Our fly fishing road trip continues as we return to the Madison River. I think we were experiencing a phrase we’ve heard multiple times …”you’re between hatches”.
Fishing was different when we returned to the Madison River after fishing four days in Yellowstone National Park. I don’t know why. Perhaps the larger fish moved out to different lies on the river.
Just before leaving for Yellowstone, we fished a lot of tan Iris Caddis and X Caddis size 16 and 18. Upon our return, fish continued to rise for an occasional Caddis, but we fished the same spots and not many fish were showing themselves.
Mornings found tougher fishing for us and there wasn’t much insect activity.
I hear some of you saying “put on a nymph!”
We stuck with it and did manage to hook and land some nice fish.
And an occasional double!
Turns out, we hooked and landed more smaller fish like this little Brown Trout.
I fished some small, smooth water on the other side of the log just upstream from where I’m sitting. I hooked not one, but two fish with a dry fly in that narrow slot. I had seen fish rising consistently and slowly worked my way out to the water.
I have caught some big fish there on earlier trips. I cast to the first fish and hooked it on the second cast. Then the rodeo began. In past trips, I’ve been very lucky to land them. This time it moved to the fast water, taking line. I brought it towards me knowing the log was close. You guessed it. It swam under the log! I put my tip in the water hoping to pull it out with slow, steady pressure. I was able to reel in most of my line with the junction of fly line and leader through the tip. I could see the Rainbow Trout at my feet. I pulled the net out and tried to net it tail first…it swam through the log again and caught my fly on the end. So much for that fish. I wondered if I would have been successful with my long-handled net in the van.
I sat there on the rock to replace my tippet and fly, hoping more fish would rise after the water settled down a little.
It did. I saw another nice fish rising. A few casts later, a Brown Trout ate my fly. This time the fish swam upriver and into the logs. To make a longer story short, it too got off. I even placed my rod on the log jam after reeling in through the tip again. I tried to get my hand into the water and try to find where it was caught. It was hopeless. Same outcome as before.
These fish were probably my biggest fish hooked on the Madison! As I said earlier, I’ve hooked and landed fish at the same spot before. This time, both schooled me! I think these stories are sometimes more memorable than landing the fish…well, almost!
We had heard from sources that PMDs are hatching around Reynold’s Pass Bridge. Funny, but we haven’t seen any around $3 Bridge.
We spent the morning walking upstream and finally rose and landed a handful of fish, mostly in the small size. Turns out they weren’t early risers.
I found this two fly setup on the river below $3 Bridge and if you’ve been reading my RiverKeeper Flies posts, you might recall me saying “listen to the river, it will speak to you”.
I shrugged my shoulders and decided to take my own advice and tie it on to my leader and added a perdigon nymph.
Alas, no fish!
Here are a few images of non-fish…a very small midge on a rock.
A Mayfly dun, I’m guessing an Epeorus.
And an inquisitive river otter.
Here are the flies we used with success during both Madison River trips:
The last night of our trip on the Madison River we fished Lyon’s Bridge.
Several willing fish ate my fly, but like the rest of the week, many fish didn’t hook up. We had so many fish rise and we didn’t feel them.
Earlier on our trip, Dancingtrout counted the number of fish to her fly that didn’t hook up one evening – 0 for 22! I counted a few evenings later – 0 for 17. We had never experienced that before. I’m beginning to think the fish need eyeglasses!
Our friend Dick had told us the gulper action on Hebgen Lake was just beginning. It’s where the trout swim in pods and lazily eat Callibaetis Mayflies hatching or eating spinners that have fallen back to the water. We decided it was time for us to check it out.
The key for fishing Hebgen Lake is to find a calm day. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find these conditions, be we lucked out one day.
Here is a Callibaetis spinner with upright wings…
…and one with a classic spread wing pattern.
There were several on the lake, but not many fish eating them. Occasionally, you would see a rise, but it wasn’t consistent.
Here is our friend Dick fishing from his boat. As I recall he landed 3 that day.
I did manage to feel a fish for a split second. I tied on a Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph to my 6X tippet. I know what you’re thinking…are you crazy with that light tippet? Yes, I was. I knew better, but was wading waist deep and didn’t want to take the time to change up the leader. Dick had told us he fished 6X tippet with dry flies. We didn’t think that odd because it’s what we use on our home waters, the Metolius River.
Turns out I should have listened to that little voice. I felt a tap, tap and the fish was gone with my nymph.
At least I felt a Hebgen fish!
Next week will begin our trip west and towards home.
Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!
2020 Fly Fishing Road Trip Locations…so far