BOZEMAN, Mont. — The mere mention of Montana’s Madison River is enough to make fly-fishermen salivate, what with its high concentration of trout, scenic beauty and prolific wildlife, it’s hard to match. Indeed, it’s a mecca for fly-fishermen.
The Madison River, which starts in Yellowstone National Park and eventually hooks up with the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers to form the headwaters of the Missouri River, is a blue-ribbon trout fishery that has been called “a perfect trout stream.”
The town of Ennis, Montana, located near the river, is known as Trout Town, USA. Fly shops abound in the region. One can easily tell it’s trout country, and it’s certainly a special destination.
“What makes the Madison special to me is its variety and consistency,” longtime guide Doug Casey told USA Today/For The Win Outdoors. “The river is 183 miles long and its character is constantly changing. Every stretch of the river will fish well under the right conditions, and it’s my job as a guide to pick the appropriate stretch each day.
“The trout on the Madison are a good mix of rainbows and browns. Most fish run between 10-15 inches, but it’s a rare day that we don’t at least hook a few fish over 18 inches. My largest trout on a guide trip was a brown that measured just over 25.
“The Madison is also one of the most consistent trout rivers in the world. We catch fish day in and day out. A slow day on the Madison would be a good day by most standards.”
Casey’s assessment proved accurate last week when I joined my longtime friend Don Buchner on a 16-mile float down the Lower Madison with Casey as our guide.
We never went more than 45 minutes without a hookup, we each caught more than 20 trout, and we enjoyed five double hookups (one is documented in the feature photo of this post). I caught a 20-inch-plus rainbow that took biggest fish honors, but Don’s German brown was the fish of the trip in my mind.
And wildlife? We saw a bald eagle, a golden eagle, a moose, a flock of white pelicans and a beaver. As for humans? Unlike the more crowded Upper Madison, we never saw another float boat and only saw one other fly-fisher, who was about to wade the river. It proved to be a fly-fishing paradise.
So, relive the journey with us as we present photos from our trip down the Madison River, along with our wading the Madison on our own near Trout Town. We also visit Ennis and West Yellowstone where trout is king, and include a couple of fishermen enjoying the upper reaches of the Madison inside Yellowstone National Park. And we finish off with other nice catches by clients of Doug Casey (who, incidentally, can be contacted at Dougcaseyfishing@gmail.com or 406-890-8304). Enjoy!
The beauty of the Madison shines through the smoky conditions.
One of Don Buchner’s better rainbows of the day.
The author’s catch of the day.
Guide Doug Casey doesn’t hesitate to change flies if one pattern isn’t working.
A couple more hookups (above and below).
Another nice catch.
They’re not all big, but they all are beautiful.
A flock of white pelicans along the river.
An unexpected sighting of a moose.
The Hoot Owl regulations has us stopping at 2 p.m. We enjoy a beer as Casey paddles us a couple miles down to our take-out location.
A successful trip down the Madison is complete.
If you’re wade fishing the Madison, it’s a good idea to be carrying bear spray.
Don Buchner found a great spot along the bank of the Madison River near Ennis, and caught the chunky rainbow below.
Ennis is known as Trout Town, USA, so this piece of artwork fits the town perfectly.
A fly atop a fly shop in Ennis.
A little guide to help anglers choose the right fly.
Erected in June 1993, the “Madison Valley Angler” stands at the entrance of Ennis. The plaque reads: “Donated to the town of Ennis, its fine people and to the entire Madison Valley…Also for the donors’ enjoyment of fly fishing the Madison and other rivers in the great state of Montana.”
A fly shop in Bozeman.
A fly shop in West Yellowstone.
Another West Yellowstone fly shop with a collection of hats from fishermen, fish photos and a mount of a German brown on the wall.
Yet another fly shop in West Yellowstone, with a handy fishing report.
Greeting anglers as they walk into Big Sky Anglers fly shop is this hand-drawn map of the region by renowned fly-fisherman Dave Whitlock.
Gotta love the wood-carved trout.
The Madison River inside Yellowstone National Park.
A young angler inside Yellowstone National Park catches a small brown trout (above and below).
Another angler tries his skills inside Yellowstone.
And now, here are some of the more beautiful catches by Casey’s clients from the Madison River, with a few scenic shots thrown in:
If you’re a fly-fisherman, a trip down the Madison River ought to be on your bucket list. A world-class fishery awaits.