The next stop on our fly fishing road trip was fly fishing the Madison River in July 2022. By the time you read this post, we’ve fished the Madison a little over a week. It’s a river we’ve been returning to for many years.
Our weather has been interesting. We’ve had several days of afternoon thunderstorms and as I write this, Reynold’s Pass is reporting winds of 32 mph and gusts to 45! We fished this morning and quit before the heavy winds arrived.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
If you read last week’s post about our stop at the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, we caught some very nice fish the last two days and we hoped to continue with good fishing on the Madison River. As we drove down the river on the way to Lyon’s Bridge, we were amazed at all the fly fishers along both sides of the river just upstream of West Fork. I’d read a couple of fishing reports about Salmonflies and Golden Stones hatching on the river. Perhaps that’s why we didn’t see as many fly fishers on the Henry’s Fork!
We enjoy fishing the walk and wade section of the upper Madison, generally around the $3 Bridge area. For some reason, it speaks to me. You’ll find an occasional driftboat, raft, or pontoon boat, but fishing isn’t allowed while drifting down the river. They need to beach their craft before fishing. Below Lyon’s Bridge, fishing is allowed while floating and if you arrive there in the morning, you’ll see a steady stream of boats launching to begin their fishing day. We’ve counted over 50 rigs in the parking area!
Indeed, Salmonflies were in the bushes.
A few were flying around, but there were many more Caddisflies.
And Caddisflies are what we were hoping the fish would key on. There were MANY more Caddisflies and we were able to see fish feeding on them.
Our favorite Caddis imitations have been an X Caddis during the day and Iris Caddis at dusk.
These two staples hooked some nice fish for us.
But at some point, the X Caddis wasn’t working for me, so I looked in my Caddis fly box and found a few size 16 Schroeder’s Parachute Caddis, which I featured as a Throw Back Thursday Fly in April 2021.
And it worked!
Like any fly utilizing turkey for a wing, the fish shred the fibers in short order. The fly continues to work, but I decided to tie a few extra one evening after fishing till 9:30 pm and used CDC for a wing. It worked too, but the wing needs extra attention with Frogs Fanny drying the fibers. A couple nights later, back at the vise I tried deer hair for the wing. It fished well and withstood several trout much better. I’ll keep using it for a while.
We were fishing one morning and Karen shouted to me as she walked downstream to find another spot to fish. She’d found a Golden Stone hatching and thought I should take a few pictures, so here they are.
Notice how the wings unfurl much like a mayfly, but over several minutes the wings settle into a normal alignment.
One of the evenings we fished, fish wouldn’t eat the X Caddis. I watched one rising occasionally next to a rock along the shore. The slow rise indicated to me it wasn’t a Caddis take. I had seen a few small Mayflies earlier and decided to tie on a Comparaspinner Rusty Dun.
That fly was what the fish wanted, and I landed it and a few others before fish moved back to eating Caddis. The profile of this fly from below looks like the spent wings of a spinner, but the post is clearly visible to the fly fisher. When pulled upright, it blends into the wing.
This morning, the fish didn’t seem to cooperate as I tried several flies. The X Caddis wasn’t working, so I tied on Beetle Bailey and moved several fish to the fly, but didn’t hook any. I walked up and down the bank watching for rising fish, but didn’t find any. I ended up sitting on the bank and watched the river, waiting for it to speak to me. I saw a couple of larger mayflies and thought they might be a Pale Evening Dun and tied on a Sparkle Dun.
This fish took the fly on the first cast.
After releasing the fish, I checked the tippet close to the fly and decided to re-tie the knot. I do this frequently when landing larger fish and many Brown Trout. While the following image wasn’t the trout above, look closely at the teeth and you’ll understand why I retie knots.
We planned to be here a few more days, but smoke began to enter the upper Madison River valley this afternoon. It’s the first we’ve seen and hope the wind changes. Otherwise, we’ll be searching for new waters.
Several springs flow into the Madison around $3 Bridge. Here is one of them full of wildflowers.
Sunsets like the one below is one of the reasons we keep returning.
And the fish as well!
John – I am leaving for the Madison tomorrow, so this is very timely! Thanks for the wealth of info in the Madison.