Fly Fishing,    Planning,    Fly Fishing for Beginners

Strategies for Winter Fly Fishing in Montana

By Eric Shores 1/7/2016 5 minutes

Sitting here watching it snow outside, wind about 40 mph out of the north. Hard to imagine, but my mind still turns to fly-fishing. It may be nasty now but in a few days’ temps are supposed to soar into the high 30s, low forties. That ought to clear the ice out of the water, and might even be enough to get the fish “sparking.”  

You have to be on the watch for the correct conditions, but some good fishing can be found in the winter months. Usually nymph fishing down deep and slow. There is not a lot of food available for the fish, and when they go on the bite they can really turn on. Winter fishing often seems to be all or nothing - you go in and catch 10 fish in an hour or you don’t even get a strike.

Read More Montana Fly Fishing Trip: Planning for Different Seasons

Fishing in the cold is not usually a boat situation. Unless you're using it for transportation to get to the “sweet spot." Winter fishing usually amounts to posting up on a good spot with some slack water, and then pounding one good spot.  

I like to change bugs often when fishing one spot 8 or 10 runs through the hole, then change it up. Frozen guides and frozen fingers might lengthen that time out a bit. I also like fishing from my truck, that way I can catch a couple fish, then run back to the truck and warm up.

Check Current Conditions: Madison River Fishing Report

Gear to Use for Winter Fly Fishing

Our main bug thing this time of year is Midges.  Any of the dozens of different midge pupa patterns will do. But I like the classic Zebra midge in an 18 or a twenty, with a tiny tungsten head to get it down. Afternoons with a small rise in temperature can bring on the adult dries.
  

Dry fly fishing in January, now that’s cool. No pun intended. I usually fish a griffus gnat 18 or 20 which is usually impossible to see, so use a “flag fly,” like a 14 parachute Adams. Then watch for a nose anywhere near it.

January is not exactly prime time, but if you get a warm day and a little free time to check out your local waters, go catch a fish. It will be good for your mental health

Read More Ennis, Montana - Where to Fly Fish When It's Windy

Destinations
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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.
Fishing Waters
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The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

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The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and 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 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 Hebgen Dam 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 maintains relatively low water levels and provides 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.
Trips
$
1,075
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
3 days
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 3 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.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
$
1,800
-
$
3,850
/ Angler
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
3 days - 6 days
Destination:
NorthShore of the Madison The Madison Valley is a 360 degree postcard year round with some of the most picturesqe views on earth. A cup of coffee during sunrise or a glass of wine ... moreat sunset are unforgettable here. You can count on the NorthShore of the Madison Lodge delivering the best possible view this valley has to offer. This luxury vacation rental near Ennis is complete with all the finest furnishings and amenities. Trout Stalkers offers all-inclusive fly fishing vacation packages that include fishing trips on the Madison River and 5-Star meals from the area's top chefs. The NorthShore of the Madison is one of a kind!

Packages include accommodations, meals, and guides. All package prices are based on double occupancy and a shared guide. The additional single supplement charge is to cover the expense of an additional guide boat for each fishing day. A 7% Montana lodging tax hasbeen added.

3 day packages include 2 days of guided fishing. 

4 day packages include 3 days of guided fishing.

5 day packages include 4 days of guided fishing.

6 day packages include 5 days of guided fishing.
$
300
-
$
495
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
5 hours - 1 day
Destination:
Join us for a fun day of fishing on one the Madison River, one of the top rated trout rivers in the US, and a legend in southwest Montana.
Outfitters
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Ennis Montana Premier Fly Fishing Outfitter and Fly Shop on the Madison River Trout Stalkers is a fly fishing outfitter that specializes in Montana and Madison River Fly Fishing Trips. ... moreWe are located in Downtown Ennis and just three blocks from some of the best fly fishing in Montana, on the Upper Madison River. Our fly shop is staffed with experienced and welcoming fly fishermen who enjoy sharing their knowledge.

Trout Stalkers fly shop and online store features a diverse collection of the finest fly fishing gear, clothing, fly fishing gifts, fly rods, reels, flies, rental gear, boats and accessories. Our carefully curated fly selection is focused on proven fly patterns for the Madison River and other major southwest Montana rivers.

We have a variety of watercrafts and rafts for rent and for sale, including inflatable rafts equipped with fishing frames, drift boats, kayaks and SUPs. We also have an ever-changing fleet of new and used rafts and drift boats for sale. Need a Madison River shuttle service? We can help with that too.

Our extensive knowledge of fly fishing the Madison River stems from many years and countless days spent “driftin’ and dreamin'" on this great river from top to bottom. We strive to make every visitor to Ennis, Montana feel comfortable and welcome in our fly shop. We want you to have a great Montana fly fishing experience and our top-notch, seasoned guide staff will work hard to make sure of it! Our motto at Trout Stalkers is simple: The first time you fish with us you're a client. The second time you're a friend!
 (10)
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
Type:
Fishing
 (1)
Welcome to Southwest Montana's finest fly fishing adventures. Blue ribbon trout water is literally steps away when you visit us in the picturesque town of Ennis, Montana. You may spend ... morethe day on our home river, the world famous Madison or drive to one of our other local rivers such as the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby or the Jefferson. Whether you are a new angler or an old pro we have the expertise and patience to make your time on the water chasing wild trout a success.
Type:
Fishing

AuthorPicture

Eric Shores

Eric Shores has been guiding clients on Montana Rivers for over 32 years. He's as wily as any old brown trout when it comes to getting his clients on to fish and his stories will entertain you along the way. Many of our clients have become life long friends after a memorable day on the water with Eric.

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