Catching trout on the Madison River

Upper Madison River Report

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.

April 19, 2021

Spring in Montana is here with considerably warmer temperatures and windy conditions lately. Fishing remains excellent as it usually is this time of the year. Wade fishing offers the best opportunity for anglers, though it sure is nice to float the river right now. BWOs, midges and skwalla stoneflies are the ticket. Look for calm overcast days for the best dry fly fishing.

Ennis, Montana Weather

It's snowy and cold out there this morning. This system should be short lived we'll slowly warm back up over the course of this week. Pesky north winds continue to keep the region cool and can be problematic for fishing, so look out.

Madison River Flows

Flows on the upper Madison river remain low, but there is plenty of water out there. Just keep your head up because there are some rocks out there that normally don't pose a threat to the fiberglass!

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Fishing Techniques

#18-20 BWO or midge patterns are working when fish are poking their heads up. Small #12-16 chubby patterns in dark colors will suffice for skwallas. Nymph wise, don't think too hard about it. Girdle bugs should be in heavy rotation. A #8 is a great size right now. You can trail that with a variety of small flashy nymphs or just another girdle bug. Eggs and worms should work too.

Madison River Hatches

Lots of BWOs coming off over the weekend when the conditions aligned. Expect the midges to be with them. Reynolds Pass to Pine Butte is your best bet for fishing the small dries in the slick water. Skwallas on the Madison River are nothing like they are on the rivers to the north, but if you know where to go and how to fish them it can be a fun way to trigger some aggressive takes. Below Varney Bridge is your best bet for finding these elusive stoneflies.

Nymphs
  • #16-18 Red Copper John
  • #18 Zebra midge
  • #4-6 Girdle Bug
  • Worms
  • #12-18 Prince Nymphs
  • #16 Psycho Prince
  • #18 Serendipity
Dry Flies
  • #16-18 Parachute Adams
  • #18-20 BWOs
  • #18-22 Midges
  • #12 Delektable Chubbiness
  • #14 Chubby Chernobyl
Streamers
  • Natural color sculpin patterns
  • Small flashy Clouser Minnows

Best Flies for the Madison River (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!

Nymphs
  • 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
Streamers
  • 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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