Flows are up and the fishing is great! We got a good dose of much needed moisture last week, and it spiked the flows a bit on most of our local creeks and streams. The dirty water has passed for the most part, and now we’re sitting pretty good. Don’t let the higher water scare you off, the fish still have to eat!
Rapid Creek above Pactola is the one place that’s still pretty dirty. You could catch some fish, but it won’t be particularly easy. If you’re up there, try smaller streamers like Kreelexes and Lil Kims, or big nymphs like Mop Flies, North Fork Specials, or worms. If we don’t get any major moisture, Rapid Creek near Silver City should be fishing well by the end of the week. Rapid Creek below Pactola is flowing at 220 cfs roughly, which is much higher than most folks are used to fishing it. That being said, the nymph fishing is still good, and you can have some excellent streamer fishing when it’s this high as well. There’s limited dry fly opportunities at this flow, but if you find a fish that’s pushed up against the bank or in some shallower water, try a beetle or ant pattern like a Bloom’s Parachute Ant or Big Secret Cricket. Nymphing has been good, but you’re definitely going to have to fish some weight to get down to the fish. The water is moving pretty quick, so anywhere where there’s a rock, seam, or some sort of structure to offer the fish some protection from the current will be a likely spot to make a few casts. The best flies haven’t changed much, but you can get away with a little larger patterns now than if the water is low. I would use a Hunchback Scud, Boat Anchor Scud, North Fork Special, or Tungsten Worm for a lead fly in size 10-14. Dropper patterns have transitioned over to more PMDs and BWOs rather than midges, but don’t be afraid to use various midge patterns for droppers as well. Split Back BWOs, Split Back PMDs, Flashback Pheasant Tails, Annelids, Two Bit Hookers, and T Baetis are all good dropper patterns in sizes 16-20. Make sure you’re fishing a heavy enough rig to get down to the bottom and keep it there and you’ll find some fish. Streamer fishing can be excellent when the water is this high as well. Fish a Rio Versileader in 3-5 ips sink rate to help get down to the bottom. A wide variety of streamers can work well, from little Thin Mints to triple articulated monsters, so don’t be afraid to keep changing it up if you’re getting flashes or chases but not much commitment. Fishing in town has been good as well, mostly with nymphs and streamers. Nymphing has been good, especially if you avoid the super deep holes and fish some of the riffly, in between water. A double jig setup has been the go to rig for most folks, but smaller flies have their place in slower water as well. Slim Jims, Assassins, Soft Spots, North Forks, Optic Nerves, and Skinny Jigs are good patterns. Fish a 12 or 14 for a lead fly, and drop a 14-16 behind as a dropper. Mop Flies and Pat’s Rubber Legs have been good flies around the Black Hills as well, especially if the water comes up and gets a little dirty. Streamer fishing in town has been good as well, with smaller flies working the best. Thin Mints, Lil Kims, and various bugger style patterns will all work well. If you feel like you’re not getting down enough, try a light RIO Versileader to help get you down a bit more. You can move some surprisingly good fish with streamers in town!
Spearfish Creek has been fishing really well, both in the canyon and in town. The fishing in the canyon has been awesome over the past week, especially if you’re looking for more numbers of fish and aren’t particularly concerned with size. There’s a ton of fish in the 8-12″ range, with the occasional larger fish thrown in. Nymphing has been the name of the game for the most part, but you ca get some fish to come up and eat terrestrials this time of year pretty regularly as well. Good nymphs include Skinny Jigs, Jig Assassins, Soft Spots, Hare’s Ears, Brush Hogs, Slim Jims, and various other slender bodied jig flies are working awesome. I don’t think you need to go very small unless you’re fishing the really slow water – I catch most of my fish on size 14-16 flies. Smaller foam beetles, ants, and Hippie Stompers work well in the skinnier water in the canyon as well, so if you like fishing dries you can definitely find some fish on top. The upper half of the canyon has better dry fly water, so if you want to fish primarily dries I would stay from Savoy pond upstream. Foam Beetles, Bloom’s Parachute Ants, small Morrish Hoppers, Hippie Stompers, and Klinkhamers are all good bets if you want to fish dries. Spearfish Creek in town has been fishing really well also, and the fish run slightly larger than the fish in the canyon. The same jig nymphs as the canyon will work great, with the addition of larger caddis nymphs and worms occasionally. You can fish nymph rigs and do well, but you can also fish dry-droppers this time of year and do well also. Try a Hippie Stomper or Chubby Chernobyl as a dry fly with a 14-16 jig trailed below it. If you want to get more fish on the dry, fish near overhanging brush and on gravel shelves and you’ll pick up a few more fish on top.
Castle Creek has come up to almost 30 cfs below Deerfield, which opens up a lot of water and spreads some fish out. Dry-droppers are the name of the game there – Hippie Stompers, Klinkhamers, and Stimulators 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. 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, but with the higher flows they’ll be easier to convince than if the water was lower. Castle Creek above the lake has some lingering rainbows still, so it’s not a bad option either. Fish the same jig patterns as elsewhere, with the addition of Tungsten Rainbow Czechs and Boat Anchor Scuds.
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. They’ve stocked the area by the road with rainbows, and the trailhead has a few survivors from previous years and fish that have come over the dam. Concentrate on the larger pools and runs, but don’t overlook some of the choppy in between water – there can be a lot of fish in knee deep water. It’s mostly nymphing, but there’s been some caddis and yellow stones this over the last few weeks. You’re not going to go up there and catch thirty fish, but it’s nice to have another option around that’s fishing! 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.
Crow Creek and Sand Creek are fishing good, mostly with terrestrial patterns. The weeds can be a serious pain this time of year, so fishing dry flies is much easier and oftentimes just as effective. Hoppers are an option, but smaller terrestrials will work better for the next couple weeks until the grasshoppers come out in full force. Foam Beetles, Bloom’s Parachute Ants, Parachute Crickets, Hippie Stompers, Klinkhamers, and smaller Morrish Hoppers will work well. You can often blind fish a generic dry like a Parachute Adams or Stimulator and do surprisingly well also – You’ll be fishing in the lanes between the weeds more often than not. As always in the summer, be mindful of rattlesnakes on both Crow and Sand.
With the influx of water, many of the smaller streams are fishing well also. Elk Creek, Box Elder Creek, Hanna, Little Spearfish, upper Whitewood, and the uppermost sections of Rapid and Spearfish are all good bets if you want to catch relatively easy fish in solitude. You can fish generic dry fly patterns and do well, as well as dropping smaller nymph patterns behind to pick up a few bonus fish. Klinkhamers, Stimulators, Hippie Stompers, and various other attractor dries are good bets in the dry department. Try Tung Teasers, Soft Hackle Pheasant Tails, Psycho Nymphs, and small jig patterns for droppers. This is easy, unsophisticated fishing and is a ton of fun on a little 3 weight or glass rod!
If you’re looking for some big, easy rainbows don’t overlook Pactola. We were pike fishing there a fair amount over the past couple weeks, 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!
Fishing has been excellent throughout the Black Hills! We’ve had a good number of trips out over the past few weeks and have had lots of happy, successful folks. Give us a call at the shop if you want to spend a day with one of our guides and see the best fishing the Black Hills has to offer, or swing by the shop and we can get you hooked up with the latest bugs and show you where to go!