14 days and the Madison River will be open for the 2011 season! The river is in wonderful shape and most of the snow has melted away from the banks, except for the stretch of river inbetwix. From Quake Lake to McAtee Bridge, the options for Opening Day are limitless. Ofcourse Reynolds Pass, $3 Bridge and the West Fork Area will be the busy spots, so if you are looking for a bit of solitude – head downstream and find it. The Grizzly Bar will be open, starting on Mother’s Day, for all your dining needs. Nick and Katrina are back again making sure everything is just right. Need a shuttle for your float trip? Call Dan and Nancy at Beartooth for flies, tackle and shuttles – 406 682 7525. The rainbow trout are a bit late this season with concerns for spawning. Look before you wade!!!!!!!!!!!! Those big rainbows in shallow water stacked up like cordwood are NOT eating flies. Snagging trout is lowely and frowned upon in these parts.
Looking for a guide trip on Opening Weekend? Not a bad idea – the river flows are higher than normal and wade fishing, while not hard, can be scary for some. The scenery on a Madison River float trip is as good as it gets. Lofty highcountry peaks filled with snow makes a sharp contrast with the rolling terraced hillsides along the river. We can fish a variety of different ways as nymphing, streamers and dry flies will fool fish throughout the day. My personal favorite opening day itineray goes something like this:
1. Wake up early, run the dogs. Make a breakfast sandwich, more coffee and head to the river. Check the wade fishing access points for anglers…make a plan.
2. Most likely float Lyons to Palisades and hit the ramp by 3.
3. Head up to the Wade Stretch, look for heads and bang a few more while wading fishing. Most anglers are finishing up their day by 4pm and the river seems to open up a bit allowing for some solitude.
4. Go to the Grizzly Bar for dinner and drinks.
The fly above will prove it’s worthiness when the Madison River opens up. Yes, nymphing will be king and dropping this fly off of a Rubber Leg Stone fly will work all day long. No need for light tippet this time of the year……… 6 lb Maxima to the rubber leg and 5 lb Maxima to the worm…….or skip the worm and fish the rubber old school – single fly. This allows one to play the fish quickly, land it and get it back in the water quickly. Which, brings me to another topic: Hook extraction. Fishing barbless is a moral/personal thing. Some believe that barbless hooks should be law here in Montana and yet others believe that extracting the hook is the actual problem. When I land a fish, I keep the trout in my rubber net and in moving water for a minute. This allows the fish to relax and revive itself. Taking the trout to the bank on dry ground and out of the water, is where most folks go wrong. Some will argue that a barb keeps the hook in the fish and doesn’t allow it to fall out and then foul hook the fish. On small trout, the hook is normally in the maxilla. The maxilla is prone to tearing if one is not careful. Once torn, this will never heal. DON”T just rip out the hook if fishing barbed. Use care and be gentle. Holding a trout upside down will make them relax. A barbless hook will be much easier to remove and sometimes falls out while the fish is in the net. When returning the fish to the river, be kind and release it near the bank in light current. Now a days, I don’t even use my hands to release the trout back in the river. The net works just fine for slipping the fish back to its home.
Stay tuned for more reports from the Madison, Missouri, Gallatin and Henry’s Fork. With any luck, there will be Salmonflies on the Henry’s Fork in a just a couple of weeks. Box Canyon is now open year around – all the way to the Log Jam – for the first time in years. There has already been some fantastic fishing around Last Chance.