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 lessons learned while stillwater fishing in the Black Hills. As the moderate day temps are less intense, and the nights cool off, amazing changes take place in these lakes. Someone once asked, “when are the trout lakes cold enough in the Black Hills?” That time is just around the corner. Daytime temperatures in the 50’s and steadily declining water temperatures (40-50 degrees) will trigger fish activity. They will begin to increase their caloric intake to compensate for slow metabolism rates during the winter months. This feeding frenzy will go on as long as the weather allows and creates amazing opportunities for anglers young and old. Not only is there a frenzy of feeding activity, but these fish (often very large fish) will move closer to shore to chase crawfish and minnows.
The list of flies to use during this amazing time is lengthy, but we have our favorites. Scuds and leeches are always a good go-to. Pick up a few rocks and sticks along the shoreline and you’ll understand why. Fish cannot get enough of these. Kreelexes, clousers, buggers (black and olive are favorites) and big nymphs will all catch fish with ease. Of course, hatches continue into the autumn months, so be sure to have PMD’s parachute adams, BWO’s, and midges at the ready.
As we look forward to the great fishing ahead, take time to look around. Enjoy the colors of the hills and bugling elk. Fly fishing brings us more than just a tug at the end of our line. That’s something we’re always grateful for.