We left Green Drakes hatching a week ago on our home waters and travelled to Montana. It’s a little earlier than normal for us, but my wife joined her sister for a pre-planned half marathon in West Yellowstone, MT last Saturday. So we needed to leave rising fish and try fly fishing the Madison River in June 2021.

$3 Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

Since we needed to be in West Yellowstone, I made arrangements to stay in a cabin along the Madison River.

We drove from Ennis into a headwind of 30+ mph, with gusts approaching 50 mph. I chose not to fight fly fishing in the wind and pulled out my fly tying vise to catch up on one remaining customer order.

We’ve had great success fishing the $3 Bridge area in past years, but we arrived 3 weeks earlier than normal. The river in the lowest I’ve seen, running at 943 cfs with low visibility. I checked my post from July last year, Fly Fishing the Madison River in 2020, and found flows were 1,100 cfs. I wrote then it was the lowest I’d seen the Madison since we’ve been fishing it.

Madison River Low Water | www.johnkreft.com

The flows dropped even lower last Saturday to 850 cfs, but have been on the rise the last few days. As I write this post, river levels are at 1,000 cfs.

We weren’t sure what the fishing would be like when we arrived in mid-June.

We’re early. Turns out there are very few bugs around.

I fished the first full day after our arrival in the $3 Bridge area.

I tied on an X Caddis and placed my fly along the seam of runs I’ve caught fish in during prior years. Not a fish rose to my fly.

How about Beetle Baily? It’s worked here before.


Time to change it up.

I concentrated on water around rocks close to shore.

Rock Pockets on Madison | www.johnkreft.com

One of my first drifts moved a fish! I continued fishing and caught my first fish, a 14” Rainbow Trout.

First Madison River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

I moved from spot to spot, concentrating on water around the rocks…and found more fish following my fly.

I’m amazed how easily fish move in the water. They have a gracefulness about their movement. Many times, they’ll follow a fly and seem to rise before drag takes over and the fish turns, returning to their lie.

I was grateful this fish ate Beetle Bailey after following it a couple of times.

Madison Rainbow with Beetle Bailey | www.johnkreft.com

And the release…

Madison Rainbow Release | www.johnkreft.com

I felt lucky to land 4 Rainbow Trout that day.

While searching for rising fish, which I didn’t find, I found a family of Canadian Geese.

Goslings on Madison | www.johnkreft.com

And a beautiful rock…

Madison Rock and Wildflowers | www.johnkreft.com

A day later, we tried fishing in the evening, but never saw a fish. My earlier tactic of fishing around rocks didn’t work either.

Since fishing was slow, we decided to brave the crowds and head into Yellowstone National Park and see if we could find a few animals.

We found herds of bison around the Firehole River with many calves.

Bison Mom and Baby | www.johnkreft.com
Bison Families | www.johnkreft.com

Here are a couple young fly fishers on the Firehole.

Firehole River Fishing | www.johnkreft.com
Firehole River | www.johnkreft.com

A Salmonfly along the Firehole River.

Salmonfly on Firehole | www.johnkreft.com

A view of the Madison River in the Park.

Madison in Yellowstone Park | www.johnkreft.com

A few elk along the Madison River.

Elk in YNP | www.johnkreft.com

The following day, we fished in the evening back on the Madison River below Quake Lake.

Madison River | www.johnkreft.com

My wife hooked and played a 12″ trout for a short time before coming unbuttoned.

Right at dusk, which is between 9 and 9:30 pm this time of year, I tied on Scotty’s Midge.

Scotty's Midge | www.johnkreft.com

I had caught a midge in my net using a mesh paint strainer bag over it. We use this technique on occasion when we can’t figure out what insects are hatching. This midge is about a size 22.

Madison River Midge | www.johnkreft.com

I managed to hook and land a couple of 12″ healthy Rainbow Trout in the shape of a football.

I hope the bugs start hatching soon!

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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  1. Hi John, sounds like fun even if you are early.
    Hope Karen had a good run!
    BTW did you check the geeses papers, I have only herd them called Canada Geese.
    Coiuld not let that slip by.
    Have a fun and safe trip.

  2. JOHN, I do have an unrelated question. getting ready to go up to Crane Prairie. I have a pretty good idea on subsurface flies but is there any dry fly opportunities? And what fly would you use there? That is assuming with your location that you may have some first hand experience.
    John Storfold
    SOFF, fly tying Chair

    1. Thanks for the Comment Nathan.

      We drove to the Henry’s Fork…watch for my next post…the fish gods are smiling on my!


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