Feels like summer…..8 days till the Opener

While we patiently wait for the General Season Opener, May 19, there is some great fishing to be had in between the lakes – Betwixt.  I don’t head down there very often and pound the same holes and now, after the warm temps over the past two days, Cabin Creek is pumping again so the right bank is quite dirty.  Fish are eating all sorts of flies – rubber legs, pheasant tails, zerbra midges, eggs patterns and prince nymphs.

***Please Note****

Lots of rainbows are spawning right now in every channel on the Madison River – be careful where you wade fish.   Those shallow channels have enough water this spring, resulting in spawning beds (redds).  When you see fish stacked up in 12 inches of water, realize that they are procreating.

Snow pack Update

Madison River – 84%

Gallatin River – 91%

Jefferson River – 61%

Missouri headwaters – 73%

The white gold up in the hills is holding in there.  60-75 degree temps are forecasted for the next 5 days, so some of this is gonna melt.  Its May, therefore run-off is inevitable and this sort of thing is normal.  We didn’t get anywhere near the snow pack that fell last winter.  It actually feels like summer here in West Yellowstone.  Hopefully, we get some more snow up in the high country in the next 6 weeks.

Missouri River Report – there has been good to great dry fly fishing on the Missouri River below Holter Dam.  BWOs, March Browns and Caddis are hatching.  The Caddis are not hatching river wide, however, the trout are eating caddis larva/pupa below Craig.   The Missouri is fishing as well as it can – meaning that things up there are really good.  Big Sky Anglers will be on the Missouri from May 27 through June 13 –  we are booked solid for this time frame.  We get up to the MO all summer long and have ears and eyes in Craig on an almost daily basis.  Greg Falls, one of the best fishing guides on the river, works for us for over half of his season.   Contact us for more information on our Missouri River guided fly fishing trips.

No News Yet – Madison River Rec Plan

The Madison River Recreation Management Plan is still in the decision making process of choosing those who will make up the Citizen’s Advisory Council (CAC). Joe Maurier, Director of Montana FWP, is charged with picking the chosen ones…..when will he decide?

One cannot own a river or even part of it, except in one’s heart.

– Charlie Brooks, The Living River

Is it really private?

This photo was taken back in 2006, just after the Madison River opened up for the general season. We didn’t get pictures last season, which had higher water than that of 2006.   Some of you have walked by this sign while fishing your way up the river.   Once the river levels subside, there is quite a bit of ground to walk on. …..can you see the grass underwater?   His sign says that the ground upstream of it is private property….this is BS. 

The home owner who erected the sign above is a newcomer to the river, one of those guys who has arrived to the valley in the last 10 years.  He reigns from Colorado, where the laws are different from that of Montana.   The slick in front of his house was renamed Prick Slick, because of how this guy treats anglers who walk the bank (below the high water mark).  In fact, I was there the night this name was conjured up and it was  a result of how this guy treated us as we snuck by the pool full of rising trout that he was fishing to.  No, we didn’t spook the fish or fish to them, in fact, we gave the guy a wide berth and didn’t fish 100 yards above or below him – even though he called us various names and threaten us, all because we were on “his land”.

The Madison River, on average, is about 3 feet deep.  Trout can live almost anywhere.  The boulder ridden banks of the Wade Stretch provide great cover for fish and insects alike.  Trout in the Madison love the banks.  Therefore, if one walks directly in the water along the bank, one will scare the trout off  to the middle of the river.   A sneaky, ninja-like angler, realizes this and therefore stays out of the water (as much as possible) when fishing or walking.   Some anglers like to wade the Madison and fish back toward the bank….which makes sense if you have the wading skills.

Some folks like to talk about litter on the Upper Madison River.  Rarely do I see any litter on the river and would go on record saying that the Upper Madison is the cleanest river in the state.  The same guy who owns the sign, also built a vacation home.  We would consistently find litter related to his construction project, which had blown into the river and the willows.  At one point, I waded out in waist deep water to a pile of boulders just to retrieve a mass of insulation.  I would bet that some angler didn’t drop the 6 foot section of insulation out of his pocket while tying on some tippet.

When there is an angler wade fishing the bank, it is good etiquette to give the angler ample room as to not spook the area he/she is fishing…..sometimes called “high banking”.   Walking 20-30 feet off the bank, keeping a low profile, just to get around another angler is good etiquette.  Some folks call this trespassing; others call it an unwritten rule of the river.   Throughout the Madison’s wade stretch, one has always been able to walk the bank, in the sage brush, in order to not spook the bank feeding trout.  Now a days, new property owners don’t understand this.  They bought the property and want you and I, off of it.  They want us to walk in the river, therefore spooking the bank trout.  If a fish is continually spooked away from its home, over time, it will not return.  Unknowingly, the new property owner is making the angling infront of their property turn to shit.  When anglers walk off the bank, in the sage, everyone’s angling will be that much better.   The riparian (ripa is Latin for river bank) zone will also benefit.  While I am not making any exceptions for trespassing, I’m saying that walking a small section of the sage brush, away from the river bank, should not be frowned upon.  Apply these thoughts to the section of river around Reynold’s Pass, $3 Bridge, the Big Bend and Pine Butte….lots of sage brush, super good bank fishing, some private homes and lots of open country. 

