Madison River report: Montana fly fishing

Our pal Warren Moran sent us this report from the Madison River.

This is my ninth trip to the Madison River in the last ten years. The good news is that things haven’t changed much up here. Just a few more trophy homes and maybe a few more “sports” on the water. The Madison, also know as the “50 mile riffle” is a fast, highly productive, high gradient stream that originates in Yellowstone NP about 30-40 miles up-stream. High fish concentrations seem to be from Quake to Lyons (fish average 16″). My favorite water is the stretch between the Slide Inn and $3 Bridge. Floating this section is a great way to beat the crowds since fishing from a boat is prohibited (meaning that guides largely ignore this stretch). Pontoons work great.

We camped at Beaver Creek CG above Quake Lake this year and were rewarded with a wildlife show. Moose, brown bear, bighorn all around camp made for interesting camping. Maybe a bit too interesting – it’s always good to have a few well armed friends from Texas in camp.

Bear Warning

Hatches this year were about 2 weeks behind schedule due to late rain and colder than normal temps. We arrived to find salmon flies and golden stones in abundance with fish looking up. The Madison fishes great on sunny bright days so don’t miss the middle of the day. Evening caddis hatches can be epic this time of year (#16 chocolate, olive X-caddis).

This week big browns and bows killed drys in the fast current 6-10 feet off the bank. Hot flies were size 2 cat puke and foam body GS. We’re talking 2-3 inch dry flies here. Big bugs are over now (until hopper time) but it’s always a good idea to check with Kelly Galloup or John at the Slide Inn for the local favorites. We’ve stayed here for years and they’re good guys. Buy a few flies and fish down stream from the Slide for a good time. They might even let you drink whiskey and smoke cigars on the front porch.

This aint Texas


Gray drakes were starting to show later in the week. Kelly recommended a #14 adams with a #18 lightning bug dropper. It worked. The adams took about 1/2 of the fish with this set up. Other caddis pupa droppers worked about as well. Wade wet and fish upstream within a foot of the bank. 90% of the people that fish this river make the mistake of standing in the water – big mistake. On anther note – I managed to fish properly all week (Moon would be proud) until 10 minutes before the end – just had to land one “mountain bone fish” on the trip. And I did.

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2 Responses to Madison River report: Montana fly fishing

  1. derf64 says:

    thank you for sharing the inspiration!
    be well!

  2. Andy Rank says:

    Sounds like standard Montana fly fishing fun.

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