No winter lasts forever, and no Spring skips a turn. Spring in in full swing here in Ennis. Midges are buzzing in droves along the banks, geese are nesting on virtually every island, the pelicans have found the valley again arriving back from warmer climes, and just this week I saw ospreys returning to the river. From a close encounter I had (pictured below), it doesn't look like they need a fishing report, huh? Life on the Madison, in the middle of America's Serengeti, is a pretty spectacular place to be in Spring.
The valley has been pretty moody lately. Lots of dramatic weather systems pushing through SW Montana currently, gracing us with some sweet smelling damp sagebrush and green sprouts of bluestem poking up through intermittent soggy snowfall events. On this Easter morning, I think if there’s a Heaven, it’s gotta smell like the sagebrush lined banks of the Madison up near Three Dollar Bridge in Spring. The fragrance itself is enough to turn a bad day of fishing into one worth remembering.
Speaking of Three Dollar…Boy the midge dry fly clusters are getting vigorous. Take a trip up there soon if possible. There’s some BWO’s mixed in too, but that party’s just getting started. The midges, however, are in their hayday and in masses like you wouldn’t believe. If you can get up there on a day when the wind won’t blow you away, find yourself a nice little slow channel and stick a Griffith’s Gnat behind a big boulder and wait for signs of life.
The Ennis FAS and boat launch repairs were completed this week and everyone’s happy about that. One of the most iconic floats in North America is now back in the rotation after the Ennis launch suffered pretty substantial damages from a violent ice gorge this winter. Varney to Town. Apres fishing at the G Bar. And porch sittin’ at the fly shop (new porch in progress!). Anglers from all over the country travel here for those three magnificent activities. Life on Earth don’t get much better than that folks.
The fishing around town has been very Spring-like as well. Some great days, some worse days, and some windy days. If you’re not typically a streamer fisher, now’s the time to give it try and join the culture. There comes a point in every bobber tossing anglers life when you need to step out of your comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, I'm a card carrying indicator addict too. But, the nymphing game has never been a real secret on the Madison. A Girdle Bug, Wire Worm, Prince Nymph. If those don’t work, try again. If they still don’t work, go to the G Bar. Or...try streamer fishing. Add to your quiver. Slow strips, quick strips, no strips, swinging…try them all. Tie a lightning bug as a trailer. There are all sorts of options. Come check out the bunny fur selection at the shop and pick something out to try. We think you’ll find streamer fishing pretty darn fun, even if the fishing sucks.
With the juicy flows we have right now (hovering in the 1,200 to 1,400 CFS range), fish are spreading out and searching with a streamer can be very productive. From a boat, try the tightline method often referred to as the “Madison Drag,” by keeping a pretty straight and tight connection from rod tip to fly. Feel every movement your streamer makes. Slow strips or no strips, just make sure you’ve got a good feel for your fly moving downstream. Maybe a Flash Fry to match fry Rainbow Trout, or a Danny Boy to mimic Sculpins like this ugly thing (pictured left) I found at Eight Mile Ford. Black articulated Circus Peanuts are also getting positive reviews from Brown Trout right now. This time of year, for wade fishing, one of my favorite techniques is to fish close quarters with a heavy streamer and slap it as hard as I can as close to the bank as possible. Then give it a few quick strips, mend downstream, let ‘er swing, and hold on. Ninety nine problems but a fish ain't one. Black, olive, natural – great flavors.
All you Ennis Lake junkies out there…this is a great time to cruise the banks stripping ugly flies like the Kreelex in gold/silver. Those lake rainbows are hungry right now, and the Kreelex is too interesting for them to let pass by. Other options to keep handy include the Flash Fry and Copper/Pearl Zonker. The lake has filled in a little more now, but there's still some good sized sticks poking up so be ware.