We are currently experiencing spectacular winter weather in the Madison Valley. Right now it is relatively warm and calm. It looks like its snowing up higher. We had a storm move through in the beginning of the week that dumped a bunch of snow up at Big Sky. Needless to say, not too many people fishing the river.
Mid-March and although winter is hanging tough, fishing season is here. Warmer temps this past week brought out lots of wading and floating anglers on the Upper and Lower Madison. We’ve heard many solid reports recently, and even had some positive experiences of our own.
The primary tactic this time of year is indicator nymphing. It tends to be the most consistent and produce the most action. Some MVP flies: Black and Tan Turds, Orange Egg patterns, SJ Worms, Zebra Midges, SH Pheasant Tail, and Mega-Prince among others. Just remember, variations on a theme.
Winter is making a stand in Montana these past couple of days. It’s very cold and snowy now which definitely has most of us here thinking more about chairlifts and flats boats than trout fishing.
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.
Just back from a quick lunch time Varney to Valley Upper Madison boat ramp tour and wanted to post this update.
Due to the lack of prolonged and extreme cold, the gorge didn’t make it very far up the river this winter….yet...and it seems likely that it won’t at this point. But who knows. For now anyway, the river from Varney to town is floatable and fishable on warmer days when it’s not slushy.
It started many years ago without any intent or conscious effort. A couple of trout bums without any better plans decided to go fishing on New Year's Day. Somehow that day has evolved into an 18 year “family” tradition: Fishing the Madison on New Year’s Day in an effort to catch the 1st trout of the new year. I am not the kind of angler or guide who is focused on the scorecard at the end of the day. Most days I actually have no attachment whatsoever to the scorecard. I love fishing for so many other reason besides what I catch. But on New Year’s Day it’s ALL about one fish, no matter how big or small. I give it my best effort to catch one and start the year with success.
Madison River Fishing Report/Forecast
Montana summer is fading fast, and it has been one for the ages. We are very grateful for so many wonderful friends and clients who have helped make this summer great. We would also like to thank Mother Nature for being so benevolent! Once again, here on the Madison we find ourselves in the sweet spot of Montana’s best fly fishing. We had good fishable flows during May, June and the Salmon Fly hatch while many of the region's other rivers and creeks were so high that they were virtually unfishable. Then as things dried up quickly through July and many rivers were put under Hoot-Owl closures (many still remain restricted), the Upper Madison hung tough with good flows, cool water and consistently good fishing.
Well, we got darn close, but never touched the 5,000 CFS mark at Varney last week, thanks in part to a quick cold snap that slowed things down a bit. In fact, the river had virtually no up and down cadence like it typically does from day to day for most of the week, settling down to 3,000 CFS for nearly three and a half days. But my guess is that even though the water clarity has improved, we’re not out of the woods yet. With a week’s worth of sunny skies and 70-degree weather headed our way, we might expect another bump in flows soon.
It’s not every year that you see flows at the Varney USGS Gauge break the 5,000 CFS barrier, but it’s very likely to happen in the next 24-48 hours. In fact, available historic data on the USGS site going back to 2011 tells us it’s happened only twice before since the summer of 2011 when it reached a whopping 6,600 CFS at it’s peak on June 24th and 5,200 CFS on May 29th in 2014.
Green up is a really special time on the Madison. In a valley that receives only 12-14 inches of rainfall annually, and most of that coming in March and April, any moisture is good moisture to help sustain our rivers through the dry summer months. And it brings a beautiful green blanket to the valley. We’ve been very fortunate this winter and spring in that regard.