Hopefully everyone got out and enjoyed some of the great weather we had over the last few days, and possibly threw a fly around a bit! With January gone, it’s now the time to renew your South Dakota fishing license – click here to go to the SDGF&P website and get your 2016 licenses. Now that you’re all legal and ready to rock, the fishing has been fantastic! There’s great dry fly fishing, the nymphing is business as usual, and the streamer fishing is exceptional. There’s something for everyone, no matter what your preferred tactics are.
Rapid Creek below Pactola has been fishing well, with nymphing being the preferred tactic if you’re looking for numbers of fish. The flows are hovering around 35 cfs which is a great flow for the winter months, and also means that you won’t have to use a lot of additional weight on your leader. For a lead fly, we prefer larger tungsten flies in size 10-14. UV Czech Nymphs, Jig Pheasant Tails, G-String Worms, Bloom’s Weight Fly, and big Hunchback Scuds all make great lead flies and are heavy enough that you most likely won’t need any additional weight. You’ll pick up a lot of fish on the front fly, but smaller dropper flies will be a good idea as well. Size 18-22 Bubble Back Midges, Pinkies, Neon Gnats, Green Weenies, and your favorite flavor of Tungsten Zebra Midges will get the job done. Just look for the deeper holding water and make sure you get down to the bottom and you’ll stay in the fish. For the streamer crowd, the bigger fish have been more than willing to chase down a variety of different streamer patterns. I’d recommend a light RIO Versileader to help get your flies down to the zone, and put some 10 pound Maxima on the business end. Lil’ Kims, Home Invaders, Kreelexes, Sex Dungeouns, and Boogiemen are just a few of the streamers that have been working well – just keep changing the size, color, and retrieve of your fly until you figure out what gets them fired up on that particular day. The dry fly opportunities have been a little slim below the dam now, but I’d look for the midges to pop over the next week or so. Rapid Creek through town is fishing exceptional, especially with dry flies! The midge hatch is getting a ton of fish up on the surface between 10-1, and it should become a longer window of opportunity as the days get a little longer and a bit warmer. As far as flies go, we’ve been having the best success on 18-22 Morgan’s Midges, Eric’s Midges, Griffith’s Gnats, F-Flies, and a loop-winged midge that I’ve been tying – look for a video soon! This has been an exceptional year for dry fly fishing so far and I would only expect it to get better as February progresses. We’re anxiously waiting for the Blue Winged Olives to start hatching!
Spearfish Creek has been fishing well. In town has been great, with nymphing being the preferred tactic. Tungsten Jig patterns are the best lead fly, with size 12-16 Jig Pheasant Tails, Jig Soft Spots, Jig Red Butts, or my favorite, Jig Assassins being the most popular. For droppers, the same stuff as Rapid Creek below Pactola is pretty standard. Bubble Backs, T-Ready Baetis, Two Bit Hookers, Neon Gnats, and Zebra Midges are good bets. The canyon is fishable in places, but will be frozen in some of the shadier spots. In Spearfish, look for the slower, deeper edges and you’ll catch a lot of fish! Just keep away from the shallow, edgey-type water that we so often fish in the summertime. Streamer fishing is also a good choice if you’re after a bigger fish. Home Invaders, Kreelexes, and Lil’ Kims are three of my favorite patterns for here. Make sure you’re getting down to the fishes level before you start your retrieve and you’ll get plenty of follows and strikes.
Crow Creek and Sand Creek are both fishing great, and both are having great midge hatches. The window of opportunity will be a bit longer than Rapid Creek in town due to the warmer water, but generally will still start around 10 and wrap up between 1-2 sometime. 5x-6x tippet is your friend due to the gin-clear spring creek water, and keep your leader a little longer than you normally would. 10′ is a good length with tippet when the fish get touchy. For flies, the same stuff as Rapid Creek will work perfect. Eric’s Midges, Morgan’s Midges, Griffith’s Gnats, and smaller parachute patterns in sizes 18-22 will all work and keep the fish looking up. The BWO’s should start hatching here on any day, and will supplement the already hatching midges. This is a fantastic hatch!
Spring Creek below Sheridan Lake is a good option close to Rapid City, with the trailhead being the best option for consistent fishing. The bridges were open late last week when I drove by them, so they could be an option as well as long as they don’t get real icy over the next couple days. Nymphing with bigger flies is productive on Spring, with Pat’s Rubber Legs, UV Czechs, Hare’s Ears, Red Fox Squirel Nymphs, and a number of jig patterns will all get it done. If the fish get picky, drop a small midge or baetis pattern off the lead fly. Streamers have been moving some nice fish on Spring lately. Olive and white have been the best colors, but adjust as needed. Lil Kims and Home Invaders work extremely well here! There’s a slim chance of a midge hatch during midday here – they’ll be hatching on the sunnier stretches of creek, which are sometimes hard to come by in the trailhead canyon this time of year. Look for the dry fly fishing to improve over the coming weeks – nymphing and streamer fishing are great though!
Overall the fishing in the Black Hills is off to a booming start this year, and we’re excited for what the coming weeks have to bring! The dry fly fishing has been off the charts, nymphing is business as always, and there’e been some big fish caught on streamers. The weather towards the end of this week will be in the 40’s, and will make for some fantastic opportunities to get out on the water!