News

The Future of the Madison River

In this newsletter:

Madison River petition, our final trade show for the season, 2019 fishing license renewal, current snowpack, and what to expect for spring fishing.

Final Stop: Plano, Texas

March, 23 & 24 at the Plano Event Center

Times:

  • Saturday: 9am-5pm
  • Sunday: 9am-5pm

Address:2000 E. Spring Creek Parkway

Plano, TX 75074

 

 

 

Plano Presentation: When & Where to Fish The Madison River

The Madison River is fish-able year round no matter what the news or social media says about river closures, runoff conditions, and wildfires. Climate change is real and we adapt to these new conditions by changing when and where we fish. Because of river closures and environmental concerns, more and more anglers worry about limitations to their fishing vacation in SW Montana. I want to reassure you and help you make the most of your fishing vacation to the Madison River by letting you know when and where to fish it.
The Madison River is a very different river from Yellowstone National Park to the headwaters of the Missouri River. I think of it as 6 different rivers in one, with three lakes thrown in. I will be discussing the best times to fish each section based on runoff, winter conditions, river closures, some major hatches, and crowds. I will also touch on the types of structure to fish as some anglers struggle to read much of the Madison River. I may mention a section of river that fishes best based on a major hatch, but I will not be going into details of hatches.
Presentation Times & Rooms:
  • Saturday, March 23rd – Spring Glade Room from 2-2:50pm
  • Sunday, March 24th – Spring Glade Room from 2-2:50pm

Pleasanton, CA Show

We always enjoy a break from our winter to visit sunny and warm Pleasanton, California! The show was a great success over the three days of talking fishing with area anglers. I gave my powerpoint talk each day on When and Where to Fish the Madison River. Friday and Saturday I had almost a full house at my presentations, while Sunday only had a few in attendance. Since I drove from Montana to the show I planned on getting an early start to my drive back home due to a severe winter storm that was forecast to arrive on Sunday. I departed the show immediately after the show ended in hopes of getting over Donner Pass before the storm was to hit. I did make it over the pass with no problems and I am happy that I did as the snow really hit Donner Pass on Sunday. I made the long drive from Winnemucca, Nevada on Monday and arrived home in Butte, MT around 5pm. I was fortunate as the Montana Department of Transportation closed Interstate 15 at Monida Pass (Idaho, Montana border) only hours after I had passed through there. When I arrived in Butte I relieved my wife of her hours of snow blowing. We received at least 18″ of snow and it continued to snow for the next couple of days. I am not sure what the final snow accumulation was but I would have to say around 24″ in a three-day period at our house in Butte, MT.

Snowpack

This past storm has jumped our snowpack up greatly, setting up our waters for a great upcoming season.

2019 Montana Fishing License

It is time to renew your Montana fishing license! Our license period is from March 1st through February 28th annually, unless it’s a leap year then it’s valid through February 29th. The prices have stayed the same for 2019. 

On all our trips – We recommend every angler to purchase a Montana fishing license before your arrival. Purchasing your fishing license in advance allows us to get you on the water early if needed; this can make the difference between a great day and a fair day. Here is the link to buy Montana fishing licenses online https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html. If you forget to pre-purchase online before your trip, no problem we can wait until a licensing agent opens their doors to sell you one the day of your trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing Report

Not much to report on the fishing. Since I have been back from The Fly Fishing Show in California the temperatures have been frigid, to say the least. Single digits and teens for daytime highs not including the windchill. Lows as extreme as -25 degrees in Ennis on Sunday, March 3rd.

One of the things I mention in my talk When & Where to Fish the Madison River is where the best fishing or open water is to fish on the Madison River during the winter months. One location that typically is unfishable during winter is around Ennis, MT down to Ennis Lake. This past arctic cold front has “gorged” the Madison River, from Ennis Lake up the river, to almost 8 Mile Ford fishing access site! As you can see by the pictures below the river is completely frozen over, so much so that the some of the river water has diverted itself towards O’Dell’s Spring Creek and that water breached highway 287 outside of Ennis, Montana.

