Fly Fishing the Black Hills

Lakes & Small Streams
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Lakes & Small Stream Practicalities
Species: The lakes of the Black Hills hold rainbow, brown and brook trout; catfish, northern pike, panfish and largemouth bass.

Gear: The lakes are floatable with different watercraft including float tubes, but wear neoprene waders since they are so cold. Spin-casting outfits should be ultralight, no more than 6 feet with 2-pound mono. For trout in the lakes, I recommend a 9-foot for 5- or 6-weight line, but if you pursue pike, walleye, or bass, go with an 8-weight outfit.

Flies & lures: The A-Number-One fly for all Black Hills lakes is the Woolly Bugger. A #12 works wonders but carry sizes #8 and #10 as well. The color of the patterns seems to matter little to these trout as long you have a slow retrieve. Other successful patterns include Pheasant Tail, Zug Bug, Black Nosed Dace, Hare's Ear and Prince Nymph. Weight the flies to get them down and/or use a sinktip or sinking line especially in the dead heat of summer. Typically, spin and bait fishermen use small spinners and the usual assortment of baits. Most anglers who fish these waters use spin-casting gear, and the most popular lures include plugs, crank baits and small spinners.

Guides, fly and tackle shops: Dakota Angler and Outfitter, Rapid City, (605) 341-2450; Custom Caster, Lead, (605) 584-2217; Rapid City Scheels, Rapid City, (605) 342-9033.

Getting there: Spearfish and Rapid City lie an hour apart from each other in the northwest corner of the state. Both cities are served by airports where you can rent a car. Check with local shops for directions to the various lakes and small streams.

Lodging: For Rapid City: Inexpensive: Castle Inn, (605) 348-4120; Moderate: Econo Lodge, (605) 342-6400; Expensive: Alex Johnson Hotel, (605) 342-1210; Holiday Inn Rushmore, (605) 348-4000. As for food, your options are as follows: Inexpensive: Sixth Street Deli and Bakery, breakfast, lunch, & dinner, (605) 342-6660; Moderate: Purple Frog Smokehouse and Lounge, lunch and dinner, (605) 348-5210; Uptown Grill, lunch, & dinner, (605) 343-1942; Expensive: Landmark Restaurant, lunch, & dinner, (605) 342-1210. For Spearfish: Inexpensive: Days Inn, (605) 642-7101; Moderate: Cottonwood Lodge, (605) 642-2234; Kelly Inn, (605) 642-7795; Expensive: Spearfish Canyon Resort, (605) 584-3435. As for food, your options are as follows: Inexpensive: Bay Leaf Cafi, breakfast, lunch, & dinner, (605) 642-5462; Cedar House Restaurant, breakfast, lunch, & dinner, (605) 642-2104; Moderate: Margie's Dinner Club, dinner, (605) 642-4765; Expensive:Latchstring Village, breakfast, lunch, & dinner, (605) 584-3333.

Chambers of commerce: Spearfish, (605) 642-2626; Rapid City, (605) 343-1744; Black Hills Badlands and Lakes Assocation, (605) 355-3600.
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The Black Hills have 14 lakes that hold a mix of rainbows, browns, brookies, cutthroat trout, lake trout and splake. If you want to tackle other species, you can find largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, walleyes, crappie, bluegills, perch and catfish in other Black Hills lakes.

The largest lakes are Pactola Reservoir, Deerfield Lake and Sheridan Lake. Other productive lakes include Canyon Lake, Horsethief Lake, Legion Lake, Center Lake, Bismarck Lake, Sylvan Lake, Stockade Lake and Deerfield Lake.

Deerfield Lake is a remote year-round lake near Hill City holding rainbows, brookies, and splake, some of which reach six to eight pounds. Most can be floated from a belly boat or other personal watercraft and some allow boats. Fishing from shore works well too on the smaller lakes.

The state record brown (22 lbs., 3 oz.) and lake trout have both been caught in Pactola Reservoir. Other area lakes worth fishing include Sheridan, Iron Creek, Mirror and Angostura Lakes. Custer State Park has four trout lakes: Stockade, Sylvan, Legion and Center Lakes. Canyon Lake is located in a city park in Rapid City.

Smaller Streams

Look at a map of the Black Hills region and you will see streams crisscrossing it every which way. The largest feeder stream is Castle Creek above Deerfield Lake, a nice little walk-in stream loaded with brown and brook trout.

Slate Creek is a worthwhile and little known tributary of Castle Creek, difficult to access but holding larger fish in its waters than it should. French Creek, in Custer State Park, surprisingly holds lots of trout in its riffles. Spring Creek is shallow and accessible, and in its clear low waters reside amazingly big brown and rainbow trout that rank among the most finicky in the Black Hills.

Grace Coolidge Creek is a small, productive stream flowing out of Center Lake in Custer State Park. The creek holds brook and rainbow trout in its small pools. Many small streams are off the beaten path and require a bit of a hike, but that ensures you'll have them all to yourself.

The Black Hills region has so many lightly fished, unspoiled streams that it would be difficult to fish all of them in a decade of summers. And if you ever fish these waters once, you might be tempted to come back each summer to give it a try.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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