Madison river montana

Madison River Montana Fly Fishing

The storied Madison River is steeped in fly fishing lore. With a nickname like the “50-mile riffle” it must be a worthwhile fishery.

Indeed, it is. The Madison River can produce some exceptional angling days. Particularly if you like to wade fish. The Madison River originates within the confines of Yellowstone National Park where the Fire Hole and Gibbon Rivers meet. While there are great angling opportunities along its 130 mile length, the area that provides the most consistent angling opportunities is the section between Ennis Lake and Quake Lake – “the Upper.”

Oh yeah… Did I forget to mention SALMON FLIES?!


Madison River Fly Fishing | Montana River Descriptions by Wet Net Outfitters

The Madison River Offers Miles of Wade Or Float Fishing Opportunities for big browns and rainbows – from glassy pools inside Yellowstone Park down to Ennis Lake. This is a bucket list fishery for sure.

When To Fish The Madison River

The Madison River can provide 12 months of quality fishing; however, the winter opportunities are primarily limited to fishing the $3 Bridge region that benefits from a heavy spring influence. The Spring Fishing begins when the shelf ice that forms through Ennis recedes, and the water temperatures begin flirting with the 40’s. This typically occurs in March or early April and with the exodus of the ice we observe a tremendous influx of rainbow trout from Ennis Lake that enter the river to feed and spawn. Additionally, the river’s 4,000 resident trout shake off winter’s slumber and take to feeding in all the deep, soft pockets of water. For the wading angler there is no better time to experience the Madison River. The upper river provides the bulk of the dry fly opportunities; however, the lower reaches can also produce some great dry fly sessions.

The spring season ends when tributaries from the Madison and Gravelly range run thick with mud. This typically starts in May and ends in June, and it is a great time to go fish the Missouri River or the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks though. In July, the river begins its biblical hatch cycle and also sees a fair amount of angling pressure. There are sneaky options to keep you out of the crowds, but we prefer to explore other waters during the “peak season.” Occasionally, on a great terrestrial year, it is a treat to do a long float in August through the Cameron Flats.

In September, a return to the Madison is warranted as the traffic has subsided and the water temperatures have cooled. We find dry fly opportunities throughout the entire stretch with the most constant fishing found around spring influences. The subsurface game is the main attraction with good streamer opportunities, particularly on cloudy days, and multiple styles of nymphing. In a similar fashion to spring we see another good push of fish from Ennis Lake into the river proper, producing some exceptionally nice trout.

Our Rivers

Read through detailed reports of the rivers we typically fish with our Wet Net Outfitter clients. Whether you’re looking for big river float trips, iconic spring creek wade trips, or secluded small creek trips, we can help facilitate your bucket list fly fishing adventure.