If you are looking for open water to fish in the next few weeks we would recommend fishing near $3 dollar bridge, Raynolds Bridge, between Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake, and below Ennis Lake. A majority of the boat ramps in the Madison Valley are buried in snow, so access with a vehicle to launch a boat will be limited until things start warming up. If you do find an open ramp that you can get a boat in, you want to make sure you can access your take-out location first. Don’t forget our tailwaters like the Missouri and Bighorn Rivers. These fisheries are great options this time of year with minimal crowds and there is some fantastic dry fly fishing to be had.

Photo #1 is the Madison River at Ennis, Photo #2 is where the river breached highway 287 near O’Dell Spring Creek, and photo #3 is at Pine Butte near $3 Bridge.

Spring Fishing Forecast

With much of February and early March held under old man winters thumb, we are all anticipating the arrival of spring in Montana. April and May are two fantastic months to visit Montana for fishing. Our fish have had little to no pressure all winter long, they are hungry and our tourist season has not yet begun, thus experiencing fewer crowds! Some of the best hatches of the year can be expected during April and May- Blue Winged Olives (BWO, or Baetis), March Browns, Skwalas and the famous Mothers Day Caddis Hatch. The Mothers Day Caddis Hatch can be difficult to time perfectly as an angler, especially an out of state angler. If you want to fish this prolific hatch we would recommend spending several days out here from April 26th through May 6th and we are sure you will hit it just right. Be willing to fish later in the day as this hatch will really get going once the water temperatures reach that 50-52 degrees, usually around 2pm-ish and will last into the evening. If you’re willing to be on our guides schedule, we enjoy launching midday and fishing into the evening when conditions call for it during this hatch.

We still have openings for the spring months of April and May. Keeping in mind that our fishable river options dwindle in southwest Montana around the second week in May as runoff will begin (on a ten-year average). The Madison and Missouri Rivers will be your best options during the runoff period. On a ten year average, the runoff will peak during the first week in June and a majority of our waters will be in good shape again around mid-June.

Yellowstone National Park will open to fishing on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which falls on May 25th this year.  No Montana or Wyoming state fishing license is required in Yellowstone National Park. A YNP fishing license is required – Anglers 16 years and older can purchase a three-day ($18), seven-day ($25), or season ($40) permit at all ranger stations, visitor centers, and Yellowstone Park general stores. Permits are also available at many businesses in the greater Yellowstone area. Anglers 15 years of age and younger may fish without a license when supervised by an adult or may obtain a free permit signed by a responsible adult to fish without direct adult supervision.

Madison River Petition

Fellow anglers, boaters, and river users, please take the time to read and sign this petition if you do not want to see the Madison River privatized. Take a stand to make sure your public access stays public for everyone and for future generations.

Please click HERE to read and sign.

I had a chance to sit in on one of many of the Madison Negotiated Rulemaking Committee meetings. Open to the public, anyone can sit in quietly and listen to the process on how this 10 person committee, with the help of a mediator, form a management plan that will more than likely be presented to the commissioners again this April. These meetings are followed up by public comment. You can also submit your comments via the FWP website HERE. We encourage you to submit your concerns that the committee members will read and take into consideration. One of the greatest concerns is eliminating the use of boats in the wade only sections from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge, and from Ennis to Ennis Lake. Many of you have fished those areas with me or one of our guides, and understand how important it is to make sure these sections stay open to boat access. Here are the reasons why we feel boats need to be able to access those stretches of water.

  1. Because the wade only areas are surrounded by private land, you cannot walk to several locations within these areas without trespassing. Thus we use a boat to taxi to and from each fishing hole. If the commissioners close off the wade only sections to boats then they are eliminating public and commercial (guides) access and the public’s and guides clients right to enjoy that part of the river.
  2. Boats allow us to fish away from the crowded public access points like Raynolds Bride, $3 Bridge and Valley Garden. This decreases the pressure in those areas and spreads the fishing out along these stretches of the river.
  3. If these wade only sections are closed to boats, this will put more angler pressure in other float sections of the Madison River, like Lyons Bridge to Palisades.
  4. Without the use of boats, our senior anglers physically cannot wade downriver to get away from the crowds near the public access locations.
  5. If these sections of the river are closed to boats, the stream access law is violated. This would privatize the world renown Madison River that so many enthusiasts enjoy. And could lead to future privatization throughout our state.

Don’t let one of the best fisheries in the lower 48 become privatized! Please click HERE and sign. And you can also submit your comments via the FWP website HERE.

 

Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!

