Ennis, Montana · Madison River

Signs of Spring, Playing Around in the Channels and the Ice 

River Flows :

Hebgen Dam 870 cfs

Old Kirby Place 970 cfs 

Varney Bridge 1030 cfs

Lower Madison 1290 cfs

With spring still technically a little less than a month away  on March 20th it feels as if it’s already here. Some of the birds we don’t see until spring are starting to show up. There is some nest building going on in and amongst the trees. The weather has been mild with daytime temps in the 40s to 50s and night time temps ranging from high teens into the low 30s. The tulips are starting to emerge from once frozen ground and maybe a little more importantly for the angler in us all we are starting to spawning activity by the rainbow trout in the Madison River. 

I made a quick float from Ennis to Valley Garden with friend and fishing guide Mike Lum yesterday and we noticed lots of cleared off gravel and rock areas being prepaired by spawning rainbow trout. Redds for short. It is fairly easy to avoid these spots as they are clean and easy to spot. It is good practice to try and avoid anchoring, walking and fishing on these so as to give the trout a little time to help create the next generation of trout for the river. Are we going to catch spawning rainbows? Absolutely. We are fishing when they do their thing. Do we need to target them on these easy to find spots just so we can post another picture? Absolutely not. Just saying. For those interested, if you watch a redd for a bit you might even get a glimpse of males fighting over territory, digging away rocks and gravel and defending females. All really cool stuff if your interested in seeing a part of the trouts lives most don’t get a chance to see or take the time to observe. 

We also spotted many other signs of spring along the river. The ducks and geese are starting to find areas to build nests. There is also a big eagles nest on the east side of the Madison down river from Ennis Bridge about a mile and the bald eagles where doing some repair and adding to the already gigantic nest. Although there is still lots of ice remaining from the gorge below Valley Garden access and ice on the lake it is also starting to melt and will be gone before we know it. 

 

Remaining gorge ice below Valley Garden

 

Mike and I mainly swung bigger streamers to see if any larger fish where on the feed and we caught several nice brown trout and one bigger rainbow that was eager to chase down a small fish. We were also getting in some Spey casting with a smaller 12 foot 6wt and 7wt to swing streamers through some of bigger runs down river from Ennis. Olive and white rainbow trout patterns seemed to do the best although I feel it’s more about patience and luck when streamer fishing this early in the spring. The nymph fishing was fairly easy with rubber leg stonefly nymphs trailing midge nymphs in black and red. Bigger male rainbows are keyed into eggs as well. We nymphed a few of the bigger deep green buckets and after hooking and landing several pre spawn male rainbows we would move on. All in all its good out there and should continue to fish well with mild weather and warmer daytime temperatures. 

Snow pack and snow water equivalent is still good in the drainages of southwestern Montana holding between 92 and 103 percent of normal. We will gladly take more moisture though as it is like “money in the bank”. 

A quick note: The entire upper Madison River will remain open at the end of the month as part of our new regulations. Much of the river normally closed at the end of February. New Montana fishing licenses will be needed come March 1st so don’t forget to pick that up. 

This will create a great opportunity for some early season fishing that we haven’t had on the Madison River since 1996 and anyone thinking they would like to take advantage should head over to www.montanafishman.com to check out the early bird specials. 

Thanks for checking in and I’ll see you in the river!

Brian Rosenberg

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