Hills on the Fly

Education, experiences, and information about fly fishing the Black Hills and beyond.

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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...

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Evenings in the Black Hills are beginning to cool. The days (comfortably hovering in the 70’s most days) are brining hoppers, beetles, ants, caddis, and fish to the water’s surface. With school back in session, weekday summer fishing crowds are almost non-existent. It is a great time to be fishing in the beautiful Black Hills!

Having grown up in the glacial lakes and prairies region of northeastern South Dakota , I was surrounded by walleye country. Lakes like Waubay, Bitter, Enemy Swim, and many other lakes that started out as duck sloughs where walleye fishing dominates open water fishing and on ice. Above average snowfall during the 1990‘s, accompanied by by spring runoff created fishing hotspots in the backyards of everyone in Webster, Watertown, and other surrounding rural communities. To give you a bit of perspective, my friends and I used to drag-race at what is now Bitter Lake back in the 1960’s. Bitter lake is now a 40,000 acre fishing mecca.

The transformation of these lakes from late summer to autumn, and eventually to winter, reminds me of...

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Autumn is a special time in the Black Hills. You can’t beat that feeling of knowing hungry fish are looking up and blue ribbon waters are right out your backdoor. To celebrate (and to say thank you to all of our awesome customers), we are putting together our inaugural Spearfish Creek Fly Shop “Day of the Fly”, a gathering for everyone interested in fly fishing in the Black Hills and beyond. Enough food, cold beverages, guide staff presentations, fly casting contests, and fly fishing talk for any angler hoping to enjoy an afternoon in the northern hills. Stay tuned to the website and this newsletter for dates and times. We will schedule it for late September or early October.

As our newsletter evolves, we hope one thing will remain constant...the content will be engaging, entertaining, and educational. We will continue to feature Spearfish Creek Fly Shop guides, but outside contributors will also show up from time-to-time. Our future contributors have us excited for the content that will be presented in future editions of Black Hills on the Fly. Look for articles...

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Walking up to a crystal clear creek during late summer can be an intimidating prospect. Spooky fish, lots of bug activity...where does an angler begin? When you are working a river or creek that is known for caddis activity, we'll say go with the dry first. Typically, we'll advocate for watching, flipping some rocks, getting a feel for the area. But this time of year will always have some fish looking up, and usually big fish! A terrestrial/dropper might spook them. A nymph rig might do the same. So if you're in the Black Hills, throw on your favorite 16-18 caddis pattern. This presentation drops like a feather, floats high and dry, and is a very pretty sight to most fish. If you carry two rods, this is an easy option. Begin with the solo caddis, then float a terrestrial dropper or nymph rig through the hole. You might be surprised when a 20" brown crashes that caddis on the second float, but we won't. Just make sure you come into the shop and tell us about it after it happens!


“The lesson we learn from fishing with a Tenkara rod is that we should not fear that a simpler life will be an impoverished life. Rather, simplicity leads to a richer and more satisfying way of fishing-and more importantly-living.”

- Yvon Chouinard -founder of Patagonia

The quote above is an excerpt from the book "Simple Fly Fishing" which Yvon co-authored along with Craig Mathews, and Mauro Mazzo. Chouinard is a very interesting fly fisherman and a huge advocate for the fly fishing "simple life". Tenkara is the modern Japanese version of the earliest form of fly fishing. It is touted as some of the simplest fly fishing around. Tenkara consists of a collapsible flyrod (longer than average) that uses only about 20 feet of line attached directly to the end of the rod. There is no fly reel used in Tenkara fishing, which relieves anglers (especially novice ones) from problems with striping, line management, and long distance casting. This simplified form of angling not only makes it easier for most anglers to grasp, but allows them to catch more fish (often more...