 

Common Trade Show Questions

In this newsletter:

Our next trade show, fishing report, common trade show questions from anglers, and current snowpack.

Next stop: Pleasanton, California

February, 22, 23 & 24 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds

Times:

  • Friday 10am to 6pm
  • Saturday: 9am to 5:30pm
  • Sunday: 9am-4:30pm

We will be located in booth #E26

Address: 4501 Pleasanton Avenue
Pleasanton, CA, 94566

 

Atlanta, GA Show

Despite it being the Superbowl weekend in Atlanta, our last stop in Duluth, GA (a suburb 35 minutes north of Atlanta) had good attendance. A good friend and fishing companion Jason, also from Billings, Montana, flew in to help out with the show. Some of you had a chance to talk fishing with Jason, and some even responded to me on how you enjoyed talking fishing with him. Even though he is not a guide, he has extensive knowledge when it comes to fishing Montana waters as he too has grown up fishing a majority of the rivers on which we offer trips. It is always nice to catch up with old friends as I was able to to do with Jason. I also had a chance to catch up with return guests that stopped by our booth. For those of you who attended my talk each day of the show and for all of you that stopped by our booth, thank you!

Fishing Report

Upon my return from the last show in Atlanta, I returned to winter in Montana. A cold front of snow and freezing temperatures parked itself in SW Montana from Monday the 4th through Sunday the 10th with highs in the single digits or teens, not to mention the wind chill. None of this was favorable for wetting a line. Finally on Tuesday, February 12th the daytime highs hit the low 30s near Ennis with the nighttime lows in the 20s, more favorable for getting out to fish. I had a chance to get out for a couple hours on Valentine’s Day to enjoy some winter fishing on the upper Clark Fork River near Warm Springs, MT. The fishing was great with no angler pressure. While I anticipated some topwater midge fishing, there were no heads up feeding. The nymphing was fantastic, however, and we also managed to take a couple of nice browns on streamers. Take advantage of the warmest part of the day during the winter months and fish from 10am-2pm. Take your time and observe the water before rushing in as to not spook any feeding fish and messing up a good opportunity to fish a dry fly.

There are several open water fishing options in Montana to consider during the winter months. Here are a few in no particular order.

  1. Madison River – Below Hebgen Dam, below Earthquake Lake and below Ennis dam are going to be your best bet.
  2. Ruby River – Below Ruby reservoir near Alder, Montana.
  3. Missouri River – Below Hauser Dam and below Holter Dam near Craig, MT.
  4. Area spring creeks – DePuy Spring Creek, Armstrong Spring Creek, or Nelson’s Spring Creek to name a few.
  5. Bighorn River – near Fort Smith, Montana.
  6. Upper Clark Fork River – near Warm Springs, Montana.

 

Common Trade Show Questions

Here are four of the most popular questions we receive and our answers.

  1. Where is your shop located? This is a popular question and a good one. Not all outfitters in Montana have a brick and mortar storefront, and we are one of those. Fly shops need to move inventory and thus may charge guests for flies and leaders. We have no desire to sell you flies, leaders, tippet, rods or waders. Not having a storefront allows us to include all tackle on our guide trips at no extra charge. We also feel charging extra for flies is a distraction on how you fish; as you start to lose those $3.00 flies two at a time (because most guides run a tandem setup), anglers start to compromise how they fish because they are more concerned about losing another fly (or two flies) when they should be rolling the dice to get that fly closer to the log or branch where the fish is located.
  2. Where do we stay during our fishing trip? We have several lodging options for anglers including vacation rentals for small or large groups, groups that like to cook their own meals, recommendations for hotels depending on where we are scheduled to fish, inclusive packages, or camping suggestions if traveling with a camper or RV. Guides representing us on the water will pick you up at your lodging location or meet you at a location convenient for you and them. We tailor trips to each angler’s needs based on the anglers’ desires, time of year for the trip, river conditions, and hatches.
  3. How many guides work for you? TOTF has about 30 guides on our roster. With that said most, if not all, guides in Montana are not employees of outfitters. They are licensed independent contractors that own their own boats, rods, gear and carry their own liability insurance. They are able to work for whomever they accept work from based on their availability. As an outfitter and guide now for the past 20+ years I have great relationships with all the guides I use and know exactly which guide is best for what water- from Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River near Craig, MT. The guides we have listed on our website are guides we use more often than others and they are okay with us listing them on our site. We have several other I.C. guides that we use often but are not on our site. We have guides that live in Bozeman, Ennis, West Yellowstone, Livingston, Helena, Cascade, Butte, Cameron, and Missoula Montana. As stated above, guides representing us on the water will pick you up at your lodging location or meet you in a convenient location for you and for them.
  4. How many hours do we fish during a guided day of fishing? Over the past several years of doing trade shows, more and more visitors to our booth who have previously fished in Montana express concerns that when they have paid for a full day trip they end up with only a few hours on the water. Of course it would be disappointing to find out that your day starts at the ramp at 10 am and finishes at 3 pm, with only 5 hours of fishing. I am not sure where this routine started but we are not okay with this kind of treatment. Our full day trips are based on eight hours starting from the time the guide starts setting up your rod and/or the boat. Half day trips are four hours starting from the time the guide starts setting up your rod and/or the boat. If you have requested to be off of the river early we will accommodate.
  5. How far in advance should I book my trip? We always encourage booking your guided trip a year in advance to make sure you get the best guide, the dates you want, and the lodging you want. It is not out of the question to get a great guide last minute but that is usually because they had a last minute cancellation. For the best experience, we never recommend waiting last minute. For large groups of anglers, we recommend a year in advance too for the same reasons.

