Top 16 Places to Fly Fish in South Dakota - And What Flies to Use

Top 16 Places to Fly Fish in South Dakota - And What Flies to Use

South Dakota is a great destination for fly fishing, with hundreds of miles of streams and rivers to explore. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced angler, there's something for everyone in the state.

Known for its abundant and diverse fish populations, from brown trout to largemouth bass, South Dakota is the perfect place to cast a line. This article will explore some of the best places to fly fish in South Dakota so you can find the perfect spot for your next fishing adventure.

Rainbow Trout and South Dakota Flag

Best Fly Fishing Locations in South Dakota

When it comes to fly fishing, South Dakota is a hidden gem that offers a diverse range of angling experiences. From pristine creeks to expansive reservoirs, this picturesque state boasts an array of fly fishing locations catering to beginners and seasoned anglers. In this article, we'll explore the top 16 places to fly fish in South Dakota, exploring their unique characteristics and the fish species that thrive in these waters.


Castle Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

1. Castle Creek

Castle Creek is a 14-mile (23 km) long tributary of Rapid Creek located in western South Dakota. The sight of its clear, meandering waters winding through breathtaking landscapes is a treat in itself. What truly sets Castle Creek apart is the excellent habitat it provides for brown and rainbow trout. These prized fish species thrive in its pristine waters, offering a thrilling challenge for anglers of all skill levels.

One of the highlights of Castle Creek is its accessibility through hiking trails. As you navigate the scenic terrain, you'll find yourself immersed in a tranquil fly fishing experience.

Castle Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Castle Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Clouser Crawdad - Size 6
  2. RS2 - Gray - Size 20
  3. Dave's Hopper Green - Size 8


Deerfield Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing

2. Deerfield Reservoir

Located near the charming town of Hill City, Deerfield Reservoir introduces a unique angling atmosphere to the South Dakota fly fishing scene. The cool, refreshing waters of the reservoir are home to an array of fish species, making it a prime spot for diverse catches. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and even pike await those who venture to this beautiful location.

One of the distinctive features of Deerfield Reservoir is the presence of submerged structures. These underwater formations create ideal hiding spots for fish, adding an extra layer of challenge and excitement for anglers. Fly fishing from a boat is particularly effective here, as it allows you to explore different areas of the reservoir and cast your line where the fish are most likely to be found.

Deerfield Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Deerfield Reservoir, South Dakota:

  1. Rainbow Warrior - Size 18
  2. Parachute Adams - Size 24
  3. Parachute Humpy Ant - Size 16


Francis Case Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing

3. Francis Case Reservoir

Stretching across the Missouri River, Francis Case Reservoir emerges as a treasure trove of fishing opportunities in South Dakota. While fly fishing may not be the first thing that comes to mind in a reservoir setting, Francis Case proves to be an exception. Anglers looking to target species like walleye, smallmouth bass, and catfish will find themselves in their element here.

What sets Francis Case apart is its quiet coves and inviting shorelines. These areas provide the perfect setting for fly fishing, allowing you to cast your line with precision and finesse.

Francis Case Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Francis Case Reservoir, South Dakota:

  1. Double Bunny Black and Olive - Size 6
  2. Trophy Dungeon - Black - Size 8
  3. Zonker - Grizzly - Size 6


French Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

4. French Creek

French Creek originates approximately 5 miles northwest of Custer, South Dakota. It stretches over a length of 62 miles, flowing in an eastward direction through the picturesque Custer State Park before joining the Cheyenne River. This cold-water stream flows through captivating landscapes and hosts a thriving brook trout population. These native gems of the stream provide an authentic fly fishing experience that connects you with the local ecosystem and its inhabitants.

For those with an affinity for native trout, French Creek is an irresistible destination in South Dakota. French Creek's accessibility is another of its charms. Easily accessible pools and riffles create the perfect canvas for practicing your fly presentation skills.

French Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for French Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Zebra Midge Black and Red - Size 16
  2. Flashback Pheasant Tail - Size 18
  3. Elk Hair Caddis - Size 16

  Grace Coolidge Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

5. Grace Coolidge Creek

Within the picturesque embrace of Custer State Park, Grace Coolidge Creek beckons fly fishing enthusiasts with its quintessential charm. This meandering creek winds through serene meadows and granite hills, home to brown and rainbow trout, among other species. The creek is home to six picturesque low-head dams, providing excellent opportunities for trout fishing and creating a thriving habitat for a diverse range of plants and wildlife in the surrounding area.

Grace Coolidge Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Grace Coolidge Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Dave's Hopper Yellow - Size 8
  2. Kaufmanns Stimulators - Orange - Size 16
  3. Elk Wing Caddis - Size 16

 Lake Sharpe South Dakota Fly Fishing

6. Lake Sharpe

As part of the Missouri River system, Lake Sharpe offers a unique and rewarding challenge for fly fishing enthusiasts in South Dakota. Lake Sharpe, a vast reservoir created by the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River in central South Dakota, United States, offers an expansive water expanse spanning 56,884 acres and reaches an impressive maximum depth of 78 ft.

