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Upland_Hunter

IS THE FLY FISHING ON THE MADISON RIVER OVERRATED?

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Upland_Hunter

Is the fly fishing on the Madison River in Montana overrated? I was in Yellowstone Park fly fishing the second week of July and did a float trip on the Upper Madison with one of the fly shops in west Yellowstone and caught absolutely nothing. In the 8 hours on the water most of trout were about 8” to 10” with only five of the trout being in the 12” range. It was very crowded and there were almost 25 other drift boats on the water. In addition, my guide was a little arrogant and condescending which made for a bad day on the water.

 

Later in the week I did a float trip with another outfitter on the Beaverhead River and the traffic on the river was nearly zero and caught about 4 20” brown trout with several in the 12" to 15" range. Guide told me that the fishing on the Madison is highly overrated and the other rivers in the area fish much better and are most often overlooked.

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MTRookie76

Overall, yes, it is overrated. Especially during the summer months. But make no mistake, the Madison can make for some epic days. I prefer fishing it early spring and fall, not much for crowds during that time.  It also sounds like you had a lousy guide. The guide makes all the difference in the world.

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bamboozler

My cousin and I had one of those epic days one August afternoon while wade fishing the Madison River at Wade Bridge several years ago, I caught 50 and cousin Jack caught 40.  All fish, mostly rainbows with browns mixed in, were >12" with most in the 16"-20" range.  We both were working upstream near one another on the near parking lot side of the river, there was another flyfisher working the far side directly across from us.  He seemingly was experiencing one of those very few fish days. Upon having had enough and all tuckered out we moved back to the truck, the other flyfisher that witnessed our afternoon of netting fish after fish got out of the water, walked quickly down the bank, crossed the bridge, came back up to where we were parked, stepped up to me nose-to-nose, identified himself as a short-line nymph fisherman from California and asked "What the hell were you using?"   I proudly held up a one-legged Dave's Hopper.  He shook his head and stormed off.  We haven't experienced a day like that before or after.

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snapt

Fifteen 20" browns? The Maddy has her days, but I prefer fishing elsewhere due to pressure.

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D. Case

I've had great days on he Madison followed by very poor days  Even 20 years ago it got a lot of pressure.  I personally have never had a good day on the Beaverhead, although many of my friends have.

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WyomingArt

 My opinion is they're selective and probably have been hooked a few times.  Those fish have seen two or three of everything from a 7 days a week  parade of drift boats  They're not just leader and line shy, some are fly shy.

 

Early or late season you'll have a better experience. By chance do you know the water temperature in the Madison while you were there?

 

If you want to fish that water again read Charlie Brook's books, out of print  "Larger Trout for the Western Fly Fisherman", "Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout" and " Fishing Yellowstone Waters."  He was focused on big trout,  tied big symmetrical nymphs for the Yellowstone rivers.  His style of fishing isn't elegant, more " chuck and duck"  If you're a dry fly guy, it might not be to your liking.

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shoot-straight

Incredible number and size of fish in the Madison.... hebgen to quake is my favorite. 

 

Yes. Lots of boats lower down.

 

Beaverhead is amazing as well. I experienced some of the best dry fly fishing ever there, but it's known as a nymph/streamer fishery.

 

fished a big hole a few times. Wasn't impressed. But- almost everyone else raves about it. 

 

Lots of "on" or "off" fisheries out there. It just happens

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floodcity
On 8/10/2018 at 11:00 AM, Upland_Hunter said:

Later in the week I did a float trip with another outfitter on the Beaverhead River and the traffic on the river was nearly zero and caught fifteen 20” brown trout. Guide told me that the fishing on the Madison is highly overrated and the other rivers in the area fish much better and are most often overlooked.

I don't think I have caught that many brown trout over 20 inches in my life. That's a heck of a day! Congrats on that.

All of the "famous" rivers in that region get a tremendous amount of pressure during the summer so there are a lot of trout with sore mouths that become moody/selective. Epic days are harder to come by but fishing such a storied river has its own ambience. Numbers wise, you would do better in smaller less known and more isolated streams but trout over 20 inches are less likely. The solitude makes up for it. Fall is better overall on the major rivers.

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Steve Hunts

Overrated? It depends on what you're used to. Someone from lot's of places might think it's great. After 22 yrs here I still rate it as "good". The traffic is a pain and big fish are fewer in my experience. I think a lot of the big fish feed at night these days, at least in the summer. For peace and quiet get a tenkara rod and fish the little stuff but watch out for snakes.

 

Quite a few locals I know head to NW part of the state for their fishing vacations. The glory days of SW Montana are fewer and further between now.

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MUSTANGER7

I have fished all over Montana and I tend to gravitate towards the smaller creeks that for some reason do not get the PR others do, I have fished the big named rivers/creeks and the crowds just sort of stress me. Takes some research and time but well worth it. One thing I learned is that the smaller ones tend to be more temperature dependent, in that they turn on or off quickly. Most run into the bigger rivers and when the water temps get right the fish run up the smaller creeks and then when they get to high they back in the bigger bodies of water. If you hit them right its wild with lots of big trout. I was fishing Fish Creek which flows into the Clark Fork River and caught only a few small trout, with 10in fish be big, quit fishing it and was coming by it so gave it another shot it was wild. Then after about a month plus of great fishing they were all gone back into the Clark Fork.

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Upland_Hunter

I am not making this up when I say that on the Beaverhead River that day that my guide and I landed 15 20" browns and we were on the river fort the entire day (almost 11 hours). It was a great day and I will never forget it.

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floodcity
20 minutes ago, Upland_Hunter said:

I am not making this up when I say that on the Beaverhead River that day that my guide and I landed 15 20" browns and we were on the river fort the entire day (almost 11 hours). It was a great day and I will never forget it.

Please post some pictures!

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shoot-straight

For the record- for it's relative size (it's very very narrow, almost like a tunnel) the beaverhead gets a load of boat traffic. It's so narrow in fact that you frequently don't see the boat behind or in front of you. The beaverhead is really really good for  a relatively short stretch (Barrett's). There is some good fishing below, but nothing like the upper section.

 

One of the Madison's greatest attributes is its length. Pretty much from its beginnings at the confluence of the gibbon and firehole in YNP, middle section above Ennis and lower section below support incredible fisheries. Both the upper and lower sections are poor when it gets warm, but both can be incredible other times of the year. 

 

I prefer the middle sized streams if i had to choose only one. I was privileged to fish the boulder river, it's just the right size. 

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Chukarman

All the times I have been in Montana (quite a few) I have never fished there. So no comment. I have had outstanding days on native trout in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California (Fall River & McCloud River).  I used to live in Boulder, CO and had a lot of evenings of fishing in that area with plenty of (smaller) fish. But that was in the 1980s.

 

If I have to resort to rolling weighted nymphs along the bottom, I would rather fish elsewhere -- it's boring.

 

 

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Wyrhair

15  20 " Browns......I'll have to call BULL$hit on that one . Your guide must have had a rubber ruler. Having been a guide for 40 years , most anglers wouldn't honestly know a 20" fish if it bit them on the nose

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