Snowpack to Date

Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!

Atlanta, GA Show

Next stop: Duluth, GA

February 1 & 2 at the Infinite Energy Center

Times:

  • Friday 9am to 6pm
  • Saturday: 9am to 5:30pm

We will be located in booth # H3

Address: 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, Georgia 30097

 

 

When booking this show we had NO idea that it was the same weekend as Superbowl LIII, in Atlanta! I am not sure there are too many New England Patriots or Las Angeles Rams fans that live in Atlanta anyway. To our advantage, the fishing show is on Friday and Saturday, not Sunday. None the less, the show must go on. We hope to see you at this event this upcoming weekend!

Edison, NJ Show

Our last stop in Edison, NJ was well attended on all three days. My representative and I had no shortage of talking during the show; I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thank you for all who attended my talk each day of the show and for all of you that stopped by our booth. We meet some great people and had the chance to catch up with return guests!

Montana

No fishing report. I have been traveling for a month around the east coast attending trade shows. I have almost forgotten what Montana feels like by now. Once I return home after Atlanta I will make sure and get out to wet a line and share with all of you how the Madison River is fishing. Until then we will keep you posted on our snow accumulation in the high country that we so desperately rely on for our fishing season.

Snowpack to Date

Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports, and news!

Next Stop on the 2019 Trade Show Circuit

Marlborough Massachusetts

We had a wonderful two days this past weekend at The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Friday and Saturday we had non stop attendance at our booth, keeping all three of our representatives busy with questions and inquiries about everything fishing in Montana. We received about 8″-10″ of snow on Saturday night that continued into Sunday and, as a result, the show attendance was minimal at best on Sunday. I presented my power point each day on When & Where to Fish the Madison River. Several anglers came to see my talk on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday was a no show at my talk, which was okay, it gave me the opportunity to take in a presentation which is never an option as I am so busy at the booth or giving talks. The presentation I was able to sit in on was by Bob Clouser, a legend in our industry to say the least. You can never stop learning in our sport.

Thank you to all who stopped by our booth; we hope to see you in Montana soon!

 

Next Stop: Edison, New Jersey

January 25, 26, & 27, 2019.

Times:

  • Friday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday – 8:30 am to 6 pm
  • Sunday – 9 am  to 4:30 pm

Location: Booth #336

  • The New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center
  • 97 Sunfield Avenue, Edison, NJ 08837
  • To purchase tickets click HERE

 

We have had some great responses to our new website and some helpful corrections that needed to be made. In the last newsletter in the section about our new vacation rental, some folks said that the link to The Noble Bison was not sending them to the appropriate location within the site. Hopefully, this is corrected. These are the little things that will be hammered out over the next few weeks as they become apparent.

We hope to see you in New Jersey this upcoming weekend!

New Website & New Vacation Rental

We have been anticipating the announcement of two great additions to our program, and here they are!

