Upper Madison Boat Ramp Report - Jan. 17, 2018

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.

Traditions - Jan 1, 2018

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.

Summer and Fall on the Madison

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.

A Predictable Spring

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. 

Time To Go Big

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.

Getting Buggy On The Madison

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.

Rising Tides

I think it's safe to say we're starting to see signs of runoff coming our way. The Yellowstone is already off color, and the Madison is creeping up higher and higher with each passing week. Oftentimes these conditions spook anglers off, but for those who aren't intimidated, it's a fishy time of year. This week we've got a report from the one and only Will Connoly, who probably fishes more than all of us, and certainly has as much passion about fly fishing as anyone I know.

Got Midges?

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. 

Chubby Nation

This week’s report comes from our very own Borden Porter. Borden hails from Richmond, Virginia via the University of Alabama. Roll Tide. For those of you who don’t know Borden, his journey to Montana began a lot like the rest of us, by loading up his belongings and headed west for the hunting and fishing and ended up staying put.

Borden is quite the fish head as evidenced in the photos below. He got out a few times this week and here’s what he experienced in his own southern narrative...

Drift Boat Anchors

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.”

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