Upper Madison Fishing Report
After a couple weeks of dirty water below the West Fork, the Upper Madison has been back to fishing great again. The trout are hungry and on the feed. A stripped streamer, double nymph rig, or heck even a chubby-dropper set up in the fast pocket water should turn heads. Focus on cover during the high sun, either structure like logs and boulders, depth such as choppy 3-4 feet of fast fast walking pace water is what to look for. Not the frog water of winter, nor the fast water of summer. Somewhere in between right now. Salmonflies on the Henry's Fork, look for them around Ennis somewhere mid to late June. Get ready!
We fished up here yesterday, from Varney to Burnt Tree. We had about 8 inches of visability. A huge change from the weekend. Threw the dark big streamers, and found a quality brown trout that aggresively chased it down. A few more flashes throughout the day, they wanted to eat it, IF they could see it. Make sure to cover the water thouroughly with the lack of visability. When the clouds filtered in over the weekend, the dry fly bite was decent. Caddis, march browns, and a left over skwala were all spotted. It is supposed to cool down a bit this week, slowing the mud influx. A good idea would be to head up above the West fork (Just above Lyon's Bridge) to find "less dirty" water. It still won't be clear, but it should be fishable, hopefully at least a foot of visability. Go dark and flashy with the flies, anything that will help the fish see them. Between the lakes should be clear also. I love fishing up here this time of year, trying to force that big dryfly bight tight to the bank in the pocket water.
The Upper has been getting a lot of attention this Spring, and for good reason. The fishing has been consistent throughout the entire stretch. BIG WORD OF CAUTION, please tread lightly around polished gravel. Plainly put, we avoid these areas because this is where the trout eggs are laid so we don't want to trample on them. Also, fish may be seen in these shallow water areas, but by fishing towards them we are distracting them from "getting their freak on" and fertilizing the next generation of trout. Tyler fished here yesterday, around Cameron, and had most trout fall for a light colored stonefly and also had some great BWO emerger action in the afternoon.
Not too much has changed since last week over here. The dry fly fishing continues to improve on the upper reaches. The snow is still pretty deep in parts so be ready to work for it a bit. A parachute adams in size 18 did the trick, if they are being picky try an emerger pattern such as a smoke jumper or bigger dry to support a zebra midge down below. Still icy and sketchy around Ennis, we did wet a line and catch a few fish, but things are running much more true to form this year, at least a month behind what they were the past couple years. For now I would fish farther upstream and let Mother Nature run its course with the ice from town to the lake. Seeing the river right now really shows how all those braids and buckets can change with the ice. Excited to see the Valley Garden area later this Spring!
A hot spot if you wanna go search for rising fish. Best case scenario is mid morning while the wind is down, midges will start coming off and fish will be up on them. We have had more luck with this by heading farther south, say south of Cameron. A bit more warmer weather will be needed to melt some more ice around Ennis for now, still pretty sketchy there.
The shop staff has been putting a lot of day off time in this direction lately. Things are changing fast on the Upper Madison. The ice issue is still pretty crazy around Ennis down to the lake, but upstream of 8-mile is fishable. Varney Bridge? Yep. If dry fly fishing is what you want, now is the time to head toward the Upper reaches of this valley. A day at $3 Bridge this week provided us with many fish looking up toward the surface, both in the cloud cover and the sun. The mornings have been less windy, allowing more midges to pod up on the surface of the water. I like to get to a run, pause and look for noses. Dry fly fish the run, then before moving on, dredge some nymphs to catch a couple more before moving on. Smaller stonefly nymphs, worms and midge or baetis droppers all took fish. In general the fishing still seemed much more winter-like rather than spring-like. Lets keep hoping for some more snow.
Gnarly ice jams from Ennis Lake clear up to above 8-mile boat ramp. It'g gonna be one of those years where Mother Nature works her magic to reform the channels and create some new water perhaps as the ice melts. Making the drive to $3 would be worth it, plenty of open ice-free water and hungry trout feeding in the pocket water. Plan on nymphing your standard winter bugs, but it might be worth keeping an extra rod rigged with a dry fly for the sporadic cluster of rising fish. Often times this situation can come and go very fast, so being ready with a second rod will help you take advantage if the heads come up.
If I have all day to fish, this is my spot. The upper madison offers something for everyone. Fast pocket from the outlet of Quake down to about Ruby Campground can be awesome with heavy nymph rigs. Get the flies down to where the fish are since the pockets of slower water are often small and short, it is important to do what you have to do to get your flies down in a short amount of time. Varney down to Ennis, could find you tagged with a bigger brown trout if you put the time in with the streamer rod. My best advice is to keep changing color until you find what turns them on. The sun has favored white and tan for us lately. The big fish are there, but they do not come easy. Earn it, and get a little lucky. The guys pulling big fish put in hours and hours often days and weeks hunting that one big Fall time wild brown trout. As we get later into spawning season, the lines are often blurred when it comes ot ethics. Personally, I will aviod shallow mid sized gravel, always watching my step for lighter colored river bottom spots, indicating redds, or "fish nests". Fish your streamers, but maybe back off the shelves in deeper water to fish not actively trying to produce the next generation of trout.
You can have it all on the Upper Madison right now, from streamer fishing, to headhunting, and of course nymphing. From fast pocket water in the upper wade stretch to floating and pounding the banks with big articulated streamers, the variety on this section of water makes for a fun trip. My personal favorite is hunting rising fish around $3 bridge. BWO hatches will happen, but be warned the fish are smart up in this section. Longer leaders with an accurate cast is important.
1,200 cfs (at Cameron)
Lots of pressure on this river right now being the middle of guide season and the middle of summer. But, once again, get out there early, stay out late, and fish the sneaky water. Personal experience recently: Was fishing in the middle of the day near Ennis on a Saturday. Maybe not the best choice, but hey, I was out there with a little bit of free time to fish. Started by fishing a "guide run", nice and deep that every boat stopped at. Caught 3 whitefish, no trout. Then moved upstream to a really shallow, fast riffle that nobody had stopped at. Started getting into some trout. That pretty much sums up fishing technique suggestions for the Upper right now.
Here's another fun thing to try: Throw a chubby chernobyl at first light. The nocturnal stone hatch has happened recently in the middle of the night , and fish might jump on that early in the morning.
Flies: midnight rubberlegs, yellow sally nymphs, chubby chernobyls, caddis pupa, sculpzillas, zonkers, lil' spankers