Fly Fishing, Planning, Insider
Friday, 19 Aug, 2016
You've had plans with your buddies for two weeks now, the weather is awesome, you’ve got a cooler full of beers, you remembered your license and you actually left as early as you had planned on, perfect!!! But, you show up to the boat ramp and realize EVERYBODY else had the same plan as you. Bummer.
You've had plans with your buddies for two weeks now, the weather is awesome, you’ve got a cooler full of beers, you remembered your license and you actually left as early as you had planned on, perfect!!! But, you show up to the boat ramp and realize EVERYBODY else had the same plan as you. Bummer. Montana
is (unfortunately) not the same unnoticed state it was 25 years ago. It's now a fishing Mecca and along with the publicity came the crowds. However, that doesn't mean you always have to be surrounded by other boats and fishermen...1. Stay away from the big name rivers
While you think it would be common sense that the 4th of July is gonna be busy
on any major Montana river
, it's amazing how often you hear guests complain about crowds on rivers that are on the cover of fly fishing magazines every month. There are always other options. Get away! Go crazy! Do some exploring! This will be easier in normal or slightly higher water years as there will be more options and no river restrictions. And, vice versa, low water years cause high water temps and result in river closures throughout the state as well as causing some of the smaller creeks and tributaries to dry up completely. This will cause those big name rivers to become even even MORE crowded. And, while this could make finding new fishable water a little harder, it is all the more reason to go explore and find your own little slice of Montana heaven.
2. Buy a topo map
This is going right along with avoiding the more well known rivers. If you are gonna go do some exploring, this is an essential tool. Topo maps will show you where the water is and which dirt road or path you need to take to get there.3. Check water levels before you go
Unfortunately, one thing a topo map cannot do is tell you HOW MUCH water is in those streams, creeks and lakes. And even though seeing new water is always fun, it's more fun to check it out when it's fishable. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) is a great resource to check water levels around the country. The web address to search country wide for fisheries is https://www2.usgs.gov/water/
. Or, to find data on specific Montana rivers, go to http://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/current/?type=flow&group_ky=basin_cd
. This site will show you current flows, historic minimum flows, historic maximum flows as well as the mean and median flows. Remember, usually rising flows don't fish as well as stable (or especially dropping) flows.4. Know your state's water laws
Every state has a different set of fishing and fishing access laws. For example, in Colorado
the landowner owns the river bottom. This means you are not allowed to wade any private land or even touch an oar to the bottom of a private section of river without fear of a trespassing ticket. In Montana, on the other hand, everything below the high water mark of 1985 is public and fishable as long as the river or stream is accessed by public land and that the fishery in question is considered to be navigable. Navigable meaning you are able to float the stretch of water in a boat without getting stuck and having to physically move said boat. Knowing the state's fishing laws in the state you are fishing could save you a lot of trouble as you sneak around looking for that piece of water you saw on your topo map.
5. Local knowledge is always the best
As I have mentioned before, it's amazing the intel that can be gained by buying someone a few beers
. You’re not looking for the guy with the brand new fishing shirt, who still has his waders on in the bar - stay away from that guy, he never has a bad day. Look for the local guy with dirty hands who looks like he may fish. Introduce yourself, buy him a beer and if you ask a question or if he starts talking, LISTEN, this isn't the time to tell him about the big fish you hooked today.
Here are a few ways to try and avoid the drift boat zoo in July and August. It won't always pay off and most of those little cricks are gonna be chalk full of only pan sized trout but you never know when you’re gonna find that hidden gem you’ve been looking for.Read More Fly Fishing Off the Beaten Path at Axolotl Lakes Near Ennis Montana
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.
Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.
Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
The Jefferson River is an important part of a system of rivers that combine to form the majestic Missouri. Starting at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers near Twin ... moreBridges, Montana, it winds 77 miles in a northeasterly fashion to Three Forks. Here, it meets with the Madison and Gallatin rivers that together converge into the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park. Like so many other rivers in Montana, the Jefferson, named by Clark in honor of the U.S. President, runs deep with history. In fact, the Jefferson River is a segment of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by our National Park Service.
When thinking about the Jefferson, a Class 1 river for recreational enjoyment, most observers view the river in three distinct sections. Characterized by slow, meandering flows, the upper third works its way through a broad, arid valley. Along this braided, 44 mile long floodplain, you will encounter working farms, dense cottonwood stands, flowered meadows and a variety of wildlife until you reach the town of Cardwell. Throughout the next 15 miles, its waters flow through a narrow, steep canyon where the water can be deep, slow and contained. As a result, the stretch from Cardwell to the Sappington Bridge has comparatively fewer trees, swamps, meadows and wildlife.
