Madison River Fishing Report

Catching trout on the Madison River

September 20, 2023

Thank you for checking out our most recent upper Madison River fishing report. It is our goal to keep this page updated on a regular basis to serve as a resource for those of you planning your visit to Montana. Please refer to the information below consisting of fishing techniques, fly patterns, Madison River flows and the weather in Ennis, Montana. We encourage you to give us a call for more information not detailed in our fishing report.


Fall is here tomorrow with a quick but and chilly rain storm to end the week. Fishing has been very good lately, especially for brown trout.

Ennis, Montana Weather

Expect the wind to shift to the north and some wet conditions for the next couple days. After that it looks like we'll be back to some very pleasant weather conditions to end the month.

Madison River Flows

Flows are excellent and stable for September. The river is in great shape.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Hoppers and ants might be coming to an end shortly, but fish should still be interested in them for a little bit after this storm clears. Some bigger caddis should start to pop! Blue Winged Olives are showing up around the ranch as well.

Fishing Techniques

Nymphing has been very productive using small bugs in the #16-18 range. Small prince nymphs, lightning bugs and various pheasant tails have been most favored. The streamer bite has picked up as well, with fish keying in on olive/white during the sunny days. You'll likely need to go darker with the clouds moving into the valley.

  • Girdle bugs
  • Prince nymphs
  • Worms
  • Perdigons
  • Frenchies
  • Lil Spankers
  • Various small mayfly beads
Dry Flies
  • Hoppers
  • Ants
  • Water Walkers
  • Chubbies
  • Parachute Adams
  • Olive/White
  • Black/Olive
  • Olive
  • Black
  • Sparkle minnow
Picture of Montana angler with madison river flies

Madison River Flies (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 fly shop at MVR

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.

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