Hills on the Fly

Education, experiences, and information about fly fishing South Dakota and beyond.

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It is almost March! While ice fishing continues to dominate the Black Hills scene, stream fishing remains spectacular. Strong midge hatches on sunny South Dakota days have made for frequent winter-time successes on the water. This warm weather not only prompts midges from their cold water homes, but also the thoughts of ice out and the fish that become vulnerable to a fly in the spring.

Black Hills lakes offer great fishing opportunities at ice out, even if ice still covers much of the main body of water. Larger fish will cruise the warmer water bays and shorelines in search of an easy meal. Flies make the perfect presentation for these big fish due to their ability to cover a wide range of depth and retrieval styles. Accessibility to big fish is one of the biggest advantages of a spring ice out scenario. Lake trout, northern pike, salmon, rainbow and brown trout, even big bass and panfish make themselves more available when the spring thaw is on. These are our favorite spots to chase big fish in the spring:


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What are your biggest regrets from 2019? Ask any angler and they might tell you they did not get out on the water as much as they would have liked, if at all. The sad realization is that life can get in the way of our passions. Work, school, children, friends, family...life is not always accommodating to anglers, especially when extensive travel is involved. But before you go making New Years resolutions to “get out on the water more” in 2020, we have some advice that will actually make your fishing dreams a reality this year and in years to come.

Step 1: Set goals instead of resolutions. Resolutions are like marriages, only more likely to fail. People make promises to themselves that they will not keep without more diligent attention and a proactive attitude. Goals are different because they keep you accountable. They stare you in the face each and every day, mocking you until they are crossed off the list. A “Fishing Goal List” for 2020 will have more teeth than a lackadaisical resolution announcement on your facebook page.

Step 2: Write...


A friend quoted one of our favorite fishing movies at the tying table the other night. It got me thinking about the great fishing movies that have graced the big screen. I can't say that there are many, but here are five that you should check out during the winter months. I know there are some that didn't make the cut, but this is a start to your winter binge watching:

#1 - Grumpy Old Men: Not only is this one of the greatest fishing movies of all time, it is one of the great "one line" sources of all time. So many one liners, in fact, that there is an IMDb page dedicated to quotes from the flick. I really need to watch this movie again.

#2 - Grumpier Old Men: Sequels usually leave much to be desired, but this movie carries on right where they left off. Hilarity ensues.

#3 - Doc of the Drakes: This is a 20 min short film about a doctor fishing the drake hatch in Idaho. He has Parkinson's. Inspirational, captivating, funny and genuine. The sequel, "Hit em again Doc", is also great, but not...

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I bet the most commonly asked question of fishing enthusiasts by friends and family who are rarely seen holding a rod and reel is, "So...Why do you fish anyway?"

I never really have a good "elevator" reply for why I fly fish. Mainly because there are a variety of reasons that seem to change each time out. I know I'm guilty of mentally asking the same question of others who enjoy a pastime that's not my cup of tea. It may be difficult for them to express just how much they enjoy a particular activity, and it may not. It really doesn't matter. If something makes us happy, and is not immoral, I'd say it doesn't require explanation.

I, on the other hand, would like more people to pursue fly fishing. I believe that more fly fishing enthusiasts in the world mean more people working hard to protect our wildlife and fisheries. For that reason, I need an elevator pitch. I need a quick statement that let's people know why I fish in hopes that they will be intrigued enough to inquire further into the prospect of trying for themselves. Maybe by the end of this I'll have...

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It's been cold in the hills lately! Snow, ice, cold feet and hands...burrr! For us, this is one of the great parts about South Dakota. Not only does the cold still offer some great days of fishing in our neck of the woods, it also offers us a chance to catch up on some tying for 2020! If you tie your own flies, and want to fill your box with better bugs for next year, these are 10 patterns you MUST put some time into when the cold is just too much to bear.

