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Upper Madison River Fishing in Winter

Madison River Fishing During Winter

Arctic winters present both challenges and opportunities for anglers fly fishing in Montana on the Madison River during the winter months. Large ice jams form in between Varney Bridge and Ennis Lake, completely covering the river in 2-5 foot thick layers of ice each winter. The severity and scope of these formations vary but can be relied on to limit Madison River fishing near Ennis in most of December and January.

The best Madison River fly fishing during the winter months can be found upstream of Lyon’s Bridge. The section between Hebgen and Quake Lake is a local angler’s favorite with easy, roadside access just downstream of Hebgen Dam. The river leaves Quake Lake, upstream of the Raynold’s Pass FAS, and remains relatively ice-free throughout its course to Varney Bridge.

Madison River fishing in the wintertime is ideally suited for the wade angler. Anglers fishing in between the confluence of the West Fork and Raynolds Pass will find ample public access to a variety of terrific holding water including deep holes, pocket water, and gravel bar ledges where trout spend the cold, winter months.

Madison River Fishing Hatches Upstream of Ennis During Winter

Midges are the essential winter-hatching insects that anglers will encounter while fly fishing the Madison River during the winter. Mild January and February days bring prolific hatch events in the Raynold’s Pass and Three Dollar Bridge sections during the mid-day hours.

Bozeman Fly Fishing Guide Pro Tip:

Anglers fishing near Bozeman during the wintertime can find the best dry fly fishing in the region around Three Dollar Bridge throughout February. Rainbow and Brown Trout feed freely in the seams below mid-river boulders and rocks. This area remains relatively snow-free, making access to the river easier than many other access points.

Madison River Fly Fishing Techniques for the Upper River in the Winter

Nymph fishing under a strike indicator with two, small heavily weighted nymphs is productive in the heavy seams below boulders and through the deepest runs. Typical setups are 5-7’ in length between the first fly and the strike indicator, with a split shot added as needed.

Perdigon style nymphs in sizes 14-18 and dark colors accompanied by midge pupa patterns in red or black are standard fly combinations. Large stonefly nymphs, egg patterns, and San Juan worm variations can all be effective too.

During Midge hatches, anglers experience Madison River fishing success when fishing with long leaders and fine tippets to help ensure drag-free drifts through the complicated seam structure. Cluster patterns like a Griffith’s Gnat and low-riding Midge Adult imitations in gray are anglers’ favorites.

Upper Madison River Fly Box for the Wintertime

Madison River Fishing Trips Upstream of Ennis in the Winter

Fins and Feathers Guide Service is located in Bozeman, Montana, and has been outfitting Madison River fishing trips for over two decades. Our winter guide trips to the upper Madison are best reserved with short notice during “windows” of nice weather between mid-January and early March.

Experienced anglers who are comfortable wading on the slippery rocks of the upper Madison River can expect to find success while nymph or dry fly fishing with our Montana fishing guides. Novice anglers enjoy the scenery and solitude that is easily found during the wintertime while improving their fly fishing skills on this legendary wild trout fishery.

Guided Madison River fishing trips can be reserved online, via e-mail, or by calling our team of Montana fly fishing experts at 1-406-468-5019. We recommend inquiring with us through our Contact Form before booking to ensure availability and that winter conditions are appropriate for angling during your prospective dates.

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