Madison River Overview

Southwestern Montana’s Crown Jewel, this 50-mile riffle was named by Meriwether Lewis in 1805, after the then U.S. Secretary of State James Madison. A headwater tributary of the Missouri River, the Madison River rises at a place known as Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park, at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. It then flows west and north through the mountains of southwest Montana to eventually join the Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers at Three Forks, which combine to form the Missouri River. Two dams along the River form both Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake.

Infamous in the fly fishing community, the Madison attracts anglers from all over the world who want to test their skills in its fast-paced pockets, runs, and slicks. Flowing between the majestic Madison Range on the east, and the Gravelly Range on the west, the Madison offers many challenges to both the wade and float fisherman. One of our most popular destinations for guests, many fisherman return every year to relive the precious memories created on this fantastic fly fishing legend.


The Madison River fishes well all season long with a succession of infamous insect hatches that keep the feisty and large trout eagerly feeding on rich buggy diet.

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Walk Wade Water

From the mouth of Quake Lake, passing through Slide Inn, Reynolds Pass, $3 Bridge, and ending at Lyon’s Bridge, the Madison is tailor made for the wade fisherman. Heavily pocketed, this stretch is some of the best fishing this river offers. Typically the fish average a little bigger in this stretch, and the fish numbers are notably higher. The best hatches occur in the upper 8-miles offering the rivers best dry fly fishing day in, and day out. Good wading skills are a must as the rocks in this stretch are numerous, round, and slippery. This is also the characteristic that makes the fishing so outstanding.


Float Water

The 50-mile riffle: This is the stretch most anglers envision when the Madison is mentioned. Most often fished from a classic western Mackenzie style drift boat, the Madison is classic, big water Montana fly fishing at its best. Wide open plains framed by majestic snow covered mountains cradle beautiful trout water that is begging for a fly to be cast here and there. Whether presenting a tandem dry fly rig, going deep with nymphs, or ripping streamers, this sections riffle and pocket-water nature will keep anglers happy all day long. Don’t forget to pause every once and awhile to drink in the heavenly scenery.

The Braids

Starting at Varney Bridge, the Madison begins to take on a new character. Instead of one main channel as in the upper 40 miles, the Madison approaching the town of Ennis, Montana and Ennis Lake, begins to splinter into a variety of smaller side channels. Noted for its large fish, this section routinely gives up the biggest trout of the year. This is mostly big, deep, and hard-core nymphing - Montana Chuck and Duck style - but the rewards can be a rainbow or brown that tops the 20” mark.


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Salmonflies: June 20th - July 10th

Goldenstone: June 20th - July 10th

Yellow Sallies: June 20th - July 31st

Pale Morning Duns: July 1st - August 10th

Eperous Mayflies: July 10th - August 20th

Arctopsyche Caddis: June 20th - July 15th

Hydropsyche Caddis: June 20th - August 10th

Terrestrials: August 1st - September 20th

Baetis Mayflies: August 20th - September 20th

Rhycophilla Caddis: August 20th - September 20th

Spruce Moths: July 10th - August 15th

Special Notes

The Madison River is a Brown and Rainbow Trout fishery with the browns averaging around 15” and the Rainbows around 14”. Fish in the 16-19” category are common, and the 20” fish are not only possible, but a reasonable expectation for the dedicated angler. The Madison is a Dam controlled tail-water that has the physical characteristics of a high mountain western freestone river. This unique combination of features means the river has an incredibly diverse AND abundant insect population. Translation: lots of nice size trout eating insects that we as fly anglers are happy to take advantage of! Come see why the Madison has become one of the most famous and note worthy fly fishing rivers in the world!