Madison River

Madison River Brown Trout

The Madison is another river that gets it's start deep in Yellowstone National Park and flows generally north toward Three Forks where it joins the Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers to form the Missouri River. Along the way it cruises by West Yellowstone, Ennis and in the lower section enters the Gallatin Valley close to Bozeman. It is slowed along the way by two dams creating Hebgen and Ennis Reservoirs, and also by Quake Lake which was formed by an earthquake in 1959. The Madison Mountain Range, home to Big Sky, flanks the river to the east as it flows through the Madison Valley and provides one of the more picturesque backdrops you'll ever have while you're busy catching trout.

The Maddy, as she's know by the locals, has made an amazing rebound from the whirling disease impact of the early '90s and is fishing better than ever. The '50 mile riffle' section above Ennis is one of the most heavily fished waters in the state for good reason - it's chock full of hungry brown and rainbow trout that love to eat stoneflies, spruce moths and grasshoppers all day long. The lower Madison below Ennis Reservoir and Beartrap Canyon is a fantastic early and late season fishery during the baetis and caddis hatches, but during the summer months the water's too hot and the tuber crowd from Bozeman takes over the river.  Now if you're looking for a bikini hatch, this is the place to be!  

Fishing Seasons and Techniques

The Madison River is a year-round fishery and can often produce well in the late winter and early spring, especially the lower end closer to Bozeman, Montana with midges and baetis. The post run-off summer and fall seasons are the highlight here, as the stonefly hatches above Ennis are what dreams are made of. Salmonflies and golden stoneflies will come off in amazing numbers for a couple of weeks beginning in late June or early July to kick things off, and it only gets better from there.  The caddis and mayfly hatches will carry things through the summer, along with the spruce moth hatch, until the trout start keying in on terrestrials.

The Madison is the most heavily recreated river in Montana, so it is not necessarily a place to get a lot of solitude in the prime fishing season, but if you come at the right time and fish with a great guide who knows the river well, you can still find solid fishing and some elbow room for yourself.