First – New Website

After almost a year in the making, we have launched our new website! We encourage everyone to take a look and give us any feedback needed to polish the site and make sure all areas are firing on all cylinders! As most of you know the site was dated, to say the least, and needed a major facelift. New items to the site include an online store that you can purchase TOTF apparel and you can even book your trip(s)  When booking trips you will be allowed to request your dates and we will have a confirmation for you within 24 hours based on availability. We have several testimonials on our site as well. If you would like to add a testimonial please email our way!

Second – New Vacation Rental

As some of you are aware of, we added a new house to our list of vacation rentals. My wife Jen and I built a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Ennis, Montana, only three blocks from Main Street in Ennis, and only a 2-minute drive to the Ennis fishing access site on the Madison River!  The name we have chosen is The Noble Bison, once you look at the pictures you will understand the inspiration for the name. We are currently booking anglers and would love to have you stay in this well-appointed house during your fishing vacation to Montana. Even though this is available on AirB&B and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), we would appreciate you booking directly through us for your stay.

 

Trade Shows

We would like to thank everyone for stopping by our booth this past weekend in Doswell, VA at the 19th Annual Fly Fishing and Wine Festival. Despite mother nature snowing in the area, we had a wonderful time visiting with the anglers and exhibitors that battled the terrible weather to attend. Thank you!

Next Stop: The Fly Fishing Show, in Marlborough, Massachusetts

 

  • The Marlborough Show is this weekend,  January 18, 19, & 20th 2019 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center.
  • Address: 181 Boston Post Road W
    Marlborough, MA 01752
  • Time: Friday: 10am – 6pm
    Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm
    Sunday: 9am – 4:30pm
  • WE WILL BE LOCATED IN BOOTH H11

We hope to see you in Marlborough this weekend!

Fishing Report

Unfortunately, we do not have a current fishing report for you. We have been busy in the office getting ready for trade shows and now we have been on the road for the past week traveling to the shows. We do know that the warm spell last week had anglers getting out to wet a line. Take advantage of those warmer days in the winter months.  The best times to fish during our winter season is from 11am to 2pm when the air temperatures are at their peak. This time of year you should be ready with midge patterns both larvae and adults for when you see heads up feeding. If fishing the Madison River we recommend fishing near Raynolds Bridge, between Hebgen & Quake Lake, and below Ennis Lake. These sections historically will be accessible and ice-free. Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle when venturing outside during the winter months, bring spare clothing, extra food and let family or friends know where you plan to fish. Another important thing to remember if you are fishing between the lakes to be cautious when fishing below the dam –  the chutes across the river are steep and loaded with snow, this snow does slide into the river creating a wall of water that can wash you off of your feet if you are on the road side of the river. And if you have crossed the river and are fishing on the chute side, you very well could be buried alive with an avalanche that are unpredictable.

 

Snow Pack

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to helping you on your Montana fishing vacation.

 

2018, The Year In Review

We want to start off by thanking everyone who fished with us in the 2018 season. Without your support Trout On The Fly and its team would not be where we are at today, so thank you!

Fishing

We came into 2018 with a fantastic snowpack that would set us up for a fantastic year, and it was fantastic! The snow we received during the winter of 2017-2018 was stacked high and much needed coming off of several seasons with low water levels, high water temperatures, river closures and some fish mortality. 2018 had none of these issues; water was high, cool, and the fish were happy! Once spring and the warm weather arrived, the much needed water started to flow, refilling reservoirs such as Hebgen Lake (on the Madison River) and Holter Lake (on the Missouri River). Our Missouri River jet boat and drift boat trips battled high water all the way into early July. For the nymph and streamer anglers, the fishing during this high water was great. The dry fly game was hit or miss and seemed to be more miss than hit. The Madison River fished very well during run-off in the walk and wade section from Raynolds Bridge to Palisades as the high water pushed the fish into the slower water behind boulders and tight to the banks.The highlight to the 2018 season was our terrestrial fishing, hoppers in particular. I have been guiding the Madison, Yellowstone, Gallatin and Missouri Rivers for over 20 years and this was one of the best hopper fishing seasons I have experienced in my career! Every day our guides and I asked each other “if today is the day they will stop eating the hoppers?” And the answer was NO, they kept on eating the hopper well into September, amazing!One thing we cannot control is the fishing. After coming off of a spectacular hopper season we anticipated a fall run equally as exciting, but such was not the case. Our fall run out of Hebgen Lake, Ennis Lake and Holter Lake were not up to our usual standards. This was the report across the board. Despite this, we still caught quality fish and I would always suggest fall fishing for a shot at a large brown making their way up river.Felt Ban
Yellowstone National Park banned felt sole wading boots as some of you experienced. Here at Trout On The Fly we made a huge investment and purchased numerous pairs of Simms wading boots without felt for our clients use during the 2018 season and for the future.

