Madison River Fishing

If you enjoy fly fishing, you don’t want to miss a trip to the Madison River. Known as one of the best fly-fishing destinations in the West, this river offers amazing fishing and beautiful scenery. Madison River contains a plentiful supply of rainbow and brown trout, especially in the area upstream from Ennis. And if you’re looking for large trout, you’ve come to the right place. The trout here tend to get very big. You’ll find plenty of access points from Hebgen Reservoir to Ennis Lake. There are also plenty of state and federally managed lands along the river where you’ll find access points and boat launches. This river is great for float and wade fishing, which both offerfishermen the chance to land a few fish.

driving directions

Madison River Sections

Madison river is made up of several distinct sections. Each section has unique habitat, hatches, fishing techniques, and peak fishing seasons.

Yellowstone Park to Hebgen Lake

The Madison starts in Yellowstone National Park, which opens on Memorial Day weekend. Only wade-fishing is permitted inside the park. October is considered the best time to fish the Madison within Yellowstone park due to the arrival of large trout entering from Hebgen Lake. One of the best techniques for fishing trout during the fall is nymphing egg patterns trailed by a baetis nymph. Fishing streamers work well for targeting larger large brown trout.

Hebgen Lake to Quake Lake

The Madison river from Hebgen Lake to Quake Lake remains cold even during the summer season. This section of the Madison has high trout concentrations. It is only a few miles long and tends to have a lot fishing pressure due to its easy access. Some anglers will fish this section of the Madison when crowds thin during May and October.

Quake Lake to Reynolds Pass

If you’re looking for the best stretch of water on the Madison, head to the section between Quake Lake and Reynolds Pass. The steep gradient and large boulders make for ideal trout habitat. We recommend fishing with large stonefly nymphs and sculpin patterns around the soft pockets of holding water for best results. Just be careful around these waters, since they are fast moving and there are plenty of hidden rocks just beneath the surface. The fishing pressure in this section of the Madison river is highest in July and August.

Reynolds Pass to Lyons Bridge

This section of Madison is wade fishing only. Fishing pressure is high from Reynolds pass to Three Dollar Bridge, but drops off for the remainder of the stretch to Lyons Bridge. Trout are plentiful throughout this stretch of the river, but anglers tend to focus on the upper section since the water is easier to read.

Lyon’s Bridge to McAtee Bridge

From Lyon’s Bridge to McAtee Bridge, float fishing is allowed and common. This section of Madison is popular for anglers fishing from drift boat. Wade fishing is less popular here. Trout concentrations are high throughout this stretch of the Madison river. For best results when fishing this stretch, we recommend streamer fishing, dry fly fishing and nymphing.

McAtee Bridge to Varney Bridge

This is the shortest stretch of the Madison with relatively low fishing pressure. Trout concentrations are a little lower along this stretch of the river. Consequently, it can a little bit more challenging to fish.

Varney Bridge to Ennis

Many of Madison’s largest brown trout are found bewteen Varney Bridge and Ennis. Most of these Browns are packed into a relatively small area on the lower end of the float section of the stretch. For wade fishing, try the shallow, braided channels along the riffles and runs.

Bear Trap Canyon

After exiting Ennis Lake, the Madison enters Bear Trap Canyon. This eight-mile long canyon is too dangerous to float for most boaters. Every year the Bear Trap Canyon section of the Madison River typically has a solid salmon fly hatch, along with the Mother’s Day Caddis, Baetis and Pale Morning Duns. Streamer fishing and nymphing work well in this stretch of the river.

Lower Madison River

The Lower Madison branches away from Warm Spring’s access toward Three Forks. This section can get warm during the summer but some larger trout may remain in the lower part of this river section. The best fishing in the Lower Madison River occurs from February to early July, and from mid-September until December. Winter fishing is good here as long as the wind is not too cold for anglers. For best fishing results, fish the massive weed beds, and around the depressions and channels. Try to fish subsurface with crayfish or streamer patterns.

Madison River Fish:

Madison River boat ramps:

The following boat ramps provide access to Madison River.

Madison Arm Resort Campground and Marina Boat Ramp
5475 Madison Arm Road West Yellowstone, MT 406-646-9328
Directions

Kirkwood Resort & Marina Boat Ramp
11511-11599 Hebgen Lake Rd West Yellowstone, MT
Directions

Yellowstone Holiday Resort and Marina Boat Ramp
16990 Hebgen Lake Rd., PO Box 759 West Yellowstone, MT406-646-4242 1-877-646-4242
Directions