Fly Fishing Montana’s Madison River in March
It’s been a while since I’ve thrown a rod. I got in a redfish trip during January, but that was short-lived and only gave a little flavor sample of what that Florida fishery could be. So I bailed out earlier today and said screw-all to everything. I bought my 2010 Montana fishing license, grabbed a leader, a few Lightening Bugs and then sat down and whipped out about 10 egg patterns. Grabbed a few 16s and headed to the Madison.
I remember the Madison fishery about six years ago when I could walk from my house to the river and bang 10-to 20 fat, 16-to 20-inch fish in an afternoon. And I was hoping that would be the case today. But, as it’s been for a few years now, I didn’t find any of that former success. So, was it worth the effort, to lean into the wind and deal with a leaky right wader leg, and to throw several hundred casts into the blow? Are you kidding me?
The Madison, on a bad day, is still one of the Rocky’s greatest fisheries and I had a blast today, wandering the banks of the river, watching the whitetail deer and the eagles and the mallards and the porcupines, glancing up on occasion to see the snowcapped Lone Peak, Fan Mountain and Sphinx Mountain. Truthfully, it was just a treat to be outside today, away from the screen and the keyboard, letting the mind focus on fish…and nothing else.
A few years ago I would fish the river about 30 or 40 days during February and March and I never had to fish anything other than an egg imitaton as the lead fly and a Serendipity or a standard Pheasant-Tail Nymph as the trailer. I know some guys who banged them up with San Juans, but I never saw much success with the worm and always preferred the egg. And I still do. If you plan to fish the Madison this spring, and I think you should, bring a bunch of egg patterns, size-16 or 18 and not too puffy. Also bring some Brassies, Pheasant-Tails, Serendipities and Copper Johns. Thread midges in a variety of colors also work well. I like to place a bluish/metalic bead at the head of those patterns. Zebra Midges, with the silver wire segmentation also work well. Make sure to bring some indicators and small split-shot, too. You’ll want a nine-foot 4X leader and a couple spools of tippet, in 4X and 5X.
Make sure you know the regs before fishing the Madison. The area from McAtee Bridge to the town bridge in Ennis is open. Downstream from Ennis to Ennis Lake is closed. Below Ennis Lake, the Beartrap Canyon is open. One of the best places to camp is at Varney Bridge. Sweet spot, with lots of room for a fire and your late-night coyote screams aren’t going to bother anybody. If you’re in a more social mode, camp near town, just on the south and east side of the town bridge. You can walk to the bars from there…and home of course. Real Decoy offers a fair deal on dinner. The Silver Dollar also is a sweet spot with a good pool table and Rainiers.
Here are a few pics from the day, temptation for the rest of you to throw in the towel and say, what the hell, I’m doing it.