Management Plan

As some of you may have followed, the Madison River came under scrutiny with the attempt to put a management plan into effect. Thankfully the commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal. FWP has now hand picked a committee to revise the management plan that was shut down. If the new plan gets approved by the commissioners then the Madison River will have a management plan put in place starting in 2020. We will keep you posted on this issue as we receive information.

Politics

Just when you thought you were finished hearing about politics I have one more item to recap from 2018- Initiative 186. If passed, this initiative would have not allowed new mining companies to mine in Montana if perpetual water treatment was necessary in their operation. Unfortunately, this initiative did not go through. The fishing community of Montana, Trout Unlimited and many more put a lot of effort into campaigning for YES on I-186. Some of you may have even seen an article in TROUT magazine with Nate Stevane’s view on the initiative. What we learned is that it was a close race and there were an amazing number of people on board to get this passed, a good sign for future initiatives towards protecting our valuable waters.

Looking ahead to 2019, we have two big announcements and will keep you up to date on the upcoming trade shows. Stay tuned!

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! We hope to see you in 2019.

Update

Update

The Montana FWP Commission unanimously voted AGAINST the recreation management plan and administrative rules brought in front of them on Thursday April 19th.
We are pleased to hear that this proposal was not passed. However, as we mentioned in our last email, we do believe that a fair and reasonable management plan needs to be put in place during our peak season.
We do not know the next step in the process, but we’re positive another proposal will be drafted and brought forth to the Montana FWP Commissioners.
We will keep you posted as information comes our way.

