A Bit of Change on the Madison River

Hebgen Dam 910 cfs

Old Kirby Place 1180 cfs

Varney Bridge 1480 cfs

Ennis Dam 218 cfs

Lower Madison 1389 cfs
I’ve noticed some changes out there the past several days on the Madison River. Some good, that’s to say that the changes might benefit the angler. Some not so good, depending on how we look at it. These things are bound to happen when we spend so much time in a place bound to seasons. We anglers are just passengers along for the ride. Knowing this generally makes it easier to take the days that I can’t quite get my finger on the pulse. I can usually find some excuse for this occurrence and that makes it all the easier to accept that some days are just learning days.

All this doesn’t really mean that we had a bad day. This doesn’t really mean that the fishing was bad or that we didn’t catch some great fish. It just simply means that things are changing and that it is different today than it was yesterday. Might even change back.

The Madison Valley has seen all kinds of weather over the past seven days. 74 degrees sunny and warm or 42 degrees, snow and rain from a northern cold from, even a few day in between those two extremes. The Madison Valley is in its spring cycle and it will not be uncommon to see this back and forth over the coming months.

Madison River south of Ennis
Willy Richardson fishing before the float on the Madison River

The Madison River will begin to react to this tussle over temperatures accordingly and will generally rise and fall with the fluctuations. The Madison saw its first small push of spring melt over the past several days (remember 74 degrees). This was promptly halted by cold northern air and rain and snow, It is still very much winter in the high country as far as temperatures are concerned. The flows stabilized and even feel a bit with the cold. This is likely to change with the next push of warmer weather and the Madison will likely rise again. So the cycle will go until most of the snow is out of the mountains.

With all this change comes bugs. As a fly fisherman I love bugs. The logic goes something like this. Trout eat bugs, therefore I love bugs. We are starting to see BWO’s or Baetis. The hatches of this beloved little mayfly happen all spring and are important as droppers fishing nymphs thru spring. The real fun show happens on the not so pretty days, the rainy days, the snow lightly falling straight down days, sometimes referred to as the nasty days. That’s code for the chance at great spring dry fly fishing. Towards the end of the April and the first of May we will start to see the first Caddis on the Madison as well. The Mothers Day Caddis also known as Brachycentrus occidentals will start to fill the air on the warmer days. Something I love about this time year is that we get to fish Caddis on the nice days and BWO’s on the “nasty days”. If we are lucky we will see March Browns in the mix as well. What a glorious time to be in Southwest Montana. 

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