Madison River below Varney

A Few Things to Look Forward to for the 2023 Fly Fishing Season

A Few Things To Look Forward To

by Jim Bob Terry


As I’m sitting here in The Tackle Shop on April 15h  I’m also daydreaming of and looking forward to some great dry fly fishing soon to come. While we’re still a ways out from throwing big Salmonfly patterns or drifting hoppers against the bank, we’re very near some of my favorite early season hatches.


Blue Winged Olives

After a long winter of squinting at midge dries, Blue Winged Olives are a welcome sight. Abbreviated to B.W.O, this is one of the first non-midge insects to make its emergence in the spring. The B.W.O hatch is prolific on both the upper and lower Madison as well as other rivers in Montana, it is in fact one of the most widely distributed mayflies in the country. While you can definitely find a few early birdies in water temps as low as 38*, the best action is when the water temperature gets in the 41–45-degree range. Like many mayflies, B.W.O’s love overcast and rainy days with decently warm air temperatures.

A few favorite patterns of mine include the Olive Haze, Galloup’s Found Link, and the Tilt Wing B.W.O.


March Brown

Western March Browns are another species of mayfly that I love to find hatching. Here on the Madison river, we often don’t see them at their full glory until we get into late march and sometimes not until we get into April due to them requiring a consistent water temperature over 42*… that said, they become even more active as the temperature climbs into the mid-40’s and above. As far as ambient conditions they’re just like their cousins (B.W.O’s) in that they like warmer overcast days. A rainy, overcast spring day in the 50’s with a water temperature in the mid 40’s will lead to some great March Brown dry fishing.

It’s hard to beat a standard Parachute Adams or a Parachute Pheasant Tail for this one.


Nemoura Stonefly

Although the Madison is not known for Nemoura and Skwala hatches, they are present, and the fish love them! It’s also your earliest opportunity to get some foam wet ‘round these parts.  Nemouras can make their emergence in water temps as low as 42* but temperatures closer to 50* really get the hatch going. Warm sunny days are ideal and it’s a great bug to tie on behind a Skwala.

A Black Stimulator or Burkus S/B Skwala in the small sizes will both do the trick. The Carlson’s Nemoura is a favorite patter among Bitterroot guides.



As I said, the Madison and surrounding area isn’t known for top-notch Skwala fishing, but they are present and so are the willing fish. If a Skwalla floats over a fish that has been getting by on midges and other small fare all winter long, it’s going to be hard for that fish to say no. Typically more of an April hatch here, they like sunny warm days and water temps around 50*, although you’ll see them occur in water temps as low as 43* as long as that temperature is consistent.

KB’s Sleezy Rider, MFC Water Walker Skwalla, and Burkus SB Skwalla are all great dries to match this hatch.


Mother’s Day Caddis

Although we’re still a good ways out from this one, it’s definitely something to look forward to. The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch is one of the best hatches of the year and typically it is in full force by early May. The magic water temp for a good emergence is 54* despite a few small waves showing up as low as 50*. My best fishing during the hatch is always afternoons and evenings.

My favorites for the Mother’s Day Caddis are the

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