My point is this:  Respect and education is key to keeping everyone happy.  Educating new landowners and new anglers on fishing etiquette will go a long ways.

YNP, Snowpack & the Madison River Rec Plan

The blizzard which came through over the past fours days, bumped up the snowpack to respectable numbers.  We are slowly getting it, but it will take all winter to accumulate a normal snowpack.  The south entrance to YNP, near Flagg Ranch, has been hammered with snow over the past month.  Once again, on the way home from Flagg, I almost buried my bombardier on the road. 

Jefferson – 84%, 90%

Madison – 78%, 87%

Gallatin – 80%, 87%

West Yellowstone – 78% with 104% of overall snowfall.  Remember, the first number is snow water equivalent and the second number is actual snow fall. 

The fishing continues to be productive on the upper Madison.  If time allows, I will head down for a couple of hours.  Don’t forget, this stretch of river closes on February 29th, next Wednesday.  From then on out, the stretch in betwix the lakes and the river below Mac is open, down to Ennis.


Below Hebgen – 1090 cfs

At kirby – 1180 cfs

73 year Median – 789 cfs

Yes, the river is flowing higher than normal at this point in the winter.  Will PPL drop the flow come spring time and hinder the spawn of the rainbow trout, again?  Probably so.  It seems as if the Madison is being managed for brown trout rather than rainbows.  However, PPL really doesn’t care about this as they are concentrating on Hebgen Dam.  Which, they say, will be fixed by 2014.  That is a long time from now…….

A word on the Hebgen Dam and trout behavior…….the flows are coming off the top lake.  By the end of June, the water is very warm on the top 2 feet of the lake.  This warm water is flowing into the Madison and changing…altering… the behavior of the insect hatches and how trout feed.  Salmonflies are hatching inbetween the Lakes before they hatch around Ennis. NEVER has this happened, but is happening since the Dam broke in 2008.  Once PPL decides to lower the flows out of Hebgen, typically around the middle or end of July, the rest of the Madison River – from Quake Lake to Ennis, gets warm quickly.  While FWP says this isn’t hurting the population of trout, it is hurting the catchability of the trout.  Trout don’t like to bite when the river is warm.  When trout don’t like to bite, anglers think that the river sucks and believe the Madison doesn’t have any trout left it in anymore.  NOT SO.  There are are good numbers of trout in the Madison, they are just tough to catch when the water is warm……Duh, we all know that. 

Which leads me to my point:  Since Hebgen has been out of commission, there are anglers/landowners who believe the river sucks because there are too many people on the river.  Be wary of this opinion….the river has been tough during August and September because of warm temps coming from warm water off the top of Hebgen Lake.  Fix the Dam and the river will fix itself.

Madison River Recreation Management Plan Update (MRRMP)

There are two scoping meetings left in the process:  Feb 28th in West Yellowstone and March 1 in Whitehall.  If you choose not to go, or simply live too far away to participate, please take the time to visit FWP’s web site and fill out the Madison River Questionnaire.  Filling out the survey and actually writing down your comments will go along way.  BUT, you should read through all the surveys on FWP’s web site before you make comments….get informed first.

This plan is being discussed all over the web.  Check some of this out here…..here…and here.  While our local paper doesn’t have a voice on the MRRMP, I am hoping this changes after the West Yellowstone scoping meeting next Tuesday night.



………….take this survey

Have you fished the Madison River? 

If so, then now is the time to voice your opinoin about the upcoming Madison River Recreation Plan.

Madison River Mngt Plan Update

The email press release showed up in my inbox this afternoon.  Read on for more information.  For those of you who may not know, my name will be thrown in the ring and hopefully I will be selected for the Citizens Advisory Committee.  



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        January 19, 2012

Contact: Cheryl Morris, 406-994-6359



BOZEMAN—Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host four public meetings in the upcoming months as the first step towards developing a recreation management plan for the Madison River. FWP is seeking input on how the public views recreational use on the river. This information will be used in the preparation of a draft management plan, which will then be circulated for additional public comment. The goal of the plan is to help preserve the quality of recreational experiences and protect natural resources.

 FWP is also seeking applicants to serve on a citizen advisory committee that will be asked to develop recommendations for managing recreation on the Madison River. The committee application form and information about the planning process are available on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov/recreation/management/madison/default.html.  Applications are due by March 16, 2012.

 The Madison River is highly valued for the quality of its recreation opportunities and is often the most heavily fished river in the state. Due to this popularity, concerns have been raised about congestion on the water and at access sites, as well as social conflict between different user groups.

 The scheduled public meetings are as follows:

 Ennis, Wednesday, February 15, 6-8PM at the Ennis Middle School

Bozeman, Thursday, February 16, 6-8 PM at the Comfort Inn

West Yellowstone, Tuesday, February 28, 6-8 PM at the Holiday Inn

Whitehall, Thursday, March 1, 6-8PM at the Whitehall High School

If you are not able to attend one of the scheduled meetings you may complete an online survey at fwp.mt.gov/recreation/management/madison/default.html or comment by sending an email to mrrp@mt.gov.  Comments will be accepted throughout the planning process.

 For additional information on the Madison River Recreational Plan, please visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov/recreation/management/madison/default.html.  Any questions may be directed to the River Recreation Manager, Cheryl Morris, at 406-994-6359.