Trappers Lake is in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado and is about 9,500 ft. It was the birthplace of the U.S. Wilderness Area system after Arthur Carhart, a surveyor for the U.S. Forest service, proclaimed the area simply too beautiful for private ownership and that all peoples of the world should be able to experience the place. It is also known for its native Colorado cut-throat trout. Trappers used to be the only source of native Colorado cutthroat brood stock, but I hear this has changed and now some Colorado hatcheries are being used. Only artificial flies and lures are allowed on Trappers but motorized boats are not.
The area had two big fires in 2002 and is slowly recovering. I can just now being to see seedlings taking root. It will take many years to get back to its previous splendor. Meantime, one has to be *very* careful of falling trees especially when the wind is blowing hard.
I usually fish the Scott's Bay section of Trappers. I intended to hike up to Little Trappers Lake but got too caught up in trying to fool the trout in Scott's Bay. For 3 days!
The weather at Trappers this year was very windy and stormy. Usually the lake is quite calm and glassy. Not this year. The wind blew and blew and white caps on the main lake were the norm not an exception. The waves were blowing toward Scott's Bay, and causing a swell by that log. In that swell were many cutthroat trout..most between 14 and 20 inchers with an occasional cruiser even larger. These fish were rising to something so small, it was practically invisible. I mean I was standing right there, withing 3 ft, watching them rise and I could not for the life of me see what the hell they were eating. Thus, the challenge. Thus the madness of not being able to catch them! In 3 days of fishing I bet I only caught 12-14 fish. That said, I think they are very pretty fish. I hooked one whose entire underbelly was a bright reddish orange. Unfortunately he wiggled out of the net and I got no pic. But I did get some pics, and here they are.
This last fish I remember well. He was particularly brazen and beneath the water looked very dark compared to the other fish. I had seen he for a couple days. On July 4th he lost his independence to me, at least for awhile until I released him back. I could not catch him on a dry fly, and just as I was about to give up I tied on a olive and black woolly bugger, threw it behind him and stripped it as fast as I could. He struck instinctively. He also instinctively knew he made a mistake and I could tell by the way he was looking at me in the net that he could not believe he let me catch him.
Most of the other fish were taken on flies I tie: my red/orange attractor nymph followed by a #20 zebra midge dropper. I don't use a strike indicator, I cast, let them sink (count to 6) and slowly strip them in. Last year the midge caught the majority of the fish. This year it was about half-and-half.
I thought I had figured everything out when I caught a cutthroat on a #22 BWO (blue winged olive) which I had bought for the Pan hatch. I was surprised to see the fish had another BWO in his mouth that had been snapped off by a previous fisherman. It looked exactly like the one on the other side of his jaw from my line. But he was an anomaly and I just could not catch these fish on dries. It would help if I could see what the hell it is they were slurping!
The night of July 4th it rained like hell and a strong wind came out of the north. Next morning I arose to find my coffee pot (well, the pot I boil water in) frozen to the top of my Coleman stove.
I thought well, I'll get some well water and pour it over the pot to thaw it out. I went to open the door of my Toyota and all the doors were frozen shut. I guess I could have forced them open, but I was worried about the rubber seals inside the door or breaking a handle. So, I spent a half an hour pouring well water on the doors, windshield, and pot and stove just so I could get coffee made and hit the road. Coffee never tasted so good. It was probably mid 20's with a north breeze. 3 hours laster I was in New Castle and it was 80.