Cool and rainy weather today in the Black Hills has us thinking about fall fishing. The weather has been trending towards a cooler pattern over the past week, with highs in the mid-sixties for quite a few days coming up. Labor Day traffic has subsided, and the creeks will see very little angling pressure from here on out. Cooler temps have made the fish happy, and there’s been some fantastic fishing opportunities to be had throughout the Black Hills!
Rapid Creek above Pactola continues to fish well, especially if you’re willing to walk a little ways before you start fishing. Dry-droppers are the name of the game still, with a number of different patterns working both on the surface and underneath. Hippie Stompers are one of our favorites for the dry, but Klinkhamers, Stimulators, Parachute Hoppers, and Bloom’s Parachute Ant are good bets in size 10-16. Droppers that have been good bets include various jig patterns in size 14-16, Tungsten Psycho Nymphs, Tung Teasers, Soft Hackle PTs, and Tungsten Rainbow Czechs. The water is late-summer low up here, so make sure you don’t overlook some of the shallower pockets and edges! Below Pactola has been good, but the fish have been their normal finicky selves. The best bet to catch a few fish has been in the late afternoon/early evenings when there’s PMDs coming off. Most days there are a fair number of fish up on the surface, and they’ve been a bit less picky than normal. Comparaduns and Sparkle Duns seem to have been good enough imitations to get the job done in a size 16-20, but having a few backup patterns isn’t a bad idea as well. The nymphing is good as always, with many of the same patterns working well. Try a Boat Anchor Scud, Tungsten Rainbow Czech, San Juan Worm, or big Pheasant Tail for a lead pattern, trailed by a small midge or PMD pattern. Tungsten Split Case PMDs are a really good option for a dropper, as well as Barr’s Emergers. Streamer fishing can be a good option as always – bigger seems to be better most of the time! Rapid Creek in town has been fishing fantastic. There’s a good Trico hatch in the morning, both above and below Canyon Lake. The fish can be picky, but they can be caught with a good presentation and light tippet. Sparse patterns have been the best bets. Nymphing has been great, with smaller flies working better as of late. Various jig patterns have been good bets for lead flies, just make sure they’re heavy enough to get you down to the bottom. Different colors of midges have been my best flies, with purple and red leading the pack for me in size 18 or 20. Terrestrials have been working as well, with the same flies as above Pactola working just fine. Fish them close to the bank for best results!
Spearfish Creek has been fishing fantastic. This is typically the time of year where we get some great BWO hatches, especially in the canyon. Usually these happen in the early afternoon, and the hatch is much better on cloudy, rainy days as you would expect. CDC Thorax Duns, Students, Comparaduns, and F-Flies are all god bets in 16-20 depending how small the bugs are. If the fish in the canyon aren’t on top, the standard jig trailed by a BWO will keep you into the fish. The new Sweet Pea jig pattern has been a really good one lately, as well as all of the standard patterns as well. Pheasant Tails, Assassins, and Red Butts are good lead patterns in 12-16, depending how fast the water is. Tungsten Split Back BWOs, small Pheasant Tails, and Two Bit Hookers make good trailer flies as well. Fish 5x to the first fly and 6x to the second to get a few more strikes! In town in Spearfish has been fishing really well, with some good terrestrial opportunities in addition to nymphing. Smaller hoppers and terrestrials have been working well. We sound like a broken record, but the Hippie Stomper has been a good bet up here as well. Smaller ants and beetle patterns have been working well, with Bloom’s Parachute Ant working great. If you see a fish close to the surface, they’ll probably eat a small terrestrial pattern! If you’re more into nymphing, fish your favorite jig pattern in a 14 and put a smaller trailer pattern behind it. We fished Spearfish yesterday and did excellent, so this is a great option if you’re in the northern Hills.
Castle Creek has been a great place to fish dries lately, and has been a ton of fun. While the fish generally aren’t going to be particularly large, they make up for in in their enthusiasm to eat big, silly dry flies. Hippie Stompers, Klinkhamers, Humpies, Stimulators, Purple Hazes, Elk Hair Caddis, and small Parachute Hoppers have been great options. If you’re inclined to put a nymph on as well, try a Tung Teaser, Psycho, or size 16 jig a couple feet below your dry. The Kinney Canyon area has been fishing well, but downstream of the walk-in area has been good as well. If you explore a bit, you’re likely to find some fun water with unpressured fish.
Crow Creek and Sand Creeks are in a bit of a transition period, with terrestrials still moving fish and Blue Winged Olive mayflies starting to hatch. If you’re fishing terrestrials I’d try a Morrish Hopper, Parachute Hopper, Hi Viz Beetle, Hippie Stomper, or Parachute Ant. For the mayfly end of things, CDC Thorax Duns and Students are two of our favorites, in addition to the always productive Comparadun and Sparkle Dun. These fish aren’t pushovers by any means, but if you can get your fly in front of them without spooking them you’ve nearly won the battle!
All of the lakes throughout the Black Hills are fishing well also. Dalton, Roubaix, Sylvan, Center, and most all of the other lakes are good bets if you’re a stillwater kind of person. If you’re heading to your favorite lake, try a big nymph pattern or a Mini Leech stripped slowly under the surface. If you see fish on the surface, a parachute Callibaetis is a good bet!
Overall the fishing continues to be great, with very few people out fishing. We’ve had a lot of guided trips out, and we’ve been having some great days on the water with happy clients. Give us a call if you want to go out with one of our guides, or if you just want an up to the hour update on Black Hills fly fishing. Swing by the shop and we can get you some flies and head you in the right direction!