Yellowstone Trout Fishing Report – The Madison River

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The Madison River begins its journey within Yellowstone National Park and ultimately empties into Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone, Montana, offering outstanding fly fishing opportunities all year long.

Runoff has subsided, and the water clarity has improved with restrictions pertaining to hoot owls in place below 8 Mile Ford. Wading and drifting streamers on the upper Madison remain attractive options.

Wading

Under Quake Lake, the Madison turns into a violent river with huge boulders and Class III and IV rapids – rendering this stretch inaccessible and unsafe to wade anglers.

Below Hebgen Dam, the Madison becomes a more manageable river. Wading can be found between Old Kirby Place and Highway 87 bridge; above this point, the river opens up into an exquisite high-desert canyon requiring full-day float trips; however, most trips departing Varney Bridge are leaving wade fishermen with an inviting stretch that is free from heavy float traffic.

In this section of the river, the current is reduced, and riffles become longer and further apart, creating an ideal opportunity to fish for big brown trout with dry flies, particularly during morning and late-evening hours when Blue-winged Olive mayflies hatch on warm summer afternoons.

This section of the river also offers fantastic nymph fishing with smaller bug patterns such as scuds and midges, or using weighted streamers on sink tip lines is another popular fishing technique here; flows below 900cfs are ideal for this form of fishing; streamers are particularly effective here with larger sizes being particularly beneficial; Muddler Minnows and Zonkers often prove highly successful here as a result.

Boating

Fishing from a boat on the Madison can be highly successful throughout the spring, fall, and winter months; indeed, it is often our primary method for guided Madison River trips.

The Madison River upstream from Hebgen Dam is an exquisite piece of water filled with trout that is an angler’s paradise. One of the most accessible rivers in Yellowstone National Park for wading, it also provides ample fishing opportunities. Additionally, less fishing pressure tends to fall on this particular stretch, giving way to traditional trout habitat with undercut banks, deeper holes, and fast pocket water – perfect conditions for trout!

Flows on the Madison tend to be low to medium, with its upper sections being self-explanatory. When runoff season arrives (typically late June or the first week in July), additional muddy water from its West Fork may enter this section and contribute other sediment.

The section below Hebgen Dam is an unsuitable river for wading, featuring class V rapids, boulder-strewn pockets, and class III-IV riffles – not ideal for wading. However, when conditions allow, spectacular trout fishing opportunities await during spring and summer when river flows are optimal.

Fly Fishing

Runoff can present a formidable challenge during spring runoff events, but once it subsides, nymph fishing can become truly enjoyable. A variety of mayfly, caddis, and stonefly nymphs in sizes 12-16 work effectively, as do attractor dries like Royal Wulffs and Stimulators, which also work effectively.

The Madison River below Warm Springs offers excellent trout populations, making this a perfect spot for wading and fly anglers looking for large brown trout on streamer patterns. Deep holes, boulders, and undercut banks all create an ideal habitat for hungry brown trout to feed in this section of the river.

June 2023: Upper Madison is currently experiencing winter-holding water conditions and is fishing well. To obtain maximum results, fish slow mid-river runs and seams where terrestrials and small mayfly/caddis nymphs should produce results. Hopper droppers may also work well in the early morning.

On the Madison River, July is one of the premier times for dry fly fishing. Salmon Fly hatching season is in full effect, and fish respond well to large dry flies such as Sofa Pillows, Montana Stones, or Kaufmann Stones in sizes 2-6. Also, try your hand at casting caddis nymphs like Common Caddis, Spotted Sedge, and Yellow Quill; their Common Caddis hatch typically continues until September.

Camping

Experience one of the world’s premier trout rivers when you visit West Yellowstone to fish the Madison River! This picturesque mountain stream hosts an abundance of big wild brown and rainbow trout and provides wade fishing as well as float trips. Boasting various environments, ecosystems, and backdrops that appeal to anglers of all stripes – the Madison offers something to please all anglers!

Upper Madison is renowned as one of the premier trout rivers, boasting long riffles, runs, and pools, as well as its abundant aquatic insect hatches and dry fly fishing opportunities.

Due to our mild winter, much water remains free from ice and is fishable. Madison River fishing has been exceptional this winter, particularly during warmer afternoons when temperatures increase. Nymphing with giant copper and brown girdle bug flies trailed by callibaetis nymphs is performing best.

The Madison River flows for three miles through Hebgen Lake before entering Quake Lake, an artificial lake created by Mother Nature after a 1959 earthquake. This stretch is open year-round for fishing with good results on nymphs, while its lower section boasts plenty of rocks, rapids, and runnels for excellent trout nymph fishing opportunities. Additionally, this section of the river is famous for its prolific caddis fly hatches that support trout populations here – particularly its Salmonfly hatch in early June, but numerous others make fishing all summer worthwhile!