At Sappington Bridge the river once again becomes a circuitous, rambling river, rich in swamp life, colorful fields, large cottonwood groves and productive agricultural land. The presence of significant agriculture has resulted in competition for water use. During dry years, the river was tapped generously for irrigation, dropping water levels to the point where fish populations were adversely affected. Recent improvement in riparian management has tended to alleviate these issues. Primarily known as a brown trout river, rainbows, mountain whitefish, burbot and northern pike can also be found here. Less well known and less discovered, the Jefferson offers the opportunity to catch large fish in a scenic, un-crowded environment.
The Big Hole River starts in the Beaverhead Mountains south of Jackson, Montana and flows on for about 156 miles. Beginning as a slight stream, it picks up muscle as it joins with ... morethe North Fork, and draws more volume as it passes through the Wise River basin. At the Continental Divide it changes its northeasterly direction and heads southeast until it joins the Beaverhead and forms the Jefferson River close to the town of Twin Bridges, Montana. It hosts one of the last known habitat for the native fluvial artic grayling but is best known to fly fishers for its trout.
Like so many Montana rivers, the Big Hole is as full of history as it is of water. When Lewis and Clark stumbled upon it, the river was providing a buffer zone between rival Indian tribes vying for land as they sagely anticipated the westward push of European miners, furriers and settlers. Fifty years later, a significant number of the Nez Percé, a tribe that had initially befriended the Expedition, refused to accept life on a reservation and were nearly wiped out by U.S. troops in the Battle of the Big Hole. Today’s battles consist of quarrels between ranchers who desire water for irrigation and recreational users who wish to see the water preserved.
Fishing the river can be basically divided into three sections. From the headwaters at Skinner Lake to Fish Trap, the river meanders slowly through high meadowlands. This is where the few remaining artic grayling can be found, although browns and rainbows are in abundance here. In the second section, Fish Trap to Melrose, you will find boulders and pocket water rushing through a narrow canyon; here rainbows outnumber the browns with an estimated 3000 fish per mile. The final section, Melrose to Twin Bridges, is lined with cottonwood bottoms, braided channels and long, slow pools. In contrast to the second link, browns outnumber rainbows 2 to 1 with approximately 3000 fish per mile.
If fly wranglers were gossips, the “Blue Ribbon” Madison River would likely be their primary object of attention. Arguably it’s the most talked over, written up and frequented river ... morein the entire state of Montana – and that’s saying something. What’s more, no one has anything bad to say about it and that’s for a good reason. There’s nothing bad to say. Its scenic journey begins in Yellowstone National Park at the convergence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers and continues for 19 miles through parkland. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and sorry to disappoint, but it’s catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters the Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.
Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hegman releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.
Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintain relatively low water levels and provide wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, that's where our 3 Rivers in 3 Days comes in because that's exactly what you'll be doing, fishing three different rivers in three days! With ... moreour choice of 4 world class rivers, our guides will know what rivers to fish on which days to maximize your chances for success. Don't blink, you might miss something!
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before
Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 5 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.
The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants. The following day provides instructions again for a do it yourself wade day. Location will depend on the hot locations during your visit. The final day is another full day float day on the lower Madison River. All together, you will experience the Madison River like never before by true expert.
Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
Experience the best of Montana fly fishing with our authentic all-inclusive packages at the T Lazy B Ranch.
3 night/2 day lodging, meals and 2 days of guided fishing
4 night/3 day lodging, meals and 3 days of guided fishing
5 night/4 day lodging, meals and 4 days of guided fishing
6 night/5 day lodging, meals and 5 days of guided fishing
7 night/6 day lodging, meals and 6 days of guided fishing
Pricing assumes double accupancy
What do you think of when you hear "Montana?" Small towns? Cowboys? Cows? BIG TROUT?! The answer is D, "All of the above"! Montana is still the place it was 80 years ago, where a man's ... morehandshake means something and big trout thrive. Located in the "Trout Mecca" of Southwestern Montana, our location and our guide's experience allow us to guide on a number of world class rivers; the Madison, Jefferson, Ruby and Yellowstone rivers are arguably the best trout streams in the lower 48.
Whether you have never held a fishing pole in your life or if you've been fishing since you could walk, the versatile, select guides we employee at MFFT all live on, and spend all they're free time on, these select rivers. They know how satisfy ALL of our clients, from novice to pro.
But Montana is so much more than just a trout haven. With picturesque mountains, abundant wildlife and under a million people, you actually have to try to not enjoy our beautiful state. As longtime client and friend Don Patton once wrote me after a trip, "fish count is only one criteria, there are many more markers for success. We hit them all." Here at MFFT we strive to give our clients much more than just a fishing trip, we want to share our passion for fishing and our love of Montana with all of our guests and new friends.
Charles P. Graham
Owner-Montana Fly Fishing Trips
Montana Fishing Outfitter#10349