While pursuing prized species such as walleye and smallmouth bass, anglers must demonstrate adaptability in selecting the right fly and perfecting their presentation. The thrill and adventure that await are undoubtedly worth the dedication and effort. The changing currents and diverse underwater structures make each fishing excursion a true challenge.

Lake Sharpe South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Lake Sharpe, South Dakota:

  1. Poppers Size - Size 6
  2. Double Bunny Olive & White - Size 6
  3. Slump Buster with Cone - Black - Size 6


Pactola Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing

7. Pactola Reservoir

Situated 15 miles west of Rapid City, South Dakota, Pactola Lake reigns as the largest and deepest reservoir in the Black Hills. This magnificent gem is celebrated for its pristine, crystal-clear waters, beckoning fly fishers in search of the elusive rainbow and brown trout. Abundant with diverse fish species, including lake and brown trout, as well as perch and bass, Pactola Lake truly offers a sanctuary for anglers and nature enthusiasts alike.

The reservoir's depths and varied underwater structures create an environment where these prized fish flourish, making each visit a potential journey into the heart of angling success. Fly fishers seeking to explore Pactola Reservoir have the advantage of varied fishing methods. Whether you prefer the tranquility of shore fishing or the versatility of boat fishing, this location accommodates both approaches.

Pactola Reservoir South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Pactola Reservoir, South Dakota:

  1. Hare's Ear - Natural - Size 18
  2. Barr Emergers BWO - Size 20
  3. Trico Spinners - Size 20


Palisades State Park South Dakota Fly Fishing

8. Palisades State Park

The blend of fishing and scenic beauty is at its finest within Palisades State Park. Split by the serene flow of Split Rock Creek, this location stands as a favored destination for those seeking smallmouth bass and trout angling.

Palisades State Park is a testament to the state's dedication to preserving its natural wonders. As you cast your line into the clear waters of Split Rock Creek, you'll be treated to an angling experience that is equal parts relaxation and excitement.

Palisades State Park South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Palisades State Park, South Dakota:

  1. Poppers Size - Size 6
  2. Double Bunny Black and Olive - Size 6
  3. Matuka Sculpin Olive - Size 4


Rapid Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

9. Rapid Creek

Flowing through the magnificent Black Hills, Rapid Creek is a renowned fly fishing destination that embodies the essence of diverse fishing environments. As a tributary of the Cheyenne River, spanning approximately 86 miles in length, it offers a captivating experience for anglers.

Whether you're drawn to the challenge of mountainous terrain or the familiarity of urban settings, this creek offers it all. Its versatility is matched only by the variety of trout species that call it home: rainbow, brown, and brook trout.

Rapid Creek's appeal lies in its ability to cater to different fly fishing techniques. From dry fly fishing in the calm stretches to nymphing in the faster currents, each method presents an opportunity to engage with the creek's vibrant aquatic population.

Rapid Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Rapid Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Parachute Adams - Size 14
  2. San Juan Worm - Size 12
  3. The Frenchie - Size 12


Sand Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

10. Sand Creek

Sand Creek, situated on the Wyoming border, boasts the coveted designation of Blue Ribbon Water. However, its fish are known for their skittishness. Nestled near the town of Sturgis, Sand Creek emerges as a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by fly fishing enthusiasts.

With its riffles, runs, and inviting pools, the creek provides a sanctuary for both brown and rainbow trout. The convenience of its location, close to town, makes it an accessible yet tranquil destination for a rewarding angling experience.

Sand Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Sand Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Spanish Bullet Olive - Size 14
  2. Copper John - Size 12
  3. Elk Wing Caddis - Size 16


Sheridan Lake South Dakota Fly Fishing

11. Sheridan Lake

Located on Spring Creek in Pennington County, South Dakota, Sheridan Lake is a captivating reservoir. It occupies the site where Sheridan, the first county seat, once stood. Owned and operated by the United States Forest Service, it stands as one of the recreational gems within the Black Hills National Forest.

These elements combine to create an environment that is enticing to anglers in search of rainbow, brown, and lake trout. However, it's not just the prospect of a catch that draws fly fishers to this location—it's the harmonious interplay between scenic beauty and varied fishing conditions. What makes Sheridan Lake truly enchanting is its deep waters and the submerged structures that lie beneath its surface.

Sheridan Lake South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Sheridan Lake, South Dakota:

  1. Crystal Midge - Size 16
  2. Prince Nymph - Size 14
  3. Zonker - Grizzly - Size 10


Spearfish Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

12. Spearfish Creek

Nestled within the captivating Black Hills National Forest, Spearfish Creek boasts a fly fishing paradise, playing host to a thriving population of wild rainbow trout. As a designated permanent cold water fishery, this majestic creek stretches an average of 29 feet wide, providing anglers with ample opportunities to claim a secluded spot for themselves.

