Fly Fishing the Black Hills

Rapid Creek
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Rapid Creek Practicalities
Species: The streams of the Black Hills were first stocked with trout in the late 19th Century and still are today. But many of the streams hold wild trout, especially browns. Anglers can expect to catch brown, rainbow and brook trout.

Gear: Hip waders for most streams although on a few streams it's handy to be wearing chest waders. Fly rods should be 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 feet for 3 to 5-weight. Spincasting outfits should be ultralight, no more than 6 feet with 2-pound mono.

Flies & lures: Fly fishermen do well with dry flies. All of these streams are good for fly fishing, but the great thing is that so few fly fishermen take advantage of these waters. Typical attractor patterns will work on the streams, patterns like Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Wulff, Adams, Blue Wing Olive, Stimulators, but keep the sizes down to #14-#18. Big flies scare off these finicky fish. More imitative flies like Tricos, BWOs, and Baetis are necessary during hatches or tough times. Streamers and wet flies work well as well, especially when the hatch is off, or when the trout aren't visible. Hatches on Black Hills' streams are not prolific since the waters are not terribly fertile. This means the fish have to be opportunistic and that makes for great dry fly fishing. Black Hills streams are teeming with trout that love to feast on grasshoppers and ants, so stock up on several patterns and colors. All through the summer, especially in long stretches of water with grassy banks, hoppers should be your first choice. 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, crankbaits 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: From Rapid City, head out west on route 44 and you will see the river running alongside the road. From Spearfish, travel south/southwest on Interstate 90 to Rapid City, then take Route 44 west out of town.

Lodging: Rapid City is a decent home base but not as"away-from-it-all" as Spearfish. 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.

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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Like the Spearfish, Rapid Creek also has the potential to be a first-class fishery, with good angling for browns (and some rainbows and brookies) in pocket water and nice pools both above and below Lake Pactola.

The scenery is first-rate and, except for the steady automobile traffic, proves a wonderful angling destination. With all the cars touring the canyon, you would think this medium-sizes stream would be crowded, but there's always long stretches of water to have all to yourself.

Rapid Creek is the largest stream in the Black Hills, reached from Highway 44 (Rimrock Highway) west out of Rapid City in the central part of the region (although you can fish the creek through town below Canyon Lake). The stream is similar in looks and size to Spearfish, but the reservoir tailrace has created a section of river where larger trout reside.

The upper reaches, above Pactola Reservoir, are scenic but not nearly as productive as the tailrace below the lake. The spectacular valley with its 100-foot granite walls makes it worth a half-day trip.

Where the Wild Things Are

The drive alone through the canyon is jaw-dropping, so spending a couple of days wading and fishing Rapid Creek is even better. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the canyon ranging from bighorn sheep, deer, beaver, and goats to rattlesnakes.

Anglers can find access at Silver City above the lake. A hiking trail follows the river above and below the lake, allowing easy access. It is on this river where you have the best chance to hook into a 20-inch brown. Wade carefully and watch for finning fish. If you keep your eyes open, you will be sight casting to large trout.

The section below the lake holds plenty of monster browns as well as fat rainbows and even sizable brook trout. Working streamers hard in the big pools is your best method to land the lunkers. Hatches are sporadic and rarely thick, so most of the trout are opportunistic feeders and will rise readily to dry flies.

Because of its proximity to Rapid City, Rapid Creek sees a few more anglers than other Black Hills streams. It is not at all unusual to see businessmen fishing right after work in those stretches nearer town.


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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