Do you have a drift boat and fish the Upper Madison with any regularity? What’s that you say? No and no? Well, we can remedy at least the former with one of our brand new drift boats in stock from RO, which would likely solve the latter.
I digress. Recently, I helped a fellow and his son in law at the shop with their pruchase of a used drift boat. The day finally came when they secured their previously owned and well-loved drifter and were off to McAtee Bridge for their inaugural float on the Upper Madison. The text I got back from them when they reached Varney read “Sweet river. Super fast. How the hell do you stop in the river without bashing your boat?” Great question. My response simply read, “Welcome to the Madison.”
They don’t call the Upper Madison the 50 Mile Riffle for nothing. The Madison stops for no one. It't not a very deep river in most reaches but its swiftness is unparalleled in the Rockies, forcing you to make quick decisions and plan your approaches and departures from stops in advance. On many rivers, any old anchor will work just fine, including webs of rope around a big boulder like these shrewd anglers who forgot their anchor. But on the Madison, a good anchor is a key piece of equipment.
Experienced oarsmen can navigate the Upper Madison dropping any old anchor at will with some ease. But here at Trout Stalkers we’ve tried them all. Spikes, Cubes, Pyramids, etc. On the Upper Madison, all of these anchors will eventually stop you if they are heavy enough. It could be 20 feet or 50 feet after you drop, they all work. But, when I drop my anchor I’d rather not drag at all. It just seems like an anchor should allow you to stop you where you want. And on this river, 20 feet can frequently mean the difference between missing and making the only streamside eddy to park a boat before the next bend. And it could be a serious safety issue.
Of course any discussion of drift boat anchors wouldn't be complete without bringing up river safety and etiquette. Regardless of which anchor you use, knowing how to sufficiently slow your boat down and back into some quiet water is key to stopping the boat. On the Upper Madison you can't just do this anywhere and everywhere, especially in the spring when the river is flowing higher than normal. You need to pick your stopping spots wisely to avoid trouble. Anchors can create a false sense of security, which has caused more than a few boat wrecks over the years. Generally you will find a suitable place to stop within a few hundred yards. Etiquette is another important consideration. Most days, you won't be the only boat or angler on the water and we all need to be cognizant of that and courteous to our fellow river rats. Dropping anchor in the middle of the river is widely considered to be bad behavior by most Montana guides, especially if it's to take a break or fix your rig. The exception to this rule, would be when you are boating a fish and you blow the anchor to keep everyone in the boat safe.
Enter the crew at Green Anchors. Their “Digger” anchor is what we call “The Brakes.” It’s the one anchor that we all at Trout Stalkers unanimously agree is a boss anchor. Head and shoulders above the others. Specifically designed for freestone cobble and gravel rivers, it has a standard cube design with 4 flaring iron loops on each bottom corner designed to force the top down and “dig,” stopping you in your tracks without having to let out 50 feet of rope and excavating the Mariana Trench into the Upper Madison.
And there’s more we like about Green Anchors. Based out of Hamilton, Montana, they’re locally made of iron, a non-toxic element. Made with 100% recycled lead, fully encased in 3/16" steel, these anchors will be the last you ever buy unless you lose it. They try and source most of their iron as recycled, and if you bring them your old lead anchor, they’ll credit you toward a new Green Anchor. Green Anchors also come with a normal wear 5-year warranty. The eyes are 3/8" thick (1/2" on 30# and over) that are welded closed to the top plate inside and outside, helping prevent bending and opening of eyes commonly seen on other anchors. There are no sharp edges to scratch or puncture your boat either.
Diggers come in 20-40 lb. models ($120-150). If you have a full size drift boat and you fish the Upper Madison a lot, go big. Why not? When I stomp my anchor release I want to stop right now. The 40lb. Digger from Green Anchor (matched with an NRS Pulley) is the only anchor I recommend on the Upper Madison or anywhere for that matter. Call or stop by the shop to pick up your new brakes.
Author: Justin Edge
Photography: Justin Edge