Renowned for its population of large brown and rainbow trout, the creek presents an exciting challenge for anglers eager to test their skills against varying water conditions and currents.

Spearfish Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Spearfish Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Pheasant Tail Jig Hot - Size 12
  2. Rainbow Warrior Jigged - Size 16
  3. The Frenchie - Size 16


Split Rock Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

13. Split Rock Creek

Split Rock Creek meanders for 55 miles, tracing its path from a farmer's field near Ihlen in Rock County, Minnesota, to the east of Sioux Falls. As it flows through the heart of Pipestone County, it offers anglers a serene and less crowded fishing experience, ideal for those seeking a tranquil retreat. The creek's clear waters create an ideal habitat for brown and rainbow trout, offering fly fishers a haven of quiet reflection and the potential for exciting catches.

Split Rock Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Split Rock Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Poppers Size - Size 6
  2. Double Bunny Black and Olive - Size 6
  3. Muddler Minnow - Size 6


Spring Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

14. Spring Creek

Located near the capital city of Pierre, Spring Creek emerges as an oasis for fly fishing enthusiasts in central South Dakota. Its status as a prime location for targeting brown and rainbow trout is a reflection of the creek's unique characteristics and the natural bounty it offers to anglers. Spring Creek's accessibility is a major draw for both locals and visitors alike.

Spring Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Spring Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Trico Spinners - Size 20
  2. Griffith's Knat - Size 18
  3. Trico Dun - Size 16


Stockade Lake South Dakota Fly Fishing

15. Stockade Lake

Located within the breathtaking confines of Custer State Park, Stockade Lake offers a distinctive angling opportunity that sets it apart from other fly fishing destinations. Its diverse fish population includes prized species like trout, perch, and bluegill, creating a haven for those seeking a varied and rewarding catch.

Stockade Lake South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Stockade Lake, South Dakota:

  1. Slump Buster with Cone - Black - Size 6
  2. Muddler Minnow - Size 6
  3. Double Bunny Olive & White - Size 6


Whitewood Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing

16. Whitewood Creek

In close proximity to the historic town of Deadwood, Whitewood Creek emerges as a testament to the state's commitment to providing diverse angling experiences for fly fishing enthusiasts. Boasting a mix of wild and stocked trout, the creek offers an intriguing blend of natural wonders and carefully curated fishing opportunities. 

Whitewood Creek's charm is heightened by its accessibility. Whether you're a local looking for a quick fishing excursion or a visitor eager to explore the South Dakota outdoors, the creek's accessible spots and various trout species cater to different angling preferences.

Whitewood Creek South Dakota Fly Fishing Flies

Recommended Flies for Whitewood Creek, South Dakota:

  1. Royal Wolf - Size 14
  2. Prince Nymph - Size 14
  3. Fat Albert Purple - Size 6

 Fly Fishing Gear for Mississippi

What Gear do I need to Fly Fish in South Dakota?

When gearing up for a rewarding fly fishing experience in South Dakota, it's essential to equip yourself with the right gear. The following essentials will ensure that you're well-prepared for the angling adventures that await:

  • Fly Rod and Reel: Select a fly rod in the 5-7 weight range. This versatility allows you to adapt to different water conditions and target various fish species. Pair it with a reliable fly reel that can handle the challenges of South Dakota's diverse fishing environments.
  • Flies: Pack a diverse selection of fly patterns that mimic the local insect life and baitfish. Consider including dry flies, nymphs, and streamers to cover a range of angling scenarios.

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  • Waders and Boots: Quality waders are essential for staying comfortable and dry while wading through South Dakota's waters. A sturdy pair of wading boots with proper grip will ensure your safety and stability as you navigate different terrain.
  • Tackle and Accessories: Carry a selection of leaders, tippets, and other accessories to tailor your setup to specific fishing conditions. Floatants, strike indicators, and forceps are also valuable tools to have on hand.
  • Fishing License: Before you embark on your fly fishing journey in South Dakota, make sure you have a valid fishing license. Adhering to local regulations ensures that you're fishing within the bounds of the law and contributing to responsible angling practices.
  • Polarized Sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses are invaluable for enhancing visibility in the water. They help you spot fish, read water currents, and navigate potential obstacles with greater clarity.

Large Rainbow Trout

Additional Facts about Fly Fishing in South Dakota

Can you fly fish in South Dakota?

Absolutely! South Dakota offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities, from serene creeks to expansive reservoirs catering to fly fishers of all skill levels.

Does South Dakota have good trout fishing?

Yes, South Dakota is known for its excellent trout fishing. The state's varied water bodies provide habitats for brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Is there good fly fishing in South Dakota?

Definitely, South Dakota's natural beauty, coupled with its diverse fish species, makes it a fantastic destination for fly fishing. Whether you're seeking a tranquil experience or an angling challenge, you'll find it here.

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