I know many of my readers live in the Western United States. Between the warm water temperatures and smoke, you may have changed your fly fishing plans this summer. Last week, we made a few adjustments as well as we dealt with smokey Montana fly fishing.

Here is a sunset we normally see at $3 Bridge. I took this photo before we left the river a few days ago. It’s one of the reasons we enjoy fishing here so much, it’s magical.

Sunset at $3 Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

We decided to take 4 days off and visit family in the Missoula, MT area. It’s a drive of 3 plus hours and over 220 miles each way, but only a short drive for Montana!

Before leaving the Madison, I dialed 911 to report this smoke across from $3 Bridge from the previous night of thunderstorms. We read there were over 800 lightning strikes! Luckily, someone else beat me to it, as the 911 operator was aware of this small fire. I say small fire, but I did see a tree go up in flames. Later that day, a helicopter flew to the Madison a short distance below $3 Bridge and took out a water bucket. It began flying past this smoke to a different fire. After several trips, it did drop a bucket of water on it. The next day, I didn’t see any smoke.

Smoke Across From $3 Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

And a close-up…

Smoke Across From $3 Bridge - Close-up | www.johnkreft.com

A couple of days later, we fished the $3 Bridge in the evening and saw some smoke up towards Cliff and Wade lakes.

Smoke From $3 Bridge - First Sighting | www.johnkreft.com

I think that was the day we decided to leave for Missoula.

We returned to the Madison a couple days ago where the water level had dropped to about 1350 cfs and the water temperature was still the same at 62 degrees. Our first stop was the Lyon’s Bridge rest area. We looked across the river and found a fairly large fire camp.

Fire Camp at Lyon's Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

This firefighting heavy equipment was parked at the rest area. Note some of the empty trailers.

Fire Equipment at Lyon's Bridge Rest Area | www.johnkreft.com

Here’s the view looking upstream past Lyon’s Bridge.

Smoke Above Lyon's Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

We ended up at $3 Bridge again to find the fire much larger than we left it.

Smoke by Cliff and Wade Lake | www.johnkreft.com

It had created quite a bit of smoke, but at river level, it didn’t seem too bad and we planned to fish after a quick bite to eat.

Shortly after we ate, the wind shifted and brought all the smoke from the fire at Cliff and Wade lakes back to us. Well, that changed our plans and we drove up to Hebgen Lake to see if it might be clearer. It wasn’t.

Smoke at Hebgen Lake | www.johnkreft.com

We tried fishing again in the morning and did land quite a few fish, but most were in the 4 – 8 inch range. Between the two of us, we landed a 12 and 14 inch Rainbow. I wonder where the bigger fish went?

A combination of few rising fish and all the smoke, we chose to leave the Madison.

Madison Valley From Earthquake Lake Visitor Center | www.johnkreft.com

I think we’ll head to Wyoming and see what the smoke conditions are.

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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