Madison River, Hoot Owl, Montana, Fly Fishing, Montana Fly Fishing

July 2021
Updated 7/21/2021

Hoot Owl restrictions have been implemented on the Upper Madison. Anglers are now restricted from fishing between 2 p.m. and midnight each day for the entire reach of the Madison from the mouth to the boundary with Yellowstone National Park.

With Hoot Owl still in mind, our forecasted air temperatures and current river flows have us optimistic. Fires are still burning throughout the West, visibility remains low in the Madison Valley. Fish seem to be responding to the lower-light conditions as we have seen some big ones pulled out on streamers and lots of smaller fish on top. Traffic on the Madison has been higher than normal as many of the nearby rivers have enforced fishing restrictions and closures before the Madison has. Please, let’s all be courteous to each other out there, continue to get fish in the net as quickly as possible and keep them wet so that we can keep enjoying the amazing resource that is the Madison River.

Fishing reports have been mixed over the last week, but if you can get out early try running the hopper dropper setup along the banks. #10 Pink and tan Thunder Thighs, Sweetgrass, and Rainy’s Hoppers are my go-tos. 3X tippet to a Peacock Perdigon, Lil’ Spanker, or Lightning Bug should do the trick underneath. The flying ant is another wise choice; try it behind the hopper or on its own.

As the water warms up throughout the day, try moving out to the center and fishing any of the deeper buckets or seams. A well placed sculpin or bugger with a beadhead trailer might just motivate them to grab an easy meal. I like the Mini Loop or just a standard black woolly bugger, #6-8.

There are still a variety of caddis and mayflies hatching, and you will see fish sipping in the slow water along the banks and slicks behind boulders. The Mini Chubbies, Neversink Caddis, Purple Haze, and PMDs could all be easily mistaken for food by a sipping trout.

PSA: Head into the shop and pick up a thermometer - and use it! Remember, once the water temperature creeps past 65F, trout are FEELING it. If you feel the need to take pictures, get creative with the underwater shots, and remember to pull over to some soft water to give that fish a nice long breather with its head facing upstream before taking any photos.

- MRFC Guide Mariah Kalmon