2018 Fly Fishing Review

by | Feb 17, 2019 | Fishing in South Dakota | 0 comments

I thought it would be a good time to write up a “review” of my fly fishing exploits from 2018. We moved to Spearfish last January, so this will be our first full year living “West River”. So without further ado, here are some of my findings, experiences and my plans for this upcoming fly fishing season.

Too cold to fish

The first thing I did when we finally got settled into our place in Spearfish was one Saturday I decided to do some investigating. I wanted to see what Spearfish Creek looked like north of the Interstate as it flows through ranch land. I pulled over by a bridge north of town and peeked down at the creek. I saw several really nice sized trout, but there was also a no trespassing sign tacked to a tree. I thought I would stop in at some ranches that were located along the creek to ask some questions. My last stop I got permission from a very nice older lady to fish a stretch of creek that flowed through their ranch land. Their shop was right next to the creek and she said I could park there. I was really excited to have a place lined up to fish when spring arrived.

First time for everything

My first fly fishing trip was to Spearfish Creek in the Canyon last April. This would be my first time stepping into beautiful Spearfish Creek. It was not very nice out, it was cold and there was still snow in the canyon. In the ditches there was at least two feet of snow, which made it difficult to get down to the water. The area of stream I fished was fairly shallow and not flowing very strong. I really didn’t know what to expect, other than I knew it was really early, the water was very cold and the trout would not be very active. I immediately saw trout, they were everywhere, I wasn’t sure if they were brook trout or brown trout. I proceeded to work my way upstream but soon discovered the only thing I was accomplishing was spooking the trout in the shallow, slow moving water. Disappointment was creeping into my mind that maybe I wasn’t going to catch anything. Finally, I remember switching to a very small, black colored fly of a unknown name (I am not very good with names), and landed my first Spearfish Creek brown trout. I was super excited!

Getting to know the Canyon

Spearfish Creek in the canyon soon became my favorite place to fly fish. Not just for the numbers of trout, but more importantly for the beauty of Spearfish Creek in the canyon. Throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall I fished almost every stretch of the creek. Some days were tougher than others, but I never had an outing where I didn’t catch at least two fish. One of my favorite outings was on a cool, overcast day with a light steady drizzle. The weather had the trout absolutely ravenous. They were not spooky at all, and almost every cast I had a trout take my fly. It was so much fun despite being soaking wet. I discovered the differences in stretches of the creek. Some sections of the creek have a slower flow and the fish are very spooky, and some almost “whitewater” that at first glance you would think there is no way a trout could even live in there. Some areas are difficult to cast, with trees that seem to reach out and grab your fly. You end up casting in all sorts of different motions and styles to get your fly where you want without getting hung up on something. Other areas of the creek are wider and you can cast “normally”. In the end this makes things interesting and fun. Always learning something new, trying something different to get a trout to take your fly.

Spearfish Creek in town

Spearfish Creek flows through town at a pretty good clip. There are less fish, but they come a little bigger than what you can catch in the canyon. The stretches that I have fished have certain spots where the trout hang out consistently. After those spots, there seem to be stretches where there are no fish at all. Don’t get me wrong, it is still fun but not as fun as fishing the canyon. The creek through town also gets more fishing pressure. As you make your way along the creek you can see a worn path snaking through the weeds and brush where fisherman have tread over the years. You will wind up fishing in someone’s backyard at some point, and many of the homes have little sitting areas overlooking the creek where the home owners can sit and relax.

