If you can find a river that has been written about more, we would indeed be surprised. Even with all the press – and more user days than any other Montana river – the “Maddy” holds her own. Flowing between the Madison and Gravelly ranges, the 100 mile riffle boasts reliable hatches of caddis, stoneflies, mayflies and of course – hoppers. Through great efforts of our areas biologists and ranchers, the shock of whirling disease that struck in the 90’s is definitely a thing of the past. Current surveys are suggesting numbers in the 3,000 to 4,000 fish per mile range. Incidentally, our catches average more than 50% rainbows on any given day, not to mention some really large ones! We think that the Madison is back, and better than ever.
The Madison river fishes well year-round, and some of the “better” times to fish are the early spring and fall. While the glory hatches like the Mothers Day Caddis, and the Salmonflies of June and July are most definitely worth the trip, one shouldn’t overlook this river and its tendency to put a bend in your fly rod.
With few exceptions, we suggest any angler on their first trip to the Madison use the services of a guide.The wading on this river is difficult, with the lower end below Valley Garden being the easiest on the ankles and knees. Floating brings a whole new perspective to the river. You will be able to fish water that is impossible to reach for the wading angler.
A day on the Madison for us starts with a breathtaking drive through two historic ghost-towns, over the southern foothills of the Tobacco Root range and down into the Madison Valley. After the mornings fishing, a riverside lunch in the open prairie of the west offers scenery unmatched by any restaurant we’ve ever been in. One of those “you have to see it to believe it” types of things that only Montana can offer.
Madison River History
The Madison River is one of the most notable fly fishing rivers in the United States. Starting in Yellowstone Park, the river travels northwestward, towards Ennis Lake, into Beartrap Canyon, and then northward where it joins with the Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers, where the Missouri River is formed.
Lewis and Clark named the river after James Madison, President Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State who later became the fourth president of the United States.