May is finally here, and it looks like it’s finally starting to feel like Spring!
Meanwhile, the fish haven’t seemed to mind the wind and the cold, because they’ve still been eating with reckless abandon on whatever bugs are hatching at the moment. The fishing in town has been silly. The Baetis, (or Blue Winged Olives), have been hatching on a daily basis, mostly in the late morning and early afternoon. The browns are everywhere eating them – skinny water, deep water, fast riffles, slow pools, back eddies, you name it. The higher water has given the fish some more breathing room, and in theory is knocking even more aquatic bugs loose for the fish to chow on. I fished for a few hours this morning a couple blocks from the shop, and caught plenty of nice browns on Bubble Backs, UV Czechs, Tungsten Kern River Emergers, and an olive version of Hans’ Boat Anchor Scud. Caught a couple that were pushing 14-15″ – great fish for in town.
This is our runoff season. However, we don’t get the trout-crippling high water that makes flyfishing an afterthought like the bigger rivers further west do. During our typical runoff season, which might last anywhere from a few weeks to a month and a half, we just start fishing bigger flies and heavier tippet, which is a nice change after a winter of 6x. A few places, such as lower Spearfish Creek and Rapid Creek above Pactola may become unfishable for a short period, but it never lasts long.
Speaking of high water, Rapid Creek below Pactola is pumping out 130 cfs as of a few hours ago. These are perfect flows for there, and this is my favorite time to fish there. It’s been really, really great. If you like fishing dries, there’s plenty of fish rising to BWO’s, Little Black Stones, Midges, and the odd Yellow Sally. If you like dredging with nymphs, there’s an ample supply of food being rattled loose with the higher water, so the fish are on the feed for anything from midges to mayflies to caddis to aquatic worms. Dig out your Thingamabobbers and get to work! If you like fishing streamers, these flows are your forte. This is my personal favorite way to fish the tailwater section of Rapid Creek, and many of my biggest fish have come from throwing borderline ridiculous-sized streamers with heavy sink tips, including my biggest brown I’ve ever caught in the hills. Look for a blog post on how to fish streamers during runoff in the next few days! The trout below the dam are happy campers at these flows, and they have a chance to spread out and have some elbow room – actually, fin room.
Spearfish Creek is high, and definitely intimidating at the moment. However, the grapevine says that the fishing has still been good. Nymphing is the name of the game here, and don’t be a sissy about it. At the current flows, you can fish large nymphs, i.e. 8-14, and heavier tippet, even up to 3x. Big North Fork Specials, UV Czechs, G-Strings, San Juans, Hare’s Ears, and Tung Teasers have been the flies of choice. Also, a new bug we got in at the shop called the Tungsten Kern River Emerger has been killing it nearly everywhere I’ve fished it – come by and check it out. Also up in the Spearfish neck of the woods, Sand Creek has been fishing well, even a little better than previously with a slight bump in flows. Crow Creek has been high, but fishes great on the way back down from a good, high flow.
Spring Creek has been fishing good from the bridges all the way up to the trailhead and the dam. Predominantly rainbows, with a few nice browns thrown in, and the ever-present Pike. On the note of pike – if you catch them, please take them with you and eat them, or give them to somebody that will. I enjoy pike fishing as much as anyone else, but Spring Creek isn’t the place to have them. We’ve caught a few in the 10-12 pound range lately, and saw some much larger ones. Each one you keep is saving trout. Have a heart – eat Spring Creek Pike!
All of the smaller streams are doing good with the recent moisture, and the fishing has backed that up. Box Elder, Elk Creek, Little Elk Creek, upper Spring Creek, French Creek, and Grace Coolidge have all been holding their own. Generic, small stream buggy nymphs and dries should be the ticket, as well as small Sculpzilla style streamers.
Side note – if you like fishing big flies, heavy sink tips, and having a shot at some truly gigantic fish, Pactola has been producing some very nice Pike and Lakers in the 10-25 foot range. This requires a pretty serious sink tip, heavy flies, and some patience, but it can pay off with some huge fish. Dave has been going out with a boat, and they caught several Lakers in the 20-30″ range, and pike that pushed 15 pounds. If you’re going to give this a shot, swing by the shop and we can point you in the right direction on where to go, what to throw, and what tips to use.
Overall, fishing continues to be spectacular. This is definitely shaping up to be the best season I’ve fished and guided yet. The flows are good, the lakes are full, and the trout are fat and sassy. Nearly everyone that’s in the shop has been raving about great success, and those who haven’t just needed a minor tuning of equipment or techniques. Get out and give ‘er a shot – you won’t be disappointed!