Madison River Fishing Report

Catching trout on the Madison River

May 4, 2022

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.


Big snow lately has led us to a snowpack that is 95% of normal. This is incredible news after a rather lackluster winter. Spring fishing continues to be excellent!

Ennis, Montana Weather

Mild conditions with slight chances of rain are expected the next few days before a new low pressure system moves over the valley over the weekend. Winds have been come in from all directions as of late.

Madison River Flows

Very low. Runoff is still a ways out.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Midges and BWOs dominate the hatches. Look for overcast and calm days for the best hatch conditions. The further up river you go, the better it gets. Fish the slicks with small parachute adams or gnat. Mid-late morning is best. Skwalla stoneflies should still be around and there are some big trout that like to aggressively take them with a subtle twitch. Stonefly and caddis nymphs will become more and more active as water temperature increase.

Fishing Techniques

Girdle bug and a midge/egg/worm if you're nymphing. Small shiny stuff will work too. There will a point here in the coming weeks where it almost doesn't matter what it is for the rainbows. #18-20 adams or gnat if you're trying to imitate the small insects. A #12 attractor pattern in a dark color is good for the skwalla.

  • FKA Prince
  • Lil Spankers
  • Lightning Bugs
  • Girdle bugs
  • Worms
  • Globugs
Dry Flies
  • Griffith's Gnat
  • Purple Haze
  • Parachute Blue Wing Olive
  • #12 Chubbies
  • 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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