Fish the upper Madison, before it’s too late.
When winter reared its head last week, we almost put the rod and reel away. Then, lo and behold, in true Montana fashion, the weather shifted and fall slid back into the picture.
While the Treasure State always reminds us to expect the unexpected, we aren’t taking any chances. We’re getting out while the getting’s good—this weekend, we’re headed for the upper Madison, stop number six on our Fall Hit List.
Who: Those of us who look at the forecast, but don’t take it for gospel. Yes, there might be some precipitation, but a 30% chance of showers means a 70% chance of none at all. Do the math, and keep in mind that fish are already wet.
What: Ennis to West, just about the best stretch of trout water anywhere in the world. Take your pick: the flats at Hwy. 191 north of West; the Between the Lakes section; Three Dollar Bridge; or the braids near Ennis. If you don’t fish, the upper valley has tons of other options, like hiking and running trails in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness or canoeing on Cliff and Wade Lakes. If the trails are snow-covered, wear boots, warm socks, and gaiters. This is serious bear country, and they’re in hyperphagia, meaning they aren’t likely to pass up a meal. On the lake, dress for the water temp, which will be very cold.
When: Ideally now, but really any time between now and when things get really cold. Keep an eye on the afternoon highs if you plan on fishing, as trout will get a bit feistier as the temps warm.
Where: We’re suckers for the flat, weedy stretch of the Madison right off of Hwy. 191. There’s always action and the access is tough to beat. If you don’t like the car noise, walk down river a ways and you’ll feel like you’re deep in the Park. Another great option is the Valley Garden FAS just south of Ennis. Again, access is excellent and the fishing is usually good.
Why: The upper Madison is arguably the most iconic fly-fishing river in the world. The scenic beauty is unrivaled, and by this point in the fall, the crowds are all but nonexistent. Even if the fishing is slow, the views will get your heart racing.