Al Campbell, Field Editor

August 8th, 2003

Other waters in the Black Hills
By Al Campbell

I considered for a short while doing an article on the Bighorn River, but at 320 miles away, I can hardly call it home waters even if it is the large river I fish most regularly. Home waters are supposed to be waters you know so intimately that the guesswork is mostly replaced by knowledge of the water, its fish and the insect hatches found there. I can say I know the Bighorn well enough to predict when most of the hatches will occur generally, but not well enough to have the intimate knowledge of all the intricacies of the river. I'll leave that water to others who call it home on a daily basis.

This is my last installment in the "Home Waters" series of articles. I want to strongly encourage others to do what I have done and continue this series in what will become a "Home Waters" section on this site. Why should we let visiting anglers do all the writing (sometimes with glaring errors) on the water we treasure? Let's make this the place where we and others can visit and learn about each other's favorite fishing places; and why they are treasures we care deeply about. I have already met a few people who visited my area and fished my home waters because they read what I wrote and wanted to experience it too. Wouldn't it be fun if you could meet people visiting your area for the same reason? Let me see what you have in your area that you call "Home Waters."

This last article is somewhat happy and somewhat sad. It deals with the smaller streams in my area and some of those streams lost their aquatic life last summer during the ongoing drought we have been experiencing. It also deals with some healthy streams that don't get much fishing pressure. These are streams I used to enjoy a lot and some I still enjoy, but they are smaller and less easy to access than what I have already written about. Either way, they are still my home waters and treasures I want to share with you.

Beaver Creek is small enough I can step over it in many places, but it has some hungry brookies in it that rarely see much fishing pressure. It is a spring creek that runs on both sides of the Wyoming and South Dakota State line. Late summer hoppers are as good as it gets to lure these fish from their hiding places. You won't find a lot of big insect hatches here, but those insects that do hatch are met by enthusiastic, hungry trout.

Sand Creek runs on the Wyoming side of the Black Hills. It is as good a spring creek as you might ever wish for. Locals usually consider it their secret place to fish. It is the only stream in the Black Hills I know of that has a small resident population of cutthroat trout left over from fish stocking done long ago. Add some cutt-bows, a few browns and some brookies and you get a balanced diet of fishing pleasure. Access is via a gravel road from the Wyoming town of Beulah on Interstate 90. Watch your step in the summer; rattlesnakes are fairly common.

Crow Creek is the largest true spring creek in South Dakota. It has fairly steady flows all year and runs cool all the time. Vegetation and difficult stream banks make fishing difficult, but it can be great fishing if you can cast well. Browns and rainbows are the prizes for a well cast fly. Like Sand Creek, watch your step in the summer. Access is via the McNenny Fish Hatchery road that intersects I90 about two miles east of the Wyoming State line.

Elk Creek

Elk Creek, Little Elk Creek, Whitewood Creek and Box Elder Creek all flow northeastward from the north central regions of the Black Hills between Rapid City and Deadwood. The lower stretches of all four streams dried up last summer killing the fish and aquatic insects they held. The same stretches have dried up again this year. The upper portions of each stream still run cool enough to support brookies and an occasional brown trout. Fishing has been tough to non-existent in some of these waters for two summers in a row. The only picture I'm providing this week is of Elk Creek above, taken a couple of years ago. The brookie fishing was excellent that day. Right now, that part of the stream is nothing but dry rocks. Like all things, there will be a time of renewal, but it will require a return of normal moisture before that can happen.

Slate Creek is a small stream in the central regions of the Black Hills not far from Hill City. It also suffers somewhat from stream flow fluctuations due to drought. Brookies and brown trout are the treats anglers hope to catch in this stream. The fish aren't usually really big, but they can be fun, and the scenery is awesome.

There are other, smaller streams in the Black Hills that hold trout, mostly brookies. The streams that flow on the northeastern and eastern edges of the Black Hills have been hard hit by the drought. Many are currently dry, but many have good brookie fishing in the upper regions of their watersheds. When average flows return and the fish repopulate the streams, the fishing should be great again.

I didn't include the rivers in my area for a reason. Most of the access is difficult or impossible because they flow through private land. I have fished some of them and enjoyed smallmouth bass and carp fishing for some big fish. I kept my comments to the streams that flow through public land where access is public and easy. I also gave you a slice of the flavor of our prairie ponds. You'll have to discover the rest when you visit my area. I invite you to try them, my home waters. I also invite you to tell me about your home waters. I'm looking forward to it. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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