimes fishing is more than catching, or even trying to catch, fish. My recent trip to Trappers Lake is a case in point. While the premise of the trip was to fish, the reality is I would have been equally happy had I never wet a line. There are a couple of reasons.
The first began with a phone call from a longtime friend, John. “Dave, let’s go fishing, it’s time for our annual trip. What’s your schedule look like the next few weekends?” Since I moved to Fort Collins from Grand Junction, we’ve made an effort to fish together every year. And fishing is purely an excuse to visit for a couple days. Fishing or not, time with a good friend is always time well spent.
Another reason is the scenery, both the drive and Trapper’s Lake. Located southwest of Fort Collins, the drive to the lake is long no matter the route and there are basically three, north through Poudre Canyon, to Steamboat, then south to Phippsburg, and west on County Road 15. Heading south, the route is Denver, Silverthorne, Kremmling, and then Phippsburg and County Road 15. The middle, and shortest route by distance, not road time, is US 34 through Estes, over Trail Ridge, then Kremmling, over Gore Pass on Colorado 131, Phippsburg, etc. County Road 15 turns into County Road 8 is a scenic byway and travels over Dunkley and Ripple Creek Passes. This route is five to six hours and filled with some of Colorado’s finest scenery. I take the “longer” route for the stunning views, slower pace, fewer vehicles, and the wildlife viewing opportunities.
Trappers Lake is Colorado’s second largest natural body of water and is nestled in the Flat Tops Wilderness area, also Colorado’s second largest. The towering volcanic cliffs to the east, west, and south provide a spectacular backdrop to the pristine home of one of the state’s largest populations of Colorado River Cutthroat.
While not totally pure due to past introductions of Yellowstone Cutthroats, the fish are still beautiful. Brook trout, an illegally introduction, currently threatens the native population, and the Division of Wildlife has remove limits on them. Anglers are encouraged to harvest all brookies they catch. Another threat to the cutthroat is whirling disease, which likely was been introduced by fishers. All anglers are encouraged to carefully clean their equipment before fishing other Flat Tops waters after visiting Trappers.
We spent the night at Trappers Lodge, which has several very clean, comfortable cabins, although sparsely adorned. The lodge serves good meals at a fair price. Just be aware that the menu is very limited. Still I would have no hesitation staying there again.
I would like to report that the catching was phenomenal, but that would be a wild stretch of the imagination. Oh, I managed a handful of nice 16-18 inch fish, but it required most of the day blind casting flies to fishy looking water. I wasn’t alone as many times the greatest “hatch” was the float tube one, often numbering over a dozen. The shore fishers were even more abundant. However, Trappers is large enough that I never felt crowded. Any time I’m not catching, I vist other fishers in hopes of finding someone who’s figured things out. Not so this trip, few reported catching anything, and those who did indicated it was a handful of fish at most.
So if you’re looking for a place to get away from the crowds, enjoy some stunning scenery, including the abundance of wildflowers, watch wildlife, and even fish a little, Trappers Lake is your kind of place.
This column was published in the Coloradoan, 8/20/11. Also, I have an article on Hohnholz SWA Wednesday, August 24/11.
Blog content © David Coulson
DB Cooper, CO 8/26/2011 8:31:23 AM
I agree 100 % Dave,we was up there earlier this year and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything
Coyute, CO 8/26/2011 8:32:25 AM
Good one. I dig the pictures!
Tarryyall, CO 8/27/2011 10:20:41 AM
Awesome pics Dave! Sounds like somewhere I need to go soon. Looks like a beautiful place with nice fish.
northernpike, CO 8/28/2011 12:44:29 PM
Nice article. Been there long time ago. Loved it. I'm assuming I can take a canoe on the water. Is the cabin you stayed in the one in the photos? Also, how late in the season are they open? Also, looks like pine beetle kill big time!!!
keithk, CO 8/28/2011 12:59:38 PM
I made it up there for the first time back in July... SPECTACULAR barely describes that area. Absolutely breathtaking. I only caught two brookies in the river below the lake, and my buddy caught a few cutts and brookies, but it was still a great day. northernpike, that area sustained a really bad wildfire back in '02, which, in addition to the beetle kill, has made it look really sparse. Still gorgeous though, and well worth a summer weekend if you can make it up there.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 8/28/2011 1:45:36 PM
The cabin with the tubes was across the way from ours. The old unit is the old trapper unit that CDOW uses when taking spawn. Yes, you can carry a canoe in, just no wheeled devices.
KingFisher13, CO 8/29/2011 5:02:03 PM
Great story and pictures!
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