Madison River Fishing Report

Catching trout on the Madison River

May 14, 2024

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.


Winter is finally out the door and spring is in full effect. Runoff has begun due to the West Fork of the Madison River. It will be a rough couple of days before the fish settle in. They should adapt just fine once this initial spike in flows levels off.

Ennis, Montana Weather

Wet and cool today, then warm temperatures through the end of the week. Looks like another rainy few days will return towards the end of the long range forecast.

Madison River Flows

Flows have bumped 600 CFS over the last few days. It's pretty chilly out here right now, so they may level off overnight before bumping again when it warms back up. The next storm might slow it down again but it's on the up-and-up. Hebgen Dam hasn't budged much, meaning most of the flow increase is from the West Fork.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Lots of caddis, BWOs and march browns, with a few skwalas mixed in.

Fishing Techniques

It's tough out there right now. Girdle bugs and worms for the most part. Dark streamers are a good option as well. The fish should start to push out into the soft water as they settle into the conditions. Don't underestimate runoff. The trout still gotta eat!

  • Girdle bugs
  • Prince nymphs
  • Worms
  • 20 incher
Dry Flies
  • Parachute Adams
  • Griffith's Gnat
  • Chubby
  • Waterwalker
  • Black/Olive
  • Olive
  • Black
  • Anything that looks like a sculpin
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.

Check out other waters we fish