I remember taking a family vacation to South Dakota when I was little. Although I didn’t remember many of the details, I still knew it was one of my favorite family trips. Once I met Micah and realized he had never been to South Dakota–in fact, he’d never even been west of Minnesota–I knew I needed to get him out there.
One of my best friends from college, and fellow marketing peers, Stephanie grew up in South Dakota and currently works for the department of tourism out there. It was pretty much a no-brainer–we would make the drive out there happen, and she would put together the rest of the trip for us with both hiking and fly fishing stops included!
We got to our rustic little cabin in the hills of Hill City, South Dakota late on a Wednesday night, after hitting the Dakota Angler fly shop in downtown Rapid City. The evening included a quick tour of the classic Mount Rushmore and some streamer fly tying prep for the rest of our time out there.
On Thursday, we got up bright and early to hit a stream only 5 minutes from our cabin for a quick fishing fix. In less than 2 hours, we had hooked into about a dozen wild brook trout.
Around midday, we headed over to Custer State Park and met up with the state photographer, Chad Coppess, who snapped photos while we explored Sylvan Lake, Sunday Gulch Trail, and made the hike to the top of Little Devil’s Tower for beautiful views of the Needles and the rest of the Black Hills.
The highlight of the day, however, was meeting up for some fly fishing with Game Warden Ron who was going to guide us in the park. We had to push back our meeting with him till mid-afternoon so he could serve a search warrant first, but at 3PM he was ready to get his line wet! Not only is Ron the game warden at Custer State Park and an avid fly fisherman, but this guy also rides in the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup every year, corralling approximately 1,300 buffalo with only the best cowboys and cowgirls around.
Ron spent most of the time driving us up and down the banks of the rivers, and less time casting. Although we felt a little bad that we were doing all the fishing, he informed us that he lives right in Custer State Park and gets to fish it all the time–this amazing park is literally his backyard. I was able to hook into several decent brown trout, and Micah landed a nice rainbow pretty early on, but after that things started to slow down for a while.
The views were amazing down in the canyon and the weather was perfect, so naturally, Micah kept walking farther and farther in hopes to catch another fish.
The group agreed to let him hit one more hole, and Ron directed us to a fishy-looking spot. Sure enough, after a couple casts, Micah pulled out a 16″ rainbow trout.
By then, the sun was setting and we were all hungry, so we headed back up to the top of the canyon and grabbed dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge, where we met bartender Mark. Mark is also an avid fly angler, and spent quite a bit of time chatting with us while we ate and filling us in on his favorite South Dakota fishing spots. The food was amazing, as was the company!
Friday, the weather was a little less predictable. We drove the Wildlife Loop Road at Custer in the morning, because I insisted on seeing the “wild” begging burros.
After that, we hit Stockade Lake, for some more fishing in the rain. I take pride in the sole brown trout we caught there, because after Micah had cast the for about 20 minutes with no hits, I told him to cast a specific hole and he had a fish on immediately.
After only 2 full days in South Dakota, the fishing was consistent and the views were amazing–and we still had 2 more days to go!
Micah will be recapping the second half of our trip here on the blog shortly! In the meantime, if you have questions about South Dakota vacations or even fly fishing out there, let us know. We can direct you to our friends at Travel South Dakota.