Madison River Fishing Report by Madison Valley Ranch 3.19.21
By angelamontana

Posted: March 22, 2021

Spring has sprung in the Madison Valley, but a winter storm looms on the horizon bringing cooler temps and hopefully a lot of snow. The upper river has come to life in recent days. It’s definitely hit or miss throughout the day, but floating the river in March is a blessing so enjoy!

Ennis, Montana Weather

A strong, but variable low pressure system moves in today with snow, rain and wind in the long term forecast. We can expect a bit of everything over the course of the next 7 days. It’s still ski season so chance of a powder day takes precedence over fishing. There will be some plenty of fishing opportunities, especially if it’s calm and overcast.

Madison River Flows

Low, low, low. The upper Madison River flows are very skinny right now and we don’t expect much of a change until May.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Fishing Techniques

Nymphing, as always, is going to get the numbers. Fishing nymphs in the A+ water can yield some fantastic fishing for rainbow trout. We fished sculpin patterns yesterday with very limited success. We haven’t done much in the way of dry fly fishing, but you can count on the sections further south to have some heads popping up in the slicks.

  • #16-18 Red Copper John
  • #18 Zebra midge
  • #4-6 Girdle Bug
  • Worms
  • #12-18 Prince Nymphs
  • #16 Psycho Prince
  • #18 Serendipity
Dry Flies
  • #16-18 Parachute Adams
  • #18-20 BWOs
  • #18-22 Midges
  • Natural color sculpin patterns
  • Small flashy Clouser Minnows

Best Flies for the Madison River (Year-Round)

To simplify things, you can expect Madison River trout to eat just about every classic trout pattern ever tied depending on the time of year. Known for prolific stonefly, caddis, mayfly and midge hatches, the trout of the Madison aren’t as picky as other rivers. If you get the size and color right, chances are they’ll eat it so long as you have the correct presentation. Certainly there are some local secrets, but if you stock up on the basics you should be just fine!

  • Prince Nymph (#10-18)
  • Lightning Bugs (#12-18)
  • Hare’s Ear (#12-18
  • Pat’s Rubberlegs (#4-12)
  • Serendipity (#16-20)
  • Copper John (#12-18)
  • Worms & Eggs
Dry Flies
  • Parachute Adams (#12-18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#12-16)
  • Stimulators (#6-12)
  • Water Walkers (#6-12)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (#18-20)
  • Comparaduns (#14-18)
  • Hoppers & Ants
  • Wooly Buggers (#2-8)
  • Zonkers
  • Bow River Bugger
  • Sheila Sculpin
  • Trevor’s Sculpin
  • Sparkle Minnows
  • Dali Lama

Madison River Fishing Gear

A 5 or 6 WT fly rod is ideal for most fly fishing situations on the Madison River. The Madison Valley can be a breezy place and with such a wide river it can help to have a little extra power in your cast. We tend to prefer fast action fly rods for this reason. Your fly line is arguably more important than your fly rod though. Half size heavy weight forward floating lines are the ideal compliment to a modern fast action rod.

A slow action 3-5 WT certainly has its time and place on this river, especially during the caddis, midge and BWO hatches. 7 WT rods are commonly fished with short sink-tip fly lines and big streamers. They also come in handy during the salmonfly hatch when you’re casting a 3″ long foam body dry fly.

Breathable waders and sturdy boots are often a necessity during the spring and fall months. Your best soles for traction are felt with carbide tipped studs. Be aware that many Madison River fly fishing guides do not allow studs in their boats. It is rare that waders are required between June 15-September 15. During these months, some lightweight boots or water shoes/sandals are preferred.

Above all else, quality clothing and accessories for all types of weather are essential for staying comfortable during the day. Montana can throw just about any type of weather your way so be prepared with a well thought out layering system to handle the often cold mornings and warm afternoons.

For more information on Madison Valley Ranch, click here.

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