We’re at the end of our second trip fly fishing the Madison River this year. I’ve always said that no two days on the river are the same. That saying also is applicable to the fishing we’ve experienced this week on the Madison.
Last year, we had spectacular fishing with ants on the Madison in August. You might have read my post Fly Fishing the Madison River Valley about our trip. If not, I encourage you to take a quick look.
This year the fishing has been tougher, especially in the morning. We have caught some very nice fish which you’ll see shortly, but my wife continues to say I have very high expectations when it comes to catching fish…and why not?
We expected to be “in between hatches”. The caddis hatch is pretty much over, but a few mayflies are hatching. We haven’t seen the mayfly duns on the water very much, but spinners are out most evenings.
Just like last year, we are staying with our friends Sherry and Eric. Here we are ready to fish the first evening.
We raised a lot of fish to our flies, but the fish this year are much more wary and “drive by” our fly without eating them.
What has been working?
As expected, Arrick’s Parachute Ant and Galloup’s Ant Acid have brought up some nice fish. In addition, a Rusty Spinner – Biot Body and a lighter colored spinner to match the insect pictured above have worked well for me. The only thing close I have with me is a Callibaetis Spinner.
The last fly I used was one to imitate a Flav. I had seen one in the evening and captured it to get a good look. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try when nothing else was working. What do you know, it worked! I kept using it and fish continued to rise. Even though I didn’t see other flies, the fish seemed to like them.
I used both the biot body and regular Sparkle Dun in size 14 to imitate the Flav.
We practiced the same routine as our previous trips, fishing in the morning, taking a break mid-day, and arriving at the river around 6 pm and fishing until dark, which is about 9:15.
Fishing was definitely better on the evening.
Water levels have also settled down. When we fished the Madison River in July, it was running 1400 – 1500 cfs. This trip, we found water levels between 1300 – 1400 cfs. Today the river level has come down even further to 1250 cfs.
OK, now to some fish pics.
Even these smaller Rainbow and Brown Trout are strong when you hook them on this river. These are fat, healthy trout!
I’m always amazed how camouflaged these trout are. They pick up colors of the river bottom.
One evening I fished a certain area I found our last trip. I was able to hook and play several fish with the Callibaetis Spinner pattern shown above. I hooked some very big fish, played them, and lost most of them. These were acrobatic fish, jumping several times before they popped off my hook. Each time, I ended the fight with an audible “WOW”.
I’ve been blessed to be able to fish a lot, but that was a special night. It ended with one last Rainbow Trout I somehow was able to land. First, I had to place a cast in a narrow slot and the fish immediately rose to the fly. I set the hook and the rodeo began!
It was hooked two feet from a log jam, so I pulled as hard as I could to keep it away from the logs. It worked and I got the fish to the right of a big rock. The only problem was the log jam was still in play and the fish quickly headed for it!
I kept tension on the fish, but could feel it stuck in the logs. I pulled hard and somehow the fish gods were smiling down on me that evening and the fish swam towards me. I thought I had control with the fly line/leader connection close to the rod tip.
Easy, right? I should be able to net this fish. The only problem was it swam between my legs. And I was in water a little over my knees. What to do? I balanced and stepped over the line and didn’t fall in the river. A short time later, this Rainbow Trout came to my net. It was close to 17 inches.
All I could do was smile with wonder at this little rodeo.
That was the same evening I hooked a big fish and it jumped over a log. I walked out to try and retrieve it. Long story short, it broke off, but I’ll remember that fish!
This is one reason I continue to return and fly fish the Madison River. It isn’t always about the fish you catch, but the ones that get away as well. This fish make lasting memories!
We tend to take a break if we don’t see rising fish. And this is a spectacular valley to pause and take in the views.
And the evening provides breathtaking views.
Just like our last trip, we found some thunderstorms affecting our fishing. But the aftermath made it worthwhile.
We still have one more day to fish the Madison River before we head out for different waters.
Be sure to check out next week’s blog post to see where the next adventure takes us.