River: The Madison River in Montana – a fun mix of many fish

Mar 14, 2019

The Madison River is a must fish destination for anglers of all ages and skill levels. The river gives way to an eclectic mix of native and nonnative species of fish. Your chances of catching something is really good. The scenery along the way is amazing with hundreds of miles of mountains and surrounding fields of green fields. There is easy access to many great fishing spots. Anglers must be made aware that there are strict fishing regulations. Most of the river is catch and release, and you must purchase a fishing license.


The Madison River starts off at Yellowstone National Park and flows north for nearly 150 miles to Three Forks in Montana, where it empties to meet the Missouri River. The river feeds several lakes, including Hebgen Lake in Gallatin County and Ennis Lake in Madison County.

Aquatic Species:


  • Arctic grayling
  • longnose dace
  • longnose sucker
  • Rocky Mountain sculpin
  • mountain sucker
  • mountain whitefish
  • stonecat
  • white sucker
  • westslope cutthroat trout


  • brook trout
  • brown trout
  • common carp
  • fathead minnow
  • rainbow trout
  • Utah chub
  • Yellowstone cutthroat trout

Food by Season:

Bug – Pale Morning Dun
Season – July through August
Sizes – 14-18

Bug – Midges
Season – Year Round
Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Baetis
Season – April through May
Sizes – 16-20

Bug – Caddis
Season – April through September
Sizes – 14-16

Bug – Golden Stone
Season – June through July
Sizes – 2-6

Bug – Salmonfly
Season – June through July
Sizes – 2-6

Bug – Green Drake
Season – June through July
Sizes – 14-16

Bug – Trico
Season – August through September
Sizes – 18-22

Bug – Baetis
Season – September through October
Sizes – 16-20

Fishing Techniques:

Tip – Get out to the river early. First light is always a good time to be fishing. Trout prefer colder temperatures and the water is cool in the mornings. The change of light also trigger feeding activity.

Tip – Don’t be afraid to fish streamers. The nice thing about streamers is that they mimic a variety of aquatic life. More specifically, those imitations are often year round food offerings such as crawfish or minnows.

Tip – Spring fishing is excellent on the Lower Madison because it warms more quickly than the upper portion of the river. You’ll find trout in deep, slow water. To be successful, try worms, crayfish and nymphing egg patterns.

Gear –

  • Fly Rod – 9 foot, 5 weight, four-piece rod
  • Fly Reel – 5 weight
  • Line – 5 weight floating
  • Leader/Tippet – 5x tapered leader


The Madison River provides a diverse fishing experience for all anglers alike. Its blue-ribbon fishery ups the ante of catching a big trophy fish. Perhaps the most sought-after fish are brown rainbow and cutthroat trout although there are many other species to be caught. These fish average about 15 inches and can easily exceed 20 inches. As you venture along the river to find that perfect spot, you’ll notice no two spots are really the same. The beautiful landscape is awe inspiring and makes for a great day out on the water.

Want to receive a free BugClub Bonus Box with nearly $70 worth of fly fishing essentials? This kit comes with each annual subscription, in which you’ll receive four seasonal BugBags to match the hatch each season. Learn more here.

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