Springtime, felt ban, Madison River plan & more

After several airlines, hours looking through a vehicle windshield, weeks staying in hotels and AirB&B’s, and eating good food with good company, we have buttoned up the trade shows for 2018. Thanks to all who stopped by our booth at each show, and good seeing several clients/friends while on the road.
Get comfortable and grab a beverage as we have a lot of important information in this newsletter that may affect you and your trip to Montana and Yellowstone National Park.
Signs of springtime are in the Big Sky state!
When I see the arrival of sandhill cranes, this can only mean one thing, springtime! Look closely at the above picture and you will see a sandhill crane in flight. Now is the time to be in Montana. The winter ice build up on rivers has disappeared, and the lakes and reservoirs are either free of ice or soon to be! The time from now until we see the muddy water of the run-off is a fantastic opportunity to fish dry flies on both our freestone and tail-water rivers. As our waters start to warm up, this will trigger insects like Blue Winged Olives, March Browns, Skwallas, and Caddis to emerge. These fish will have had little to no pressure all winter long and they are hungry! We have already had guide trips on the Madison, Gallatin and Missouri Rivers; all are in great shape and fishing well! Read the full fishing report at the end of this newsletter.
FELT SOLE WADER & BOOT BAN IN YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Effective starting this fishing season, which gets underway on Saturday May 26th, 2018 in YNP.
Felt Sole Ban
Boating Season
  • Boats will be allowed to enter park waters from 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 26, until 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 4.
  • All watercraft are required to have a boat permit and a Yellowstone AIS inspection before launching in the park. Watercraft include, but are not limited to, power boats, sail boats, canoes, kayaks, and angler float tubes. Permits and inspections are available seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at various locations in the park.
  • If a boat does not pass the AIS inspection, it will not be allowed to enter park waters.
  • Instituting a boating season guarantees the park will have staff to provide timely boat inspections.
Take action. Ensure that you don’t transport AIS to Yellowstone and that your watercraft will be permitted to launch:
  • Clean all plants, animals, mud, sand, and other debris from your boat, anchor, boots, and equipment. Use high-pressure, hot (120-140F) water if possible.
  • Drain all water from your boat including the motor, bilge, livewell, and other compartments before you arrive. Leave drain plugs out during transport. Do not dump water or organisms from one water body into another.
  • Dry all compartments and equipment in the sun for five days.
Watch a video that demonstrates this process.
Snowpack
The Madison River’s Future
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is proposing a recreation management plan and administrative rules for the Madison River. Although we do not agree with everything on the proposal, we do agree that there needs to be some management plan put in place during peak season. Please read for yourself.
FWP PROPOSES MADISON RIVER RECREATION PLAN
F&W COMMISSION TO HEAR INITIAL PROPOSAL AT NEXT MEETING
(BOZEMAN, Mont.)—Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing a recreation management plan and administrative rules for the Madison River. The proposal is set to be presented at the next meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Commission as a first step in addressing increasing concerns about crowding and social conflict on the river.
At its April 19 meeting, the Commission will not be deciding on the proposal, only whether to allow the Department to seek public input on the proposal as a start to the process.
The proposed plan addresses the Madison River in southwest Montana from the outlet of Quake Lake to its confluence with the Jefferson River near Three Forks.
It is intended to improve the recreational experience for all users by reducing crowding and social conflicts. As such, it is strictly a recreation management plan, not a resource management plan.
The proposed plan comes as a response to years of public input in the form of surveys, scoping meetings, and informal comments indicating a decline in the user experience on the Madison. Specifically, users expressed concern about crowding both on the river and at access points, the level of commercial outfitting and the impact of the increasing numbers of visitors to the Madison.
The Department’s data also shows that overall recreational use on the Madison continues to increase with angling pressure increasing approximately 15-percent every two years. With that, reported commercial use is up 72-percent from 2008.
Therefore, the Department began developing a recreation plan and convened a citizen advisory committee in 2012 which included individuals representing fishing outfitters, landowners, anglers and local business owners.
FWP’s proposal combines many of the recommendations made by that Madison River Citizen Advisory Committee and that of FWP staff.
The plan as it’s proposed includes:
  • Establishing a cap on the number of commercial outfitters at 2016-2017 levels;
  • Restricting commercial use based on the reach of river, and 2016-17 levels of use;
  • Designating one reach of the river every day for non-commercial use (the rotating closed sections include reaches from Quake Lake to Greycliff Fishing Access Site);
  • Prohibiting any commercial use from Greycliff Fishing Access Site to the to the Jefferson River to preserve the primitive nature of this unique reach;
  • Prohibiting the use of any vessel or float tube to gain access for angling in the two walk/wade sections to help eliminate conflicts between boats and wade anglers;
  • Prohibiting the use of glass containers on the river.
As with similar plans, the Fish and Wildlife Commission would review the rules governing recreational use on the Madison River every five years.
“The objectives of this plan echo the Department’s Vision for the future in protecting the value of this iconic resource and quality of experience for all,” said Region Three Supervisor Mark Deleray.
Deleray stressed that staff went to great lengths to consider the effect the proposal would have on all the interest groups and wants to hear from them all in the process.
Regional Fisheries Manager Travis Horton said, “In putting this proposal together, we wanted to hear from and incorporate diverse voices of interest and we will continue to do that as proposal moves forward. FWP believes this is a balanced first step to addressing recreational concerns on the Madison.”
Fish and Wildlife Commissioners will listen to a presentation on the proposed plan at their April 19 meeting to determine whether to allow FWP staff to start a public input process.
Where we stand on this proposal
While the majority of these proposals will help with the overcrowding during peak season, I have grave concerns for the points that close off the two walk-and-wade sections of the Madison River. Not only would this increase the volume of anglers and boats in the rest of the river leading to even more overcrowding, but this would also be creating private stretches of river in a state that prides itself and thrives on its public recreational water & land. This only favors land owners along those stretches and will create future problems with trespassing to access these areas without the use of a boat.
The FWP meeting is this Thursday. I will keep you up to date if the proposal passes to the next step of public input.
Yellowstone River by the numbers
Like we promised, here are the data on number of fish per mile post Proliferative Kidney Disease (PKD) in 2016 on the Yellowstone River outside of Yellowstone National Park. These numbers were taken in the Paradise Valley from the Dan Bailey fishing access site to the Loch Leven fishing access site, which is approximately 5 miles in length. This data is from 1981 to 2017 and includes, Rainbows, Browns, Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (YCT) and Mountain Whitefish (MWF). We do have the full report if any of you are interested. The full report includes numbers near Corwin Springs, Springdale Montana, Columbus Montana, and Laurel Montana.
Fishing Report
Gallatin River Rainbow
Blue Winged Olives by the handfuls on the Madison River!
The Madison River is fishing very well from the “lower” Madsion, near Bozeman all the way up to the Yellowstone National Park boundary line. Blue Winged Olives (bwo’s) and midges are the game right now if you are looking to fish a dry fly. Nymph fishing has been very productive with black stone fly nymphs, red midge larvaes, san juan worms in a variety of colors and sizes, and bwo nymphs and emergers. The streamer game is low and slow, almost at a dead drift, using olive or tan sculpin patterns.
The Gallatin River near Bozeman has been really nice with little to no angler pressure, however the further south you head towards Big Sky there seems to be more anglers. The water conditions are in fantastic shape; historically these conditions will hold on for a couple more weeks. Midge fishing has been best with black a Palamino Midge, and red midge larvae. Some black girdle bug/stone fly nymphs and red san juans have been working well too. The dry fly bite has been hit or miss depending on the day. Nymphing seems to be the best option to bring fish to the net on the Gallatin.
The Missouri River, in both the drift boat and jet boat sections, is fishing great and will continue to fish well through our runoff months of late May and early June. The water temps are still very cold, reaching highs in the high 30’s to low 40’s, making most of the fishing a midge game. Nymphing with scud patterns in the orange colors and black midge larvae have been best, however we are catching some fish on bwo nymphs so it wont be long before we start seeing blue wings emerging.
Thank you for staying connected with us on current conditions, reports and news!
A view from the drift boat as we float through the walk and wade only section of the Madison River.

