Fly Fishing South Dakota

Fly Fishing South Dakota

There are only a few states that have landscapes as diverse as South Dakota. From the wide-open prairies to the Black Hills and The Badlands, South Dakota offers a different amazing outdoor destination for people in the Midwest.

South Dakota has many different but unique fly fishing destinations. We were overwhelmed with the number of good fisheries in the State, so in this post, we’ve focused on only the best spots to fly fish in South Dakota.

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8 Best Places for Fly Fishing in South Dakota

1. Spearfish Creek

Spearfish Creek

Spearfish Creek boasts of a large self-sustaining population of rainbow trout. At the foot of the Black Hills, it will challenge your trout fishing skills. Spearfish Creek has a lot of narrow casting lanes making your casts and drifts extremely challenging. Not to mention landing the fish! That said, the views from the creek (especially around the Spearfish Canyon walls) will blow you away.

We recommend you perfect your fly casting especially your shorter casts. A lot of fishermen head straight to the pools in the creek and skip all the shorter closer fishing. So for a top tip, make sure to fish the head and tail of all the pools.

The best fly fishing set up to use in Spearfish Creek is a nymph rig. Make sure you are able to slide the indicator up and down the line as the best of Spearfish Creek, varies quite a bit and you’re likely to get snagged if you fish deep a lot. 

Fishing here can be pretty challenging and detecting strikes is difficult, so treat every dip of the indicator as a fish. If you are an experienced angler and you have the right equipment, you can try using Euro Nymphing a try. This is the most efficient way to fly fish fast-moving water. You’re going to need to wade a lot in this river, so bring your boots!

2. French Creek

French Creek

The beautiful French Creek meanders its way through Custer Stake Park situated in the southern parts of Black Hills. Unlike other regions of South Dakota, these parts offer multiple fishing options for anglers.

The best spot to fish on the French Creek is ‘The Narrows’. It’s a section of canyon that is now stocked by South Dakota Game and Fish Department [1]. It takes either a climb over 60ft cliffs or swimming through 100ft of the canyon to get there. That said, the views and the fishing opportunities presented around here will make the whole experience worth it.

The best flies for French Creek are small Caddis Emerger patterns or a classic Parachute Adams.

3. Whitewood Creek

Whitewood Creek

There aren’t many fly fishing destinations in the entire world that host high-quality trout streams straight through the heart of a city. The beautiful town of Deadwood is lucky enough to have the Whitewood Creek flow right through it. Since it’s located in the city, it does get a lot of fishing pressure, so you’d better bring your A-game.

This is one of those places in South Dakota where you can spend your morning hours fly fishing, then head into town for lunch and a bit of shopping and still have enough time to head back to the river for the evening rise. If you visit around fall, you may be lucky enough to see at least one big brown in just about every pool of the river.

We recommend you use a is a 5-weight fly rod when on Whitewood Creek and try wet fly fishing with a Woolly Bugger. This way it keeps your fishing simple and is great for beginners. So if you’re new to fly fishing or looking to learn (or improve) your wet fly fishing then check out this creek. If the Woolly Bugger isn’t working, try fishing a small nymph pattern under a dry fly through the shallower sections.

The waters of Whitewood creek remain cool all year round so in the height of summer you can leave Deadwood for a refreshing fishing experience. At least, that was always my excuse!

4. Rapid Creek

Rapid Creek

Rapid Creek is the largest trout stream in the whole of the Black Hills when you factor in the Pactola Reservoir of course. So you can be sure to get all kinds of opportunities here. If you are new at fly fishing, the reservoir can be a great place to learn the essentials of casting a fly rod. Once you feel you are ready for primetime, you can make your way to the where the stream starts flowing out fish here. 

Just like Whitewood Creek, the Rapid Creek also meanders its way through the heart of Rapid City. Rapid Creek also flows through Frisbee golf courses, City Parks and bike trails. So there are plenty of access points.

Due to the proximity to Rapid City because the creek fills up with fishermen pretty quick, so try to avoid the weekend warriors if you can. If you’re able to visit during the week you may get to experience of reeling in trout in the middle of a busy city, especially since there is a good population of brown and rainbow trout.

Make sure you pay attention to the hatches, not only around Pactola Reservoir but all along the creek as they’ve been reported to happen all-year-round. We recommend the best flies to get started on Rapid Creek are Caddis and Trico flies. Over the warmer summer months there tends to be a lot more stoneflies hatching, so pack some of them too.

5. Castle Creek

Castle Creek

If you take a short drive out of Custer State Park you will find yourself at Castle Creek, which is divided into halves by the Deerfield Reservoir. The region above the reservoir has a great population of rainbow trout that naturally repopulate. But don’t be surprised when you get stocked trout as they often make their way up here too.

Castle Creek is located about an hour’s drive west of Rapid City, right in the middle of Black Hills. It is yet another great fly fishing destination that is both fun and challenging. Alongside your main fly rod we recommend a smaller 3 weight fly rod to make shorter casts using a light Dry Dropper setup.

6. Split Rock Creek

Split Rock Creek

Right in the middle of Palisades State Park is Split Rock Creek. It is located only 20 minutes from Sioux Falls. Here you’ll find a good population of trout, and also a number of pike, bass, catfish and even walleye.

While fly fishing, you can feast your eyes at the spectacular rock outcroppings surrounding the creek. Try fishing a popper or large minnow patterns, with a tough tippet for pike or bass. There have even been stories of fishermen catching catfish on large streamer flies. If they latch on the flies, be ready to have some fun as they fight to shake you. On this creek, we recommend a 6 or 8 weight fly rod to manage these “off-brand” species.

7. Grace Coolidge Creek

Grace Coolidge Creek

The Grace Coolidge Creek hosts about 6 man-made dams meant for fly fishing. These man-made dams create deep pools that are host to large numbers of stocked trout. We recommend first timers visit the walk-in fishing area marked on the Custer State Park map (page 4) [1].

There are some locations you may have to go through a bit of hiking to access. The creek has a great view of the Black Hills that will have you wondering why you hadn’t tried this river sooner.

If you are a beginner, this may be a great place to put your skills to the test. The walk-in deters a lot of people short on time so these areas are less pressured. Here you can learn to conquer the frustrations of getting snags and caught in trees without people watching. In this creek, we go by the motto: “if you don’t see any trout on the surface get the Woolly Bugger out”.

8. Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek flows out of Sheridan Lake and is situated just south of Rapids City. Spring Creek can offer some pretty monstrous hatches which gives credence to it being one of the premier dry fly fisheries in the area. The best fishing in Spring Creek is just under the dams or try some the areas around Sheridan Lake.

We recommend you carry some streamers to fly fish from the large pools and when fishing the rest of the creek you can try a Pheasant Tail nymph. Pay attention to the Dakota fishing reports [2]  to learn more on the current hatches as they can be difficult to predict.

Wrap Up

So there you have it. Our guide to the top fishing destinations in South Dakota. If you need any further advice or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment down below.

As always, take care and tight lines!

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References

[1] https://gfp.sd.gov/userdocs/csp-trail-guide.pdf
[2] https://apps.sd.gov/GF56FisheriesReports/

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