  1. Clouser Minnow/Kreelex: Pretty much anything that swims will eat this fly. Always have some sparsely tied in your box. My favorite colors are chartreuse/white, and blue/white/red. For the kreelex, chartreuse/silver, gold/silver will not go wrong. Great pattern all year round (especially in winter, spring, and fall).
  2. San Juan Worm: Pink and Red, Orange and red, or solid red. Invert the hook with dumbbell eyes for summertime carp and catfish (red). Many anglers call it a cheat fly because it works so well.
  3. Hot Spot Pheasant Tail: Mayfly...
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Education. I don’t know what it is that pushes someone to become intent upon teaching others a craft. Maybe it’s that next step in the progression of a purists pursuit of perfection. You come to enjoy a craft to the point where, just maybe, your skills are better used to help others progress. We know we can catch fish. But when we share our knowledge with others in the fishing community, and see the fruits of that labor, it’s like we are catching those fish right along with you. Our passion for fishing has flourished into fly fishing education on a grand scale. Within this community full of stereotypes, misconceptions, and mythical ideologies that aspiring fly flingers may find off-putting or challenging, we hope to spark a glimmer of simplicity that might help light the way for others hoping to advance their fly fishing craft.

What we find when teaching others to fly fish is that it can be easy to get caught up on one specific area of the sport. Maybe casting is difficult for you, or bugs are just not your thing...it's easy to get hung up on that. But when you take...


The first annual Spearfish Creek Fly Shop Fall Fly Fishing Festival was held October 6th, 2019 at the Snappers Club building in the Spearfish City Park. Lunch was barbeque pork, beans, & cole slaw from Dickey's Barbeque. They did a great job! After lunch, we provided a short program about Spearfish Creek Fly Shop staff, their paths into fishing, and what it means to their lives today. Many people have had mentors as they’ve grown as anglers. It was interesting that two anglers at the event were mentored by Wayne Lindstadt, who was in attendance. Wayne runs a fish hatchery just north of Spearfish.

Many fishing stories were shared throughout our day together. We met two local anglers who have been fishing all around the world! But, as we know too well, you need not leave your own backyard to experience world-class angling opportunities. We heard many fishing stories of great days on Spearfish Creek (bot in the canyon and in town). Made us very proud to call this place home.

Tyson Gonzales, one of our SCFS guides, gave a great recap on spring, summer, and...


Yeah, we've got snow in the hills. But it is still autumn. Most times (even with the most dedicated anglers) people will hunker down when the weather turns and wait for it to warm up. We're here to suggest that you NOT be a fair weather angler!

Yes, it's cold. Yes, there might be snow and some wind. Other anglers will be sitting in their warm homes sipping coffee or cocoa just dreaming about the fish they could be catching. But the fish do not stop eating, so you shouldn't stop fishing either. They will move a bit to find deeper water, but they will comfortably eat all winter. Here is what you can do to catch fish, even on the coldest days.

1. Get the fly down to the fish. Use tungsten and a few lead-free weights if necessary. If you aren't catching fish, try more weight before you try a new fly. Make you are you near the bottom. You WILL likely lose some flies. Be ok with it.

2. Use the right bugs. Search the water before you begin to get an idea of what bug to put on. A few of our favorites throughout the winter include skinny nelsons, zebra...

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Autumn always brings us visions of hungry trout leisurely rising to the water's surface for offerings of caddis, mayflies, beetles, ants and hoppers, The nose of that trout creates ripples and a split second sense of anticipation just before the fly disappears into a gaping set of jaws. But, this is not always the reality that we are faced with. When that fish does not leisurely rise to your fly...cast after cast...are you good enough to break away from traditional autumn tendencies in exchange for catching more fish?

This is a conversation we had recently with a small group of anglers fishing the driftless region of Minnesota. A spring fed trout stream in very rural coulee country was the destination. What awaited anglers was clear and skinny water, spooky fish, and an abundance of insect life offering temptations for topwater presentations. A few fish fell to the dry (driftless caddis) dropper (tungteaser) in pockets and seams. Slow stretches were not nearly as approachable. Fish would dart under curly leaf pondweed and under cut banks when the most delicate of...