Madison River


Insect hatches on the Madison are similar to those found throughout the Rockies, with some variations in time. Spring Baetis or "Blue Winged Olives" kick it off sometime in later March or early April. The first significant hatches of these mayflies appear on the Lower Madison and work their way upstream through the entire river system. We usually see some very good dry fly action on the Lower Madison during this hatch. Cloudy and generally crappy weather conditions tends to produce the best BWO hatches and the best surface activity.

The "Mother's Day Caddis" is the next big event in the natural world. It is predictable and prolific, usually beginning right around the end of April or early May depending on weather conditions. This hatch is most predictable on the Lower Madison where we like to spend as many evenings as possible while this hatch is happening. Once the sun goes off the water, the big fish will often begin to rise. In recent years however, we have been seeing these same prolific hatches of Spring Caddis on the Upper Madison also. Best action occurring from Varney Bridge down to Ennis Lake. 

The Upper Madison has a decent March Brown hatch that seems to have increased in recent years. This tends to be about a 2-3 week hatch in early to mid-May. Although not really known as a Skwalla river, the Madison does have Skwalla stoneflies and this hatch also seem to be proliferating in recent years. The tan rubberleg nymphs pretty much always produce, but we also occasionally have some good Skwalla dry fly fishing too.

Spring runoff usually comes to Montana and the Madison sometime in the Month of May. The timing and intensity of the runoff varies widely over time depending on a number of weather related factors. Although the river levels will often rise significantly, we usually have good nymph fishing throughout most of this period each year. By late June the runoff is usually well on its way to subsiding and the river is clearing daily.

Don't Miss It


Grab your rod and reel and head to the Madison River valley for a spectacle unlike anywhere else in the world.

Madison River Salmon Fly hatch

Dropping and clearing water gives way to "The Hatch."  The most significant event in the natural world of Trout is unquestionably the annual Madison River Salmon Fly hatch. These giant stoneflies are found on many of our rivers, but the intensity of the hatch and the nature of the fishing during the hatch can vary widely. It usually begins around June 25th on the Madison and last for 2-3 weeks or more as it works its way up-river to the Slide area. On the Upper Madison the Salmon Flies also hatch concurrently with a prolific hatch of giant Golden Stones. Sometime the best dry action will be had by using the slightly smaller Golden Stone patterns instead of the Sammies. This is a great time on the Madison and it's a spectacle that all anglers should witness at least once. In addition, it's the one time of year when you know every big fish in the river will rise to a dry fly!! We have see some true giants on the big bug over the years.

After the Sammy hatch we ease into the mid-summer period on the Madison. This tends to be the most popular time of year for traveling anglers, probably due to the excellent climate and wether of the Rocky Mountains in the summertime. Fishing is consistently good too. We will have good hatches of PMD's, Yellow Sallies, and Caddis during July. Then the next big thing starts to happen with the emergence of the Nocturnal Golden Stones. This large stonefly hatches at night, and the males have a mutated wing so they don't fly. You won't typically see very many of the adults, but you will see many shucks left behind each morning on the stream bank and river rocks. This hatch brings fish up to the Chubbies and also offers some good nymph fishing. By mid to late August the Nocturnal Golden hatch is waning and we come into a relatively hatchless time of year for aquatic insects. This is when the terrestrials come into play.

Though once a great hopper river, the trout of the Madison don't respond to hoppers like they once did. However, flying ants are another story. There are genuine Flying Ant hatches that are awesome to witness. These little bugs will drive trout crazy like few other things. It is not easy to predict exactly when and where these hatches will occur, but generally they will happen on late August and early September afternoons whe it is pretty warm and muggy. Often following or preceding thunderstorms. These bugs hatch from trees so the best action is usually in the reach of the Madison from the first cottonwood trees downstream to Ennis Lake. Trust me, you don't want to get caught in a Madison River flying ant hatch without the right flies!! Fish will rise with abandon for these little morsels.