Fly fishing the Madison River in 2020 was the next stop on this year’s fly fishing road trip. The Madison River valley is a magical place for us, one we always enjoy returning to.

Sunset at $3 Bridge on Madison River |
$3 Bridge over Madison River

We spent a week on the river and will return to fish it again after a few days in Yellowstone National Park.

The fish are beautiful as well as the scenery. As with most fly fishing road trip posts, I’ve included lots of images. I hope you enjoy them.

The fish gods finally had mercy on us as we arrived at the Madison River. The water was in great shape, the lowest we’ve ever fished it, around 1,100 cfs. We enjoy fishing the “walk and wade” section around $3 Bridge and Lyon’s Bridge.

Here are a couple of images from our first night at Lyon’s Bridge.

Karen Fishing the Madison River |
Fly Fishing the Madison River |

Caddis were out in force as we arrived.

Caddis Swarm on Madison River |

The first couple weeks of July are known for a terrific hatch of Hydroschyche caddis. I’d tied up a bunch of X Caddis, Iris Caddis, and the Improved F Fly. These had been successful in past years and I was hoping they’d come through again.

Besides Hydroschyche caddis, we found a variety of caddis all over the river.

The swarms were everywhere when arriving at the river in the evening. The caddis would mate and later lay eggs on the water. Many tan caddis could be seen floating in the current in the last hour of light. And in Montana, that meant 8:45 to 9:45 pm. Yes, it’s a late fishery.

Which brings me to a point I’ve written about before. Our approach is to arrive at the river between 7 and 8:00 am and fish until noon…Ok, maybe 1 or 2 if the fish are rising. We take a break and return anywhere between 5 and 6:00 pm

Here are a few caddis we found:

Caddis from Madison River |
Caddis from Madison River |
Caddis from Madison River |
Longhorn Caddis - I Think |

My flies worked! Here is a nice Rainbow Trout with a size 18 X Caddis. Sizes 18 and 16 brought fish to the surface.

Madison River Rainbow with X Caddis |

We did see a few Salmonflies and Golden Stones. Occasionally, a fish ate a real bug, so I tied on a Clark’s Lady Stone and this Brown Trout ate it.

Madison River Brown Trout with Clark's Lady Stone |

At times, mayflies were on the water. PMDs and Epeorus mayflies were a couple we found. As the caddis begin to taper off, these mayflies will become more important.

This Rainbow Trout ate a Green Drake Sparkle Dun. There was a smattering of Green Drakes or Flavs on the water, but not a lot.

Madison River Rainbow with Green Drake Sparkle Dun |

I found a spinner fly pattern in my box that worked really well, morning and evening. I couldn’t remember what it was. A day later, I searched my RiverKeeper Flies website. I looked in the Mayfly Fly Patterns page for the fly. There it was! Galloup’s Sunken Spinner. It was a fly I found on YouTube that Kelly Galloup demonstrated. I even highlighted the fly as a Throw Back Thursday Fly. I fished it as a dry fly and the fish really liked it.

Galloup's Sunken Spinner - Top View |

I broke a couple flies off on fish, gave some to Dancingtrout, and needed to tie more.

Here I am in the van tying a variant of the fly. I didn’t have all the materials, but made do. The next day I tried the variant and the fish liked it as well.

Tying Flies in Front of Blue Ribbon Flies |

Much of our time was spent fishing around $3 Bridge and below.

We like fishing pocket water and this area is known for it.

Pocket Water at $3 Dollar Bridge |

And the fish…

Madison River Rainbow Trout |

Someone caught my expression at the precise moment when I missed a fish taking my dry fly. Yes, it can be frustrating at times…but I’m mostly OK with that!

$3 Bridge Pocket Water |

I can’t resist sharing a few fish pics. These are the fish I dream about when thinking about fly fishing the Madison River.

I’ll begin with this skinny 17 inch rainbow..I don’t know how it’s possible to be that long and skinny on the Madison River!

Skinny Madison River Rainbow Trout |

Now for more of what I expected…

Karen with Madison River Rainbow |
Madison River Rainbow Trout |
Madison River Brown Trout |
Madison River Brown Trout |
Madison River Brown Trout |

I sure wish the last hour of fishing lasted longer! In Montana at this time of year, we fished until 9:30 to 10:00 pm. Where were all those fish we saw rising a couple of hours earlier?

Lastly, we stayed up late a couple of nights to watch for the NEOWISE comet.

NEOWISE Comet Over Madison River Valley |

As I stated earlier, the Madison River valley is a magical place. We plan to return in a few days after fishing the Yellowstone River.

And now for a short blooper…I’m trying to land one of the strong fish and it swims between my legs.

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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    1. Hi Cory

      Thanks for leaving a Comment on my website. Nice to see it was useful for you. I always recommend a 9 foot 5 weight rod to anyone beginning to fly fish. As for flies, check out my previous posts for successful ones I use


  1. Ha John when are you and your wife going to do another article/video on the Met, your favorite small river. Love to be enlightened on your trip of the trademon the Met. Dave

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