best Fly fishing in Montana

The best river near Bozeman, Montana

Diverse Fishing Options

Madison Valley Ranch, located in the heart of SW Montana, is just a cast away from some of the best Montana fly fishing there is. A short walk out our back door and you'll find world-class wade fishing in the famous “Channels” section of the upper Madison River.

Take a scenic drive and you can be fishing on Ennis Lake, the Big Hole River, Beaverhead River, Yellowstone River, Ruby River or Gallatin River. Venture off the beaten path to discover untouched Montana creeks, mountain lakes with cutthroat trout or challenging Montana spring creeks.

Upper Madison River

Probably the most recognized trout stream in the world. The Madison offers 130 miles of trout bearing water. Known for its amazing salmon fly hatch and great hopper fishing, the Madison offers the most consistent fishing of all the rivers we fish. This river is great for both wading and floating combinations. Whether you are a novice or seasoned pro, the Madison River will appeal to your angling desires.

Ennis Lake

Ennis Lake or locally referred to as Meadow Lake, is located just a couple miles downstream from Madison Valley Ranch. Towards the southern end of the lake you have the mouth of the upper Madison River. This area of the lake is extremely shallow (1-8' deep) with wide spread mud flats and channels created by the river's inflow. The lake gets deeper towards the northern end where it eventually flows out of the Ennis Dam and into the lower Madison River. It's shallow water, prolific mayfly hatches, abundant population of trout and susceptibility to windy conditions make Ennis Lake an amazing, but often times challenging fishery.

Evening fishing Ennis Lake.

Lower Madison River

The Lower Madison River begins below the Bear Trap Canyon and runs all the way to the Missouri River near Three Forks, Montana. This stretch is characterized by it's shallow depth, grassy bottom and abundant rainbow and brown trout. We typically fish the Lower Madison River during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Summer can be good, but we like to give the fish a break during warm water temperatures and recreational floaters. BWO hatches and the Mother's Day Caddis Hatch can offer some amazing dry fly fishing in April and May. September and October feature some great grasshopper activity and some thrilling streamer fishing.

Yellowstone River

The longest undammed trout stream on Earth. This classic freestone river is a great dry fly fishery with lots of gravel bars and deep eddies. The Yellowstone hosts big rainbow trout, plenty of browns and wonderful native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. This river is highly susceptible for prolonged runoff and big flows between from June and well into July. We love fishing it in the spring before runoff using midge and BWO patterns. Summer means good dry/dropper fishing using foam attractor patterns such as Chubby Chernobyls, Ants and grasshoppers. Fall is a perfect time to get your streamers down deep with a sinking line for some truly impressive trout.

Guide trip on the Yellowstone River.

Gallatin River

You've probably seen this river before in Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through it". This lengthy stream originates in the meadows of Yellowstone National Park and quickly gains speed as it tumbles through the boulder strewn canyon near Big Sky, Montana. It levels out near Bozeman as it meanders through various ranches on the way to it's confluence with the Missouri River near Three Forks, Montana. The Gallatin is a wade fisherman's dream with an extremely abundant population of rainbow trout willing to take all of the standard trout patterns. Girdle bugs always seem to be the hot fly on the Gallatin, however you can also expect a great spruce moth hatch during the summer months.

Fly fishing the Gallatin River

Ruby River

The Ruby River is a prized fishery for many anglers looking for a challenging stream with the potential for a large brown trout. The Upper Ruby River is almost entirely private, however the Lower Ruby River has some great wade only access. The nutrient rich water coming out of Ruby Reservoir produces a healthy diversity of midges, caddis, PMDs and even crane flies. The river is also an ideal spot for chucking bright colored streamers to some aggressive fish. As the river moves into the farms around Alder, Montana we tend get some great grasshopper activity and exciting takes from it's densely vegetated banks.

Big Hole River

This is a classic western trout stream. The Big Hole is loaded with drop-offs, gravel bars, and lots of structure. We do a lot of wading on this river and use the drift boats more for access than to fish from. The Big Hole is known as a brown trout fishery but it also provides your best chance at catching a grayling. The pre-runoff months of April and May offer fast fishing with variety of nymphs. Summer can be quite challenging on the Big Hole with low water often causing water temperatures that too high for trout. The cooler temperatures of fall quickly help in boosting the trout's metabolism, which makes the streamer fishing incredible at times.

Beaverhead River

This river offers great opportunities for healthy brown trout. It can be the most challenging river we fish due to its smaller size and finicky fish. An experienced guide is a must! The Beaverhead is not ideal for the beginner but can be well worth the effort. This river fishes similarly to the Big Hole throughout the year, with Fall being our preferred season. Much like the Big Hole, bright yellow and olive streamer patterns can be deadly.

Jefferson River

You might get skunked here. You might also catch a huge brown trout. The Jefferson River is finicky and we only recommend it for those that are okay with its unpredictable nature. It is best fished in the spring and fall, with summer being too warm. This is the river you want to throw a big streamer pattern on. It runs through gorgeous farm country though and is home to an abundant population of migratory birds and various ungulates.

Private Spring Creeks in Montana

In southwest Montana there are a variety of great private water spring creeks we fish. Based on your fishing goals, we will help you determine the best creek to fish during your stay. Milesnicks, Depuys, Armstrong, and Nelsons all provide great mayfly and midge hatches throughout the year. Midges and BWOs highlight the spring. PMDs can be found in July. Small mayflies in the fall. The water temperatures in these spring creeks varies slightly regardless of the time of year, so fishing them is always a dependable option!

Private spring creek access in Montana

Yellowstone National Park

YNP is the pinnacle of a fly fishing playground. There is so much in the way of fishable water that it's nearly impossible to fish it all. The park has everything from tiny creeks to massive lakes. Closest to MVR, near the West Yellowstone entrance are the Gibbon, Firehole and Madison River, all known for exceptional fishing. Dumping into these rivers are numerous tributaries that are home to a wide variety of trout and animal species, including grizzly bears. On the other side you have the infamous waters of the Lamar River and Slough Creek. That's only touching the surface on what Yellowstone National Park has to offer for fly fishing though.

Fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park
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