The second half of our South Dakota road trip started with a quick solo outing to a stream down the road from our cabin in Hill City. I was able to land several brook trout and a few chunky rainbows in a short amount of time, before a day full of exploring Custer State Park.
The next day started with a trip up to Spearfish Canyon, and it did not disappoint. The plan was to meet back up with the official South Dakota state photographer, Chad Coppess, for a quick photoshoot and then explore what the area offered for fishing.
Chad has over 40 years of photography experience, and man, did that show with some of the photos he captured of us (look for us in future South Dakota promotional material!).
After Chad had what he was looking for, we took off and did some exploring of Spearfish Creek, starting in the canyon. The scenery was beautiful and the water was perfect. There were lots of nice runs and tail out water that held good amounts of both brown and rainbow trout. We sound success swinging streamers through the runs, managing to get several trout to hand.
After spending several hours exploring Spearfish Canyon, we headed into downtown Spearfish for ice cream at Leone’s Creamery and visited Crow Peak Brewing Co. At this point, we realized we were only 7 miles from the Wyoming border, so we did a quick drive over to Wyoming, officially making that the farthest west I’ve ever traveled. Hoping to get over to this state in the future for more great fishing!
The next day we focused on more fishing near Hill City. After a while, we followed Rapid Creek into Rapid City, where we went to a few spots in town that a few of my fishing buddies told me to try. The fishing in town was solid! It was pretty crazy to me that in a town of over 70,000 people, there were very few other anglers to be seen and plenty of fish to be caught.
As the day wore on and our final night was approaching, we started to shift our thoughts toward finding big trout. We had heard rumblings of a few spots that were known to hold big fish, and figured we would give it a shot after dark. Not long after our night excursion had begun, I had a big female with bad intentions take my mouse. She gave my Walton C-9 4/5 wt a good test, but thankfully we were able to successfully get her into the net and snap a few quick pictures before letting her go.
A few minutes after landing my fish, we noticed a guy about 75 yards from us that appeared to be in the middle of a battle with a big trout as well. Seeing that he was by himself, I figured that I would run down to him and give him a hand. It always makes me nervous landing big fish for other people, but I was able to get this 20″ lake trout in the net for my man @307since1887, that he caught on a size 20 nymph! He is now a member of the exclusive 20/20 club–congrats, bro!
Unfortunately, we didn’t land any more fish after that, but between my brown and the lake trout, we considered it a successful outing and headed back to the cabin to enjoy our last night in the hills.
The next morning, we got up early to start long drive back to Minnesota. On the way we stopped at Badlands National Park and took in some amazing scenery! It was a great way to cap off a great trip to South Dakota!
Takeaways from our trip:
- If you’ve never been to South Dakota, go! It is beautiful (especially the Black Hills).
- When you go make sure to go to Mt. Rushmore (obviously), Custer State Park, the Badlands, Spearfish Canyon and Deadwood.
- If you go and decide to bring your fly rod, stop by the Dakota Angler Fly Shop in Rapid City before hitting the streams. They have an awesome selection of gear and are more than happy to offer up some tips on the area.
- If you don’t know what fly/bug to use on an unfamiliar stream, just tie on a size 6 black wooly bugger, that will work in almost all occasions. It’s a no-fail fly.
- Talk to people you meet on the streams you fish. You’ll make connections and become friends with people from all over. This will build your fishing network and allow for potential trips with local experts in the future.
- Take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you, while you are out.
- Don’t overlook South Dakota as a fishing destination. It is a beautiful area with tons of great water to explore and great people!
Abigail wrote a recap of the first half of our trip already here! 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!