Catching trout on the Madison River

August 5, 2021

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.


What a summer we've had so far. The HOT, sunny, dry and calm conditions of July have eased slightly. A few powerful thunderstorms helped to break things up and keep water temperatures down. The river remains in fantastic condition despite the 2PM daily fishing closure. It is August and some patchy fishing is to be expected. One minute they aren't biting and then all of the sudden you'll hook several in a short period.

Ennis, Montana Weather

More thunderstorms in the immediate forecast with some lower temperatures expected over the next 10 days. Periods of cloudy conditions will help keep water temperatures down.

Madison River Flows

1,300 CFS is completely fine by our August standards. Fish are happy. Dry fly conditions are ideal.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Not much other than some tricos mid-morning. It's all about the terrestrials at the moment.

Fishing Techniques

Drifting San Juan worms and small flashy nymphs is most productive subsurface. Streamer bite has been excellent on the most overcast of days. Flashy buggers fished hard can turn some nice fish otherwise. Hopper and nocturnal dry fly fishing is great at times, especially after lunch

  • FKA Prince
  • Lil Spankers
  • Lightning Bugs
  • Girdle bugs
  • Worms
Dry Flies
  • Water walkers
  • Chubbies
  • Micro chubbies
  • Parachute mayflies
  • Ants
  • Olive/White
  • Black/Olive
  • Crystal buggers

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
Picture of Montana angler with madison river flies

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.

Madison River fly shop at MVR
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