March 2nd, 2020 -
It’s starting to feel like the beginning of springtime around the Madison Valley. With days getting into the 40 degrees range more and more activity is being seen on the water. Fish are starting to get a little more energy and are looking for food to fill up on after the cold months. Unlike the heart of winter fishing, you are starting to hook fish in a little faster water. You still want to be looking for big buckets and trenches where fish will be holding without much energy, but also fish any seams and riffles that look fishy. They are starting to move around a little more searching for food instead of podding up and hoping food finds them.
Nymphs are still the best ticket if you want to touch a fish while you are out there. Girdle Bugs and Pat’s rubber legs (a.k.a. Turds) are the most effective flies if you’re looking to be on the safer side with your fly choices. Other stonefly patterns like a Mega Prince or 20 incher are very effective as a top fly with smaller midges being used as a trailer.
Zebra midges are a great midge pattern that fish love during the colder months. Three dollar dips, serendipity's and shop vac’s are other great choices. Worms often get overlooked in the winter, but if you present a worm to a fish even if they haven’t seen one in awhile they will gobble it up. Another fly that has been getting some decent action is the perdigon nymph, this is a great simple attractor nymph that comes in a variety of colors that works very well as a trailer fly.
Experiment with different patterns and sizes; the key proper presentation of your fly to the fish. Proper depth of your flies and line control are the key factors to be considering when fishing during the winter months, if you are not getting the fly in the right water column the fish aren’t going to see it. Same with making sure you are mending your line correctly and getting drifts that present the fly to the fish naturally and doesn't look fishy (no pun intended) to them.
Dry fly fishing can still be a valid option if you are in the right place at the right time. BWO’s are a very common hatch you will encounter out on the water this time of year. These bug’s will hatch on any type of day, usually during the warmest part. Same with small midges especially up river farther you can come across some epic dry fly hatches and if the fish are keying in on them it could be just as epic as a caddis hatch in mid summer. These are very tiny bugs so fishing smaller sizes from 18 to 24 can be hard to keep on eye on your fly so I would recommend patterns with Hi Viz on the back or with parachutes or posts so you can keep on eye on your fly with more ease. My favorite dry fly pattern for winter dries is the Griffith's gnat. It matches most small flies you would come across such as BWO’s and gnats. Also Parachute Adams are another fly that will cover most hatches of winter flies.
Streamers are going to be the toughest to actually catch a fish on but if you present one right in front of a fish they could take a swipe at it. Fish aren’t quite aggressive enough or have the energy to really move that far for food. Smaller wooly buggers and sculpin patterns such as a Sculpzilla or the Smoke and Mirrors from Dirty Water Fly Co. There is still a chance to sting a pig or have a day with lots of action but for consistent catching of fish streamers are probably the last option.
Boat Ramp Conditions (last updated 3/3/2020)
Raynolds - snow
Pine Butte - snow
Lyons - snow but pushable
Windy Point - small drift, passable
Palisades - bigger drift, couldn't pass
Ruby - good
McAtee - good
Varney - good
8 Mile - good
Burnt Tree - good
Town - good
Valley Garden - drift, still impassable
Check out our Madison River Fishing Report for the latest!