Trappers Lake & Northwest Colorado Fishing – Rainbows and Cutthroat Trout

Plans were to fish at Trapper’s Lake, near Meeker, Colorado. We planned to stay in a cabin near the trailhead to the lake (only a half-mile hike), rent a canoe or boat, and catch lots of native cutthroat trout. The reality of high winds for all three days of the trip kept us from fishing the larger Trapper’s Lake at all. But it led to sampling many of the smaller water in the vicinity with great success.

We normally travel with fishing gear rigged up and convenient, just in case there is a body of water that looks too good to pass on our way. The road between Meeker and Trapper’s Lake did not disappoint. We first encountered Sleepy Cat Ponds. Two of the ponds did not look productive, but the center pond seemed fishable.

We ended up fishing this pond a couple of times on our trip and have good success both times, catching nice-sized rainbow trout up to about 14 inches. Flyrods with both worms and salmon eggs were the key to catching these feisty fish. This is a family friendly area.

Continuing up the road a few miles, we saw the dam to Avery Lake and the enticing spillway pool at the tailwater. With no one in sight, we pulled into the large parking lot, looked into the spillway pool and saw dozens of fish, and grabbed our fishing gear. Among the smaller fish (6-10 inches), we saw bigger fish in the clear water. The bite from the little fish was almost frantic and we soon learned that they were small rainbow trout. Eventually, we discovered tricks to get the larger fish (also rainbow trout) to bite and the action was fast here.

Fishing downstream from the spillway pool on Big Beaver Creek, also proved productive and produced the largest fish from this area – a 15-inch rainbow from beneath an undercut bank. We had success here with some small dry flies.

Avery Lake Rainbow Trout

On the other side of the dam, Avery Lake also looked productive. This lake contains a variety of fish, including rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and splake. It even holds some warmwater species – black crappie and green sunfish. We fished for awhile on the southwest corner of the dam and caught a few of these species, including rainbow trout, crappie and green sunfish. Like Trapper’s Lake, Avery Lake is also large and the wind prevented us from fishing there much.

We eventually arrived at our Trapper’s Lake cabin and we were very happy with this small structure that would be our base to fish more of the area’s waters. One employee of the cabins told us about Coffin Lake, which is a two-mile hike past Trapper’s Lake.

We went there in anticipation of catching some larger cutthroat trout. The name of this lake perfectly describes our fishing success there. The wind limited to where we could fish on the lake and despite seeing one small trout in the shallows, we saw no fish and could get none to bite. A surprise was that this lake was filled with waterdogs (juvenile tiger salamanders). We had no idea they occurred at such high altitudes (about 10,000 ft.).

From past experience, we knew some of the smaller lakes surrounding Trapper’s Lake are not artificial flies and lures only, but contain cutthroat trout also. One lake is called Scott’s Lake (between the road and Trapper’s Lake) and the other is Crescent Lake (across the road from Trapper’s Lake). We walked by Scott’s Lake several times, always seeing fish working the surface, but the mosquitos seems especially thick there and we never fished it.

We went to Crescent Lake one windy day and could find no place on the lake out of the wind, so we gave it up without fishing. Walking back to where we parked our vehicle on the road, we passed a smaller pond between Crescent Lake and the road. Looking into the clear water of this pond revealed many trout. We quickly made some casts and started catching cutthroat trout 10-12 inches long. They bit on several types of dry flies and, of course, worms fished on both flyrods and spinning rods.

cutthroat 3

The river running from Trapper’s Lake is the North Fork of the White River and is fishable for much of its length. One day, while driving the road alongside the river, we notice a moose standing in the water. We decided to return to where we saw the moose because it looked like good fishing water. This jaunt resulted in success on lots of decent-sized brook trout, up to 12 inches long. Worms on flyrods and spinning rods were the key here also.

Leaving Trapper’s Lake, we decided to take a different route that would take us over the mountain, roughly back toward the Denver area. It is more than 40 miles of dusty dirt road, but it was well worth it. As always, we went prepared for to fish if we found a place. The first place we found was Chapman Reservoir. Stopping there for about an hour, we both caught over 10 fish apiece, all rainbow trout up to 12 inches in length. Talking to a camper who fishes there often, we found out there are also northern pike in the lake.

After we hit the pavement and were nearly to a small town called Yampa, we saw a sign pointing to one last place – Crosho Lake. We made the short, but rough, drive there and read a sign in the parking lot alerting us of the cutthroat trout and grayling found there.

Hoping to catch grayling, we quickly unloaded our fishing equipment and took a hike around the lake a short distance. We tried several things for grayling (or anything else that might bite) with no luck. We noticed some fish swimming around in certain areas near the shore. Switching our concentration to these fish, we started catching them and discovered they were spawning cutthroat trout, up to 14 inches long.

This trip was very success and made us realize even more what we really enjoy the trips that include multiple bodies of water and multiple species of fish. We didn’t catch fish everywhere we fished, but we caught them in most places. And along the way, we saw grouse, deer, elk, a moose, and even a black bear.

Live, Fish, Explore

Note: There are many hiking, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding opportunities in this area. 



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