Spearfish Creek north of town

As Spearfish Creek flows north of town under the Interstate it cuts through ranch land. Big old cotton wood trees, grass for cattle grazing and some steep banks that have been cut by the creek. I think it was sometime in late April when I made my first trip out to the ranch where I got permission from the land owner to park next to their shop. When I pulled up that day, the lady’s son was in the shop and we talked about fishing for a while. He told me about some of the really big brown trout in the creek, but he was more interested in walleye fishing. Of course after living in Pierre for 20 years I had plenty of walleye fishing stories to tell him. After our visit I proceeded down to the creek to scope things out. I was rigged up with my usual strike indicator and a beaded nymph. As I worked my way upstream, and not seeing any fish or getting any hits on my fly, I was beginning to wonder if there were any fish in the stream. I eventually came to a spot where a fence intersected the stream, I climbed over that and made my way up a steep bank that overlooked the creek. I slowly peeked over the edge and down below I could see a few really big trout just below the surface. The current had created a deep slack area where the trout would sit and wait for food to float on by. My heart started to race and my mind started thinking of a way to catch one of these brutes. I slowly backed up and made my way upstream to the head of the deep hole where I would make my first cast. I still had my indicator and nymph setup, but soon discovered they were not interested. I thought it over and decided to try something that a bigger fish might enjoy, so I rigged up a gold beaded, black woolly bugger. After a couple casts, and just before giving up on the fish, a big brown slammed the woolly bugger and I thought my rod was going to break. The fight didn’t last long as the woolly bugger shot free. I was shaking with excitement! After checking out a good half mile of stream, I noticed a lack of fish. It seemed only the deeper pools held any trout, but they were all good sized. On my first trip out here I ended up skunked, but was still excited about the possibility of catching a really big brown. I wound up finally catching a few really nice brown trout on my woolly bugger last year. But to be honest, I would rather catch a lot of smaller fish than a shot at just one bigger fish. I will definitely make a few trips out there this year. My plan is to try a flashy minnow streamer instead of the black woolly bugger. We’ll see how they like that.

Whitewood Creek

Whitewood Creek that flows through Deadwood holds mostly brown trout. I did catch one small brook trout several years ago, before we moved out here. Last year in November I tried a stretch of creek north of Deadwood for the first time. The brown’s in this stretch are bigger than in town, but less numbers. The stream in this section is also very weedy, or grassy with small areas of gravel where the trout like to sit. I caught a few really nice browns on my trusty beaded pheasant tail nymph. I ran into another fly fisherman and he was catching them on a dry fly. He ended up catching a dandy brown, and I took a picture of him. One thing about Whitewood Creek, in spring with the snow melt and water run-off from town, it gets high and dirty. Last Spring with all the snow, it took some time before it was fishable.

Brown, Rainbow and Brook

The majority of the trout that I caught last year were brown trout. They are vicious fish, and seem to always be hungry. It took a few trips to the canyon but I finally landed my first Spearfish Creek rainbow. Later, I would usually catch at least one rainbow on each trip, sometimes two. They tend to hang out in deeper areas of the stream, where the browns are almost everywhere. When you hook up with a rainbow, in my opinion, they put up a better fight than a brown. They are faster and they really like to jump high out of the water. When it comes to brook trout, I have only landed one in the canyon. I had another spit my fly before I could land it. I believe some of the smaller “feeder creeks” that flow into Spearfish Creek hold more brook trout. Iron Creek and Squaw Creek are two where I have seen more brook trout. I tried fishing Iron Creek one time, but it was very difficult. Small creek with lots of trees, at least in the stretch I had fished. I did catch a couple small brown trout, but it is very easy to spook them. If you have hiked up to Devils Bathtub, then you have seen Squaw Creek. You probably ended up getting your feet wet too. I think it was last November that I hiked up to Devils Bathtub. I didn’t bring my fly rod, but I did see small groups of nice brook trout as I worked my way up stream.

My plans for 2019

My plan for this year is to branch out a little bit and try some new areas. I want to fish a stretch of Rapid Creek that flows through Silver City and into Pactola Reservoir. I have driven by this area, but have never stopped to fish. I would also like to try Castle Creek that flows into and out of Deerfield Reservoir. Another spot on my list is Spring Creek which flows out of Sheridan Lake. This should keep me pretty busy I think. Another plan is to try fly fishing from my boat on Pactola. Work my way along the shore using a small streamer maybe, or woolly bugger. I want to give dry flies more of a chance this year too.

New equipment

I just purchased a new fly rod and reel and I am really excited to try it out. I went with “The Drifter” which is a 7′ 6″ 3 wt. fly rod made by the Moonshine Rod Co. and a Cheeky Tyro 300 reel. My other fly rod is a 9′ 4 wt. and sometimes the 9′ rod is a little too much for the smaller streams so I decided to go a little smaller. Having a second fly rod now, I can invite a non-fly fishing friend along and teach them how to fly fish.

Spring can’t come soon enough

I am really looking forward to some warm spring weather. As I write this another winter storm is moving through the area. I plan to post reports on all my fly fishing trips again this year, along with photos and maybe some videos too. 

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