Fly Fishing in South Dakota

Key Takeaways:

  • South Dakota offers diverse fly fishing opportunities across stunning landscapes, with various water bodies to explore.
  • Top spots for fly fishing in South Dakota include Whitewood Creek, Spearfish Creek, Rapid Creek, and many more, each offering a unique angling experience.
  • Optimal fly fishing times vary by season, with spring and late summer being excellent for targeting trout, while fall is ideal for pursuing large brown trout.
  • The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) administers fly fishing regulations, and anglers must be aware of the regulations.
  • Regulations can change from season to season, so staying updated through the GFP website or direct contact is essential for a successful and legal fly fishing experience in South Dakota.

Top 14 Fly Fishing Spots in South Dakota for Anglers

Top 14 Fly Fishing Spots in South Dakota for Anglers

South Dakota offers diverse fly fishing opportunities amidst its stunning natural landscapes. Here are the state’s top 14 fly fishing spots, each offering a unique angling experience.

  • Whitewood Creek
  • Spearfish Creek
  • Rapid Creek
  • Split Rock Creek
  • French Creek
  • Grace Coolidge Creek
  • Castle Creek
  • Spring Creek
  • Sand Creek
  • Pactola Reservoir
  • Stockade Lake
  • Deerfield Reservoir
  • Francis Case Reservoir
  • Lake Sharpe

1. Whitewood Creek

  • Passes through Butte, Meade, and Lawrence counties in South Dakota.
  • Unique urban fly fishing spot, known for large brown trout.
  • Recommended gear includes Red Tail Woolly Bugger Pattern and Elk Hair Caddis Fly Pattern. A 5-weight fly rod is suitable for this area.

2. Spearfish Creek

  • Flows through the stunning Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills.
  • Home to self-sustaining rainbow trout populations, surrounded by breathtaking canyon walls.
  • Use heavy flies and avoid split shot rigs due to fast-flowing water.

3. Rapid Creek

  • Approximately 138 kilometers (86 miles) in length, a tributary of the Cheyenne River, located in South Dakota in the United States.
  • Renowned for its diverse angling opportunities and connections to Canyon Lake, which is stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Be sure to keep an eye out for hatches throughout the year. Late summer brings excellent fishing with hoppers.

4. Split Rock Creek

  • Located in Palisades State Park, just 20 minutes outside of Sioux Falls.
  • Offers opportunities to catch catfish, bass, walleye, and pike.
  • Use large minnow patterns or poppers to attract these fish.

5. French Creek

  • Situated in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota, this stream is intermittent in nature.
  • The Narrows section offers solitude and unique fishing experiences.
  • Parachute Adams and Caddis Emergers are recommended patterns for this creek.

6. Grace Coolidge Creek

A stream in Custer County, South Dakota.

Known for six man-made dams, creating deep pools with stocked trout.

A 6 or 8-weight rod is suitable for fishing here.

7. Castle Creek

  • A tributary of Rapid Creek, situated in western South Dakota, United States, stretches approximately 23 kilometers (14 miles) in length.
  • Known for its rainbow and brown trout populations.
  • Dry Dropper rigs are recommended for this stream, access is on Mystic Road near Bobcat Gulch.

8. Spring Creek

  • Flows in and out of Sheridan Lake in the Black Hills.
  • Offers exciting dry fly fishing opportunities, especially below the dam.
  • Various fly patterns, including Jig Pheasant Tails and Woolly Buggers, can attract fish.

9. Sand Creek

  • A Blue Ribbon Water stream that flows near the South Dakota border in northeast Wyoming.
  • An excellent spot for dry fly fishing and the blue-winged olives and terrestrial flies are especially productive.
  • To succeed in the clear waters of Sand Creek, it’s recommended that you use a 6x tippet.

10. Pactola Reservoir

  • Located 15 miles west of Rapid City and is the largest and deepest reservoir in the Black Hills National Forest.
  • Serves as home to various fish species, including rainbows, cutthroats, and wild browns.
  • Boasts 14 miles of shoreline and 150-foot depths on 800 acres; use Grim Reapers for deeper fish.

11. Stockade Lake

  • Located in Custer State Park, South Dakota.
  • Offers great shore fishing and features bass and stocked trout.
  • A 6-weight rod with a 3 or 4x leader works well.

