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Black Hills Fishing Report - 5/21/2018

May 21, 2018 6 min read

If you want to experience some great Black Hills fly fishing, now is the time to be here! Fishing has been excellent, for both trout and various warmwater species. We’ve been out on the water a lot over the past week, and have had some very happy clients. Fishing has been solid just about everywhere, so pick your place and go have some fun!

Rapid Creek above Pactola spiked with the rains a couple days ago, but has come back down quite a bit. It’s fairly dirty, so you’ll do best with larger nymph patterns fished close to the bottom. North Fork Specials, Tungsten Rainbow Czechs, Tungsten Worms, and jig flies in the 12-14 range will work well. You can get away with pretty heavy tippet, just make sure you’re getting down close to the bottom and you’ll find some fish. Rapid Creek below Pactola is flowing a little over 90cfs, and is fishing well. Small flies will be the name of the game if you’re nymphing. Fish a larger tungsten fly like a Boat Anchor Scud to help you get down, and drop a smaller midge, baetis, or PMD off the back. UV Midges, Bubble Backs, Split Case PMDs and BWOs, Annelids, Two Bit Hookers, T Baetis, and various other small flies in the 18-22 range will get the majority of the attention. Terrestrial fishing can be really good on Rapid Creek from now through the remainder of the summer as well. Bloom’s Parachute Ants, Big Secret Crickets, Morrish Hoppers, and foam beetles are all good bets for fish that are hanging out close to the bank, both in the basin and through town. The fishing in town has been solid as well with the slightly higher flows. It’s mostly a nymphing game, but you can do well with terrestrials too. If you’re nymphing, make sure you’re fishing something heavy enough to get down to where the fish are. It’s surprising how  heavy you have to fish to get down in 2-3 feet of quickly moving water. We fish size 12-14 tungsten flies for the most part for your lead flies, and trail a smaller jig or generic dropper in a 16-18 behind. Jig Pheasant Tails, Hare’s Ears, Assassins, and Soft Spots are all good lead flies in 12-14, trailed by a Skinny Jig, Sweet Pea, Assassin, Tung Teaser, Tungsten Psycho, or Slim Jim in 14-18 have been getting the job done. Midge dropper can be helpful in the slower water as well.

Spearfish Creek has been fishing fantastic. There’s a ton of fish in the canyon this year, and what they lack in size they make up for in numbers and spunk. If you’re looking for a little larger fish, try fishing Spearfish Creek right in Spearfish. You can get away with fairly large flies it seems like so far this year on Spearfish Creek, so don’t be afraid to fish a little larger than you’re used to. Size 12-14 Bottom Bouncer Caddis, Jig Hare’s Ears, Brush Hogs, North Fork Specials, and Tungsten Rainbow Czechs are all good bets for your lead fly. As with Rapid Creek, make sure you’re fishing heavy enough and long enough to get your flies pretty close to the bottom. Good dropper patterns include Skinny Jigs, Perdigon Jigs, Peacock Jigs, Tung Teasers, Assassins, and Hare’s Ears in a size 14-18. Don’t be afraid to fish heavier tippet in the faster water as well, you’ll lose a lot less flies if you’re fishing at least 5x. In the slower, deeper pools where the fish are more stacked up you’ll have to fish small midge or baetis droppers on 6x or 7x. There’s a lot of fish to be had in that type of water, but you’ll have to fish with a bit more finesse than the faster stuff.

Castle Creek above Deerfield is seeing it’s annual sucker spawning migration, and the rainbows and brook trout are following them up out of the lake eating their eggs. Fish various scud patterns or brighter colored jig flies like a Yellow Spot or Soft Spot behind the suckers in the skinny water. It’s not particularly sophisticated fishing, but it’s not difficult and is a great choice for a beginner or kids! Castle Creek below Deerfield is flowing at 20cfs, which is an excellent flow that’s high enough to spread the fish out but not so high that it’s hard to fish. Dry-droppers are the name of the game there – Hippie Stompers, Klinkhamers, and Stimuators are hard to beat for dries. Good dropper flies include tungsten midges, Tung Teasers, Psychos, Skinny Jigs, and Jig Assassins in 16-18. If you want to fish a single dry, I would suggest smaller Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Stimulators, and Bloom’s Parachute Ants in size 14-16. As per usual, anywhere where the creek bends or runs into a bank making a little deeper water is where you’ll find the vast majority of your fish. The fish in the straight, glassy water can be surprisingly spooky.

Crow Creek and Sand Creek are fishing well, with Sand Creek having better dry fly fishing. Blue Winged Olives are going to be the strongest hatches until we start to see more caddis and little yellow stones later this month. The same dry flies as everywhere else will get the job done, just don’t be afraid to change until you figure out what they want. Klinkhamers are an awesome searching pattern for both of these creeks. Terrestrial fishing will start to heat up on Crow and Sand Creek from now throughout the remainder of the summer, with beetles and ants being your best bets until the hoppers come out in full force in another month or so. Foam beetles, Parachute Ants, and small hoppers in 12-16 will be your best bets for the next few weeks. Nymphing has been good on both Crow and Sand, and the fish will typically eat fairly large flies. Soft Spots, Yellow Spots, Assassins, Peacock Jigs, Hunchback Scuds, Tung Teasers, Duracell Jigs, and Brush Hogs are good starting points. If the fish get a little more selective, try a smaller 16-18 dropper fly.

Spring Creek has been starting to fish fairly well below Sheridan. They’ve been running the cold water valve, and there’s a decent number of fish around. Concentrate on the larger pools and runs along the road, and hike up from the trailhead towards the dam for more opportunities. Mostly nymphing, but there’s been some caddis and yellow stones this week. Barr’s Tung Teasers, Jig Pheasant Tails, and Jig Prince nymphs will be good options. Try woolly buggers, sculpzillas, Kreelexes, and other small to mid sized streamers in the large pools. If you’re not seeing fish, keep moving until you find some – they’re typically pretty active if they’re around.

If you’re looking for some big, easy rainbows don’t overlook Pactola. We were pike fishing there a few days ago, and nearly every bay had dozens or more 16-20″ rainbows cruising around. Stripping small buggers and leeches will work great, as well as indicator fishing with leeches and scuds. I would recommend a light sinktip or intermediate line to help keep your flies down a bit if you’re stripping flies. Easy, big fish!

Pike fishing has been solid on Sheridan and Pactola. The Pactola fish are their normal picky selves, but they can be convinced to eat if you’re persistent. Fish an intermediate tip or type 3 sink line to help keep your flies down in the strike zone. Persistence is the key at Pactola. You’re not going to catch many, but there’s the potential for some really monster fish every time you head up there. Sheridan Lake has been fishing well for pike, and they’re significantly more willing. They run considerably smaller on average than the Pactola fish, but they actually eat more often than not. Type 3 lines are a minimum here I would say, and we’ve been having good luck with the SA Sonar Int/3/5 line. We have a few good weeks of Black Hills pike fishing ahead of us!

Fishing has been solid, and there’s plenty of opportunities around to check out. Swing by the shop for the latest intel, and we can get you a map and some flies and get you headed in the right direction. Give us a call at the shop at 605-341-2450 if you’d like to go out with one of our expert guides for a day and see some of the best fishing the Black Hills has to offer!

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