Madison River Fishing Report

Catching trout on the Madison River

September 24, 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.


Amazing early fall conditions lately here in the Madison Valley with cool mornings giving way to warm days. Dry fly fishing has subsided a bit, but the nymphs and streamers are working well. Low water conditions continue, but the fish don't seem to mind, especially in the afternoon.

Ennis, Montana Weather

A slight cool down next week, but the weather forecast looks absolutely stunning for a while. The breeze has come and gone depending on the day, but that's the Madison Valley for you!

Madison River Flows

Low. Boney. But still just fine for floating and fish health. Bigger boats have a tougher time between Storey and Town compared to rafts.

Water Level Graph for USGS Station 06038800

Madison River Hatches

Sparse mayflies and tiny caddis throughout the day. There have been some impressive flying ants on warm, calm evenings. Hoppers have waned quite a bit, but they're eating them along with various attractor patterns in the latter half of the day.

Fishing Techniques

The mornings have been slower and most productive using nymphs. Small mayfly nymphs, small-medium size girdle bugs and worms have been reliable. With flows so low you can get away with a dry/dropper, especially if you target the water surrounding the shallow gravel bars. The afternoon dry fly bite is hanging in there but it's moving away from terrestrials as we speak. Streamer fishing has been really good. Black, olive, white and even yellow are all great options. A slow presentation in the morning is appropriate and you can speed things up once it warms up.

  • 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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