If you are planning a DIY Madison River Fly Fishing trip in the next couple weeks there are a couple of thing you should know. The first of which is the low water situation that we are currently experiencing on the Madison. Northwestern Energy is currently trying to fill Hebgen lake as much as they can before the heat of summer. To do this they have reduced flows greatly coming out of the dam making the river extremely skinny. We strongly recommend floating with caution and asking the shops where to float. Northwestern Energy has told us they will not be increasing flows until around the first of June. Luckily there are multiple tributaries to the Madison whose flows will increase before then.
Redds are Everywhere
We are in peak Rainbow Trout spawn here in southwest Montana. Our resilient and plentiful rainbow’s have taken to the gravel bars and shallows to do their business and complete their reproductive cycle. Unfortunately, this is happening during some of the lowest flows we’ve ever seen on the Madison. Rainbow Trout will be confined into a smaller area than usual to do their business because of this. It won’t be uncommon to see redds this year that are upwards of 20 yards by 10 yards long. It is extremely important to identify these incredibly fragile pieces of our ecosystem both when you are wading and floating. We especially ask you to watch where you are anchoring as it only takes one dragged anchor through a redd to destroy thousands of eggs. It is important to be proactive in this situation and look for redds that may be in convenient places to stop.
No Place to hide
The good thing about low flows is that some of the top tiered sized fish on this river have no place else to go than right in the mix with all of the other fish. We have already seen multiple Browns and Rainbows from the past week reach over the 20″ mark with a couple reaching that famed 2 foot mark. Madison River Fly Fishing is top notch during this state. When fish are stacked up, it is truly survival of the fittest. In most circumstances the larger fish will be at the very top of a run. Since they can beat out smaller rainbows, browns, and whitefish. However, sometimes you will see the large fish at the tailout of a run. Large Fish are scoop up leftovers, eggs, and seek out an unsuspecting baitfish for a larger protein snack. Look at the water temp when fishing this time of year. If the temp reaches over 49 degree it is game on with streamers. However, nymphing has been by far the best bet with stacked up fish gorging themselves on baetis and stonefly nymphs.