8 Best Places for Fly Fishing in South Dakota – Where to Fish SD

fly fishing south dakota

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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 fly fishing has many different but unique destinations and we were overwhelmed with the number of good fly fishing spots in the State from cold water streams to creeks and more.

In this post, we’ve focused on only the best spots to fly fish in South Dakota and have included everything a fly fisher needs to enjoy some South Dakota fly fishing. You’ll find maps of where to access the rivers, what flies to use, how to get a fishing license, and more.

8 Best Places for Fly Fishing 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 as Black Hills fly fishing ain’t easy.

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 when heading into the Black Hills. A lot of fishermen head straight to the pools in the creek and skip all the fish holding spots. So for a top tip, make sure to fish the head and tail of all the pools.

The best 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 depth of Spearfish Creek varies quite a bit and you’re likely to get snagged if you fish too deep.

Fishing here can be pretty challenging and detecting strikes is difficult, so treat every dip of the indicator as a fish. If you need a little advice on flies and tactics, Spearfish creek fly shop isn’t far away.

If you are an experienced angler and you have the right equipment, you can try using a Euro-Nymphing rig. 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!

Where To Fish On Spearfish Creek

This creek is a must-fish for anyone fly fishing South Dakota and your best access point is on the map below. You can park up next to the creel and start wading.

Recommended Flies For Spearfish Creek

  • Tungsten Pheasant Tail
  • Tungsten Hare’s Ear
  • Tungsten San Juan

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 fly fishing options for anglers as the river meanders on and on.

This is a stunning place to go fly fishing in South Dakota as you can really get lost in the wilderness and enjoys some good fishing and solitude at the same time.

Fly fishing this creek is all about wading and it has a great dry fly bite too but you will want to use smaller flies on a light tippet as the fish are quite fussy.

Where To Fish On French Creek

There is a lot of water to choose from on French Creek and a great place to start fly fishing that has easy access is in the tailwaters below Stockade Lake as you will find some big trout there.

The best spot to fish on the French Creek is ‘The Narrows’. It’s a section of the canyon that is now stocked by the 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.

Recommended Flies For French Creek

  • Parachute Adams
  • Caddis Emerger
  • Elk hair caddis
  • Klinkhammers
  • Small nymphs

3. Whitewood Creek

Whitewood Creek

There aren’t many fishing destinations in the entire world that have high-quality trout streams running straight through an urban area.

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 to run some errands and still have time to head back to the river for the evening rise.

This river is home to big brown trout and you will find these brown trout all along the river. We recommend you use a is a 5-weight fly rod when on Whitewood Creek and try stripping a wooly bugger. This is one of the South Dakota fly fishing destinations where you don’t have to be so delicate though the casting lanes can be narrow.

If you’re new to fly fishing or looking to learn (or improve) your fly fishing, this creek is an ideal place to start. If the Wooly 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 head to Deadwood for a refreshing fishing experience. At least, that was always my excuse!

Where To Fish On Whitewood

You can fish right in Deadwood as marked on the map below and opt to head up or downstream. If you want to get outside of the urban area you can.

Recommended Flies For Whitewood

  • Wooly bugger
  • Prince nymphs
  • Pheasant tail nymphs
  • Hoppers (late summer)
  • Terrestrials
  • Adams

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, and you’ll find both rainbow and brown trout in this river.

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 downtown Rapid City and through Frisbee golf courses, City Parks and bike trails. So there are plenty of access points.

Due to the proximity to Rapid City, the creek fills up with fly fishermen pretty quickly, 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.

You can also fish outside of town to get more solitude and you’ll have more of a chance of finding fish that haven’t been cast to.

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.

Where To Fish On Rapid Creek

If you want to get out of town then head to the spot on the map below as you can fish in peace there.

Or head to the center of town and enjoy some urban angling but get there early if you’re fly fishing on a weekend.

Recommended Flies For Rapid Creek

  • Caddis
  • Tricos
  • Pale morning duns
  • Stoneflies
  • Hoppers
  • Various nymphs

5. Castle Creek

Castle Creek

If you take a short drive out of Custer State Park into the southern Black Hills you will find yourself at Castle Creek, which is divided into halves by the Deerfield Reservoir.

The region above Deerfield reservoir has a great population of rainbow trout that naturally repopulate. But don’t be surprised when you catch fish that look like stocked trout too 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 place to fly fish in South Dakota 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.

Where To Fish On Castle

One of the best places to catch fish in this Western South Dakota spot is below the reservoir as it gives a consistent flow to the trout waiting to take your fly. Don’t be surprised if you find a South Dakota angler or two there but there is plenty of water downstream.

Recommended Flies For Castle

  • Pheasant Tail Nymphs
  • Tungsten Nymphs
  • Prince Nymphs
  • Copper Johns
  • Hoppers
  • Stimulators
  • Adams
  • Caddis

6. Split Rock Creek

Split Rock Creek

Right in the middle of Palisades State Park is Split Rock Creek which is quite a unique spot for fly fishing in South Dakota.

It is located only 20 minutes from Sioux Falls. Here you’ll find a good population of trout, and also a number of other species to target on fly including pike, bass, catfish and even walleye.

While 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 off. 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 fishing. These man-made dams create deep pools that are home 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 do a bit of hiking to access and as always, fly fishing opportunities only get better the further you go.

The creek has a great view of the Black Hills that will have you wondering why you hadn’t tried this South Dakota 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 Wooly 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 with in the large pools and when fishing the rest of the creek you can try a Pheasant Tail nymph with a hopper above it.

Pay attention to the Dakota fishing reports [2] to learn more on the current hatches as they can be difficult to predict and matching the hatch is always key to fly fishing successfully.

You might also want to add Iowa on your fly fishing destinations list. Trout fishing in Iowa will surely be productive since it offers a lot of destination to fly fish.

Local Fly Shops

When heading to fly fishing spots you have never fished before, you need every bit of advice you can and there is nowhere better to get it than from a local fly shop. Here are some great ones:

Recommended Guides

The best way to fast-forward your success if you are new to fly fishing South Dakota is by going with a guide. You’ll learn what flies work, why, when, and how to fish the tricky creeks of the Black Hills. Here are some great guides:

South Dakota Fishing Licenses & Regulations

Everyone needs a fishing license to fish in South Dakota unless they are under 18 in which case it is free. You can buy either a resident or non-resident license here.

You should also follow the fishing regulations listed here and check the local regulations for your preferred fishing spot as it can change from one creek to the next.

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, tight lines, and you can’t catch fish without a fly in the water.

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