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.
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...
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.”
Join the Trout Stalkers crew from 10AM to 4PM on Saturday May 6, as outfitter and entomologist Dr. Mike Bias breaks down the Madison River's aquatic insects. This workshop is designed for anglers and is meant to be comprehensive, and not intended for young children. The cost of the trip is $50 and lunch will be provided. Meet at the Ennis Public Library and don't forget to bring your waders! Sign up below or give the shop a call at (406) 682-4293.
This week was definitely more representative of spring than some of the balmier weeks we’ve had thus far. A good mix of snow, rain, beautiful sun, and gale force Chinook winds all packed in 7 days. Big changes are occurring in the river right now. For example, at the beginning of March we were averaging water temps around 36 degrees Fahrenheit or so at Varney. By today, the mercury has already grazed the 48 degree mark twice! That explains the explosion in subsurface bug life.
There’s a reason springtime in Montana is considered among many veteran guides to be the best season to come tight to a trout on a fly rod. Heightened energy demands for spring spawning drives rainbows to eat hard. Magnum kype-jawed browns start peeking out from cutbanks looking for sculpins and chunky stonefly nymphs. And when the stars align, the trifecta is complete when the sun comes out and the wind dies down to make for some truly magical Montana fishing.
Sandhill Cranes were spotted this week, arriving back from their winter vacation in friendlier climes. Redwing Blackbirds are now chirping from the willows. And, adult aquatic insects like Midges, BWOs, and Skwala Stoneflies are dancing on the riffles of the Madison for those hardy anglers willing to wet a line early enough in the day. Spring is definitely in the air, and apparently the water too...
As I write this, it’s early in the morning and already 50 degrees, sunny, and wait for it…….calm winds. After a long cold winter, we’re soaking up any and all available sun rays right now, especially after the gray, soggy weather this past week. But it's fishing season, and we're all systems go now!
Everyday, more and more boat launches are seeing drift boats and rusty trailering skills on display along the Upper Madison. Red winged black birds have been spotted already and the fishing is picking up substantially, as the water temps have finally stopped bottoming out. The fish have seemed to key in on that and really started pounding those all important Skwala nymphs that are becoming more prevalent with each passing week.
After enjoying nearly two weeks of balmy spring like weather, we got a mild reminder that it is, in fact, still technically winter here in SW Montana. But the damage to the ice gorge between Varney and town is already done. More and more water is opening up, though still somewhat challenging to access. Heavy and massive ice sheets still blanket the river valley so use extreme caution when walking over or around it to reach the water. A big chunk collapsed under me near 8 mile and although I escaped with only minor scrapes to my hands when falling, it was a scary reminder to be very careful where you step.