12. Deerfield Reservoir

  • Located 20 miles west of Hill City, South Dakota, US.
  • Famous for its abundance of rainbow, brown trout, and lake trout.
  • Bright and flashy flies are recommended when fishing on Deerfield Reservoir, and it’s an ideal spot for fishing from boats.

13. Francis Case Reservoir

  • A large reservoir formed by Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River in south-central South Dakota.
  • Great for boat fishing and offers a variety of fish species.
  • An 8-weight rod and Gutless Frogs are suggested for topwater action.

14. Lake Sharpe

  • A big reservoir created by the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River in central South Dakota.
  • Ideal for smallmouth bass fishing near drop-offs and structures.
  • Bright baitfish patterns are recommended for smallmouth; a 6-weight rod is suitable.

What is the best time to fly fishing in South Dakota?

What is the best time to fly fishing in South Dakota

The optimal time for fly fishing in South Dakota varies by season and offers a range of opportunities:

Spring (May to June): This season is excellent for targeting rainbow and brown trout, with the best spot being Rapid Creek. Hatches of Baetis and caddisflies make for exciting dry fly fishing.

Summer (July to August): In the heat of summer, Spearfish Creek in Spearfish Canyon becomes an ideal location for fly fishing. Here, you can focus on rainbow trout, particularly during the cooler mornings and evenings when they are most active.

Late Summer (August to September): Rapid Creek near Canyon Lake provides great opportunities as summer transitions to fall. Pay attention to hoppers as they become a primary food source for the trout.

Fall (September to November): The fall season is the time for pursuing large brown trout. Rapid Creek above Pactola Reservoir is a top choice, but these trout are easily spooked, so a low profile is essential.

For year-round fly fishing, consider French Creek in the southern Black Hills, as it’s intermittently stocked, ensuring opportunities even during the colder months. The optimal time depends on your target fish and the specific experience you seek.

What fish species can you catch when fly fishing in South Dakota?

When fly fishing in South Dakota, you’ll have the chance to target a variety of fish species. The primary catches include Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Tiger Trout in the trout-rich streams and lakes.

For those seeking more variety, you can also go after Bass, Carp, and a mix of panfish in different locations across the state.

What are the fly fishing regulations in South Dakota?

The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) regulates fly fishing regulations in South Dakota, which sets the rules and guidelines to ensure the sustainability and enjoyment of this popular angling method. Here are some key regulations to keep in mind when fly fishing in South Dakota:

Licensing Requirements: Before you even consider casting your fly, you must obtain the appropriate fishing license. South Dakota offers various fishing licenses for residents and non-residents, from annual fishing licenses to temporary ones.

  • Annual Fishing License: This license allows non-residents to fish throughout the license period, offering flexibility for longer stays.
  • Temporary Fishing Licenses: South Dakota provides temporary licenses, including 1-day and 3-day ones. These are ideal for shorter trips.
  • Habitat Stamp: If you are 18 years or older and applying for or purchasing a fishing license, you must also purchase a habitat stamp. This stamp helps fund wildlife conservation efforts. 

Species-Specific Regulations: South Dakota has established species-specific fishing regulations to manage its diverse fish populations. For walleye, anglers are allowed a daily limit of 4, with one of those measuring 20 inches or longer, and a possession limit of 8. Northern pike has a daily limit of 6 and a possession limit of 12. 

Muskellunge and tiger muskie are strictly catch-and-release. Anglers targeting trout, salmon, or splake can keep up to 5 per day, with a possession limit 10

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass have a daily and possession limit of 5, and for yellow perch, crappie, and sunfish, it’s 15 daily and 30 in possession when combined.

Catfish anglers can catch up to 10 daily, with a special provision allowing one flathead catfish to measure 30 inches or longer.

Sturgeon fishing is closed, and paddlefish fishing is available by special permit only. There are no specific daily or possession limits for white bass, rock bass, lake herring, lake whitefish, bullhead, and rough fish.

Bait and Lure Restrictions: South Dakota might restrict the type of bait, lures, or flies used when fishing. Ensure you are using appropriate and legal equipment.
Regulations and rules can change from one fishing season to the next. Keep up to date about the current regulations by visiting the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks website or contacting them directly.