Madison River Fishing Report

Catching trout on the Madison River

May 24, 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.


Spring is in full effect with afternoon thunderstorms and some significant runoff lately. Fishing is tough other than above West Fork Bridge.

Ennis, Montana Weather

Rain is highly likely each afternoon for the time being. Winds have been steady out of the south with the occasional burst from the west as the thunderheads move in. We're looking at 60s and 70s for the long term.

Madison River Flows

High and dangerous. Floating below the bridges above Palisades is no recommended due to clearance. The river is fully blown out, especially in the lower reaches. Northwestern Energy will release a significant amount of water on May 26 to clear out sediment in spawning areas. This is a good thing, but the river will be treacherous and may close.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Caddis, Midges, BWOs and Skwala stoneflies are still on the menu. Lots of nymph activity is occurring below the surface as well. Caddis have been popping off near town, but that will hit a whole other level with the weather on the way.

Fishing Techniques

Fish up high. It's not worth it lower. Nymph some heavy flies to get it down. Streamers along flooded banks are another option.

  • Girdle bugs
  • Prince nymphs
  • Perdigons
  • Lightning bugs
  • Small mayfly beads
Dry Flies
  • Griffith's Gnat
  • Water Walker
  • Parachute Adams
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Olive/White
  • Black/Olive
  • Olive
  • Black
  • Sparkle minnow

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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