My son with one of the big rainbow trout he caught. This one was at Grace Coolidge walk-in area below Center Lake.
Just back from yet another trip, but thankfully this one was ALL pleasure and no work. My son and I went to the Black Hills for several days to go trout fishing. The Black Hills can be incredibly busy in summer, particularly as the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis comes close. That’s still a week and a half off, but even so, crowds are starting to build in the Hills. The big tourist attractions and towns like Hill City and Deadwood were certainly bustling, and motorcycles were everywhere.
The thing I like about fishing the Black Hills though? Isolation and intimate settings, even amidst the madhouse of the Hills near Rally time. Several little reservoirs with easy access are in the Black Hills, and those can be busy. However, with a short hike, you can always find a spot to fish alone. The last several days were no exception, as my son and I had some truly incredible fishing, all to ourselves.
Grace Coolidge Creek walk-in area is a 3 mile or so stretch below Center Lake, with 6 or 7 small dams providing deeper pools in what is otherwise a very small stream. Couple with the natural pools, there are plenty of spots for surprisingly large trout to be found. We found that out very quickly on our first day when my young son caught a trout that may be bigger than any I’ve ever caught…a gorgeous, fat, 19″ Rainbow Trout in one of the dammed pools. Despite the incredible fishing, in an entire day of walking up and down the creek, we ran across a total of 1 family hiking, and 1 other fisherman.
Even areas right next to major roads can be very productive and “isolated”. We also spent quite a bit of time on Spearfish Creek, south of the town of Spearfish. Spearfish Canyon is designated a “scenic highway” and the road can indeed get quite a few tourists. However, it’s not hard at all to find a spot to fish without interruption or competition. Spring Creek, as it flows out of Sheridan Lake, is similarly on a paved highway, yet my son and I had our pick of locations to fish. Overall, a great fishing trip, one where we easily could have kept our daily and possession limits of 5 and 10 trout, respectively. Most of the Rainbows and Browns we caught were 8-12 inches, but there were several over 14″ in addition to the 19″ beauty my son caught.
It wasn’t really a birding trip, but I did of course keep my eyes open while fishing. I was a bit disappointed in failing to see one of my favorite species, the American Dipper. Last time my son and I fished Spearfish Creek, we had an active nest near our favorite pool and had fun watching the parents forage for food. No Dipper, but we did enjoy watching an Osprey fishing the same pool on this trip, as well as many Violet-Green Swallows dipping and diving over the water in search of insects.
Another favorite species of mine in the hills are Mountain Bluebirds. A great spot to find them is in a very large grassy area north of Deerfield Lake. Many bluebird boxes are found on the fence posts surrounding the pastures, and we saw dozens of Mountain Bluebirds along the fencelines.
A great trip! Back to reality, with no trips in sight…