The Madison River is perhaps the most famous and highly regarded wild trout stream in the Western US. The 50-mile stretch between Quake Lake and Ennis is known as the "50 Mile Riffle" and is referred to as the "Upper Madison River." Unlike typical western trout streams, the river consists of one long riffle dotted with boulders that break the current.
Floating the Upper Madison is a unique Montana fly fishing experience that draws anglers back year after year. Its scenery and wild trout make it a bucket list destination. Let us help customize your Montana fly fishing trip with a visit to the upper Madison River.
"...with Nick. Nick is an absolute gem. Nick is extremely knowledgeable and patient. He epitomizes the best in guides. I've floated with many and very few have his laid-back demeanor and teaching skills. He deserves a medal after several major screwups of mine as well as missed hook sets, including on what likely would have been the biggest fish of the day. Couldn't recommend Fins and Feathers and Nick more highly."
- Tom H
Below Quake Lake, the Madison races through a short, rugged canyon. Pocket water and boulder runs below Raynold’s Pass hold powerful rainbows and browns.
Wade fishing is preferred in this stretch and fishing while floating is prohibited by law. Many anglers use drift boats or rafts to float from one productive run to another, stopping to wade-fish areas that are less accessible to wade anglers.
Scan the banks for rising trout sipping mayflies and nymph along the deep pockets next to myriad boulders.
The Madison transforms into a wide, shallow river below Lyon’s Bridge, teeming with trout. Long riffles and glides provide the perfect habitat for the wild rainbows of the Madison River.
Hoppers, ants, beetles, and attractor patterns are reliable options in late summer.
Hatches of blue-winged olives and midges bring Rainbow and Brown Trout to the surface during the spring and fall.
Below Varney Bridge, the gradient increases with fast riffles punctuated by long, slow pools and runs.
The deeper holes hold the largest brown trout in the river, often in excess of 20 inches. Precision nymphing techniques allow anglers to reach the depths where the biggest fish live.
Streamer fly fishing close to the bank draws explosive takes. With its big fish and technical challenges, this stretch appeals to experienced anglers, especially in the spring and fall months.
Undercut banks, weed beds, and submerged structures provide endless lies to target the wild trout in this section of the river. The access and wadeability make this a versatile stretch to fish for both expert and novice anglers alike.
This section of the river is closed to fishing while floating, so it is ideal for the wading angler. Drift boats and rafts are used by anglers to navigate the narrow channels near Ennis Lake, but the fishing is all done from outside of the boats.
This is a particularly productive stretch of the Madison River in the spring and fall months.
April is a great month to experience Madison River fishing on the upper river stretches near Ennis for novice or experienced fly angler. Warming water temperatures help to increase Rainbow and Brown Trout...Read More
The upper Madison River is the last major river to be affected by the spring runoff in Southwest Montana each season. The river is rarely “unfishable,” but it can get extremely difficult and even dangerous during the peak...Read More
The peak Montana fishing season on the upper Madison River kicks off in mid-June with the first sightings of Salmonfly shucks on the rocks around Valley Garden, just a few miles downstream of Ennis. The river reaches...Read More
The upper stretches of the Madison River offer some of the most prolific and rewarding fly fishing in Montana each July. This freestone river, born in Yellowstone National Park and stretching for well over 50....Read More
Late summer on Montana's legendary Madison River brings exceptional dry fly fishing along with hungry trout focused on terrestrials. Cool mornings offer some of the best fishing of the day during the hottest days of...Read More
As autumn arrives in Montana, the Madison River continues to offer world-class fly fishing. This iconic trout stream originates in Yellowstone National Park and meanders over 140 miles through the heart of Southwest Montana...Read More
Fins and Feathers Guide Service has been outfitting Madison River fishing trips for over two decades. We offer full-day float trips to match your experience and interests from Raynold's Pass to Ennis Lake.
Float and wade the sections near Ennis, Montana for the big browns, or focus on the dry fly waters downstream of Lyon's Bridge. The choices are endless with options for anglers of all skill levels.
The upper Madison River is open year-round to fishing and offers excellent opportunities from the dead of winter through the height of summer.
Our Madison River fishing report is based on our guide’s experiences and feedback from friends in the Montana fly fishing community on this blue-ribbon river between Raynold’s Pass and Ennis Lake.
Our Montana fishing reports offer current stream flows, fishing access points, shuttle information, fishing conditions, and top fly pattern recommendations.