Unfortunately, due to a mishap on the mountain last weekend my ski season ended early this year. But that just means that fishing season is starting early! With temps rising into the 40s yesterday and light winds I took a drive up-country to try to catch a fish, check the boat ramps and enjoy some Madison Valley winter solitude. It worked out well.
First stop was at Mcatee bridge where I knew I could walk the bank on some easy flat ground. Wading the Madison with a torn ACL and MCL was not advised by my doctor. I was pleasantly surprised to find calm conditions when I arrived. This time of year, it is really all about the wind. A calm 40-degree day is a much warmer and happier experience than 40 and blowing 15 or 20.
I brought my new Winston Kairos 9ft. 6wt. which was still rigged up with a #18 Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph from our New Year’s Day excursion. I tried several drifts in a fishy spot to no avail. Opening a small box of flies, I immediately zeroed in on the #10 black Turd. I tied it on my 3X tippet, added a second BB split shot and repositioned slightly higher upstream. On my next drift I hooked into a very strong brown trout that made an impressive move out into the middle of the river. A few minutes later and I held a solid fish in my hand while Minnow tried to kiss it. (Note to self: bring a landing net next time.) I was pretty much content after that, but decided to move up and try one more spot. Glad I did because I hung 2 more beauties on the turd.
More than happy with my fishing experience, I jumped back in the truck and headed up to check the Ruby Ck. boat ramp. The Ruby Ck. Road, parking lot, and ramps were all dry and free of snow. I parked and got out to stretch my legs again. As I approached the boat ramp, I noticed there were fish rising right off the boat ramp. Lots of fish, and some big ones too!
A quick re-rig of my Kairos, and I was pitching a single dry to a bunch of rising trout!! There was no wind which is very rare, and the fish were eating extremely small midges. I went with #20 Glare-achute Adams. They loved it! I hooked and landed 5 fish in pretty short order. What a gift! Especially for a guy with a bad knee to be able to stand on the concrete boat ramp and cast to risers on a warm, calm Saturday in February!
Winter is far from over, but spring fishing in definitely ON!! The key is temps in the 40’s and light winds. These days will present great fishing opportunities throughout the Upper and Lower Madison.
Floating is a great option too with most of the Upper Madison boat ramps free of ice and snow for now. Be sure to check back with us before heading out though. It’s definitely still winter and these conditions can change quickly if/when we get more snow.
Here’s the low-down on the Madison River Boat ramps from top to bottom as of February 3rd, 2018:
- Reynold’s Pass Bridge – Totally snow packed. Not suitable for trailered boats.
- Pine Butte – Totally snow packed. Not suitable for trailered boats.
- Lyon’s Bridge – Totally snow packed. Not suitable for trailered boats.
- Windy Point – Clear. Normal boat launching conditions.
- Palisades – Some snow and ice on the road in, but passable. This is one FAS where large drifts will form on the road and ramp when we get more heavy snow. Normal boat launching conditions at the ramp for now.
- Ruby Creek – Clear road and ramp. Normal boat launching conditions.
- McAtee Bridge – Some large drifts in the site, and a small drift on the ramp but it is definitely usable.
- Story Ditch – Some hard pack drifts on the road in, but very passable. Normal boat launching conditions at the ramp. Free of ice.
- Varney Bridge – Clear. Some hard pack snow on the ramp, but usable for boat launching.
- 8 Mile Ford – Clear. Normal boat launching conditions.
- Burnt Tree Hole – Clear. Normal boat launching conditions.
- Ennis – Clear. Normal boat launching conditions.
- Valley Garden – Some snow on road in, and on the ramp. Use caution and scout first if you plan on using this FAS. DANGER: DO NOT FLOAT BELOW VALLEY GARDEN! The lake is still frozen and you will dead end into the gorge above the lake.