Beginner Tenkara Fishing in the Black Hills, SD

There are trout in South Dakota. Also bison and mountain pine beetles. In the second week of May 2017, there were few people. Empty, but for a few early season tourists. In town, all things were winding down by 7:00 pm and tucked in by 8:00, even on Saturday. Thankfully, the waters contain plentiful and active populations of browns, brookies and rainbows. The creeks are just the right size to try tenkara (a method of angling used in Japanese mountain streams). Year-round tenkara fishing on scenic creeks is possible for beginners with a basic kit and introductory knowledge. Spearfish Creek in the Black Hills National Forest and Grace Coolidge Creek in Custer State Park are only two of many options in the area. A 12 foot rod (no reel) and a fly on the line brought a good number of fish to the net. For the first time, I caught trout on my own – using my own equipment and finding fishy water without a guide. I used a reverse hackle wet fly or kebari and a big dry fly as a strike indicator.  I didn’t succeed in securing flies to the tippet every time, must practice at improving that ‘improved clinch knot’. Over two days in the southwest corner of South Dakota, I began to learn how this pastime works. I had entered a world of repeated motions and details that reminded me of escaping into a well-written story.  Lift the rod – pause – cast – drift the fly.  Watch the fly. Watch foam, riffles and pools. Mend the line.  Good structure along that bank. Feel the wind – pause – cross the creek.  Don’t spook the fish. Lift the rod. Pause. Mending, mending, always mending. Set the hook. Nice fish! Catch and release. A brook trout’s pink dots and blue halos fade. A westerly wind travels through the canyon. I lift my arm for another cast.

Fishing Spearfish Creek

Fishing Grace Coolidge Creek

Tenkara USA


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