Final trade show, Missouri River fish per mile and much more

The Pleasanton Show
Guide Doug Casey and I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new friends last week in Pleasanton, California at The Fly Fishing Show. Thank you all for stopping by our booth and attending my presentation! We hope to see you in Montana this summer.
Current Missouri River Fish Count Per Mile
Below is the information I received on the Missouri River below Holter Dam, near Craig, Montana and Cascade, Montana. This is one of several sections of the Missouri River in which we offer drift boat trips. Other areas include the headwaters of the Missouri River near Toston and Townsend, Montana, where we target rainbows, browns, carp and walleye.
Jet boat trips are available up river of Craig and below Hauser Dam.
I now have data from the biologists on the Yellowstone River; stay tuned for those numbers!
OUR FINAL STOP IN OUR TRADE SHOW SEASON WILL BE AT THE 2nd ANNUAL TEXAS FLY FISHING & BREW FESTIVAL
Plano Event Center
2000 E Spring Creek Pkwy
Plano, TX 75074
Show Hours
Saturday March 10th: 9am – 6pm
Sunday March 11th: 9am – 5pm
I will be giving a presentation each day of the festival on “When & Where to Fish The Madison River”
The Madison River is fish-able year round no matter what the news or social media says about river closures, runoff conditions and wildfires. Climate change is real and we adapt to these new conditions by changing when and where we fish. Because of river closures and environmental concerns, more and more anglers worry about limitations to their fishing vacation in SW Montana. I want to reassure you and help you make the most of your fishing vacation to the Madison River by letting you know when and where to fish it.
The Madison River is a very different river from Yellowstone National Park to the headwaters of the Missouri River. I think of it as 6 different rivers in one, with three lakes thrown in. I will be discussing the best times to fish each sections based on runoff, winter conditions, river closures, some major hatches and crowds. I will also touch on the types of structure to fish as some anglers struggle to read much of the Madison River. I may mention a section of river that fishes best based on a major hatch, but I will not be going into details of hatches.
Presentation Times
  • Saturday March 10th: 2pm-2:50pm in the Fair View room
  • Sunday March 11th: 2pm-2:50pm in the Sunny Slope room
Time to renew your Montana fishing license!
If you are planning on fishing in Montana from now through February 28th 2019 you will need to renew your Montana fishing license.
Snow Pack
We hope to see you in Plano, Texas!

Madison River fish per mile, Houston trade show, snow pack and more

Current Madison River Fish Count Per Mile
How many fish per mile? This is a popular question at trade shows and from anglers while in Montana. I reached out to area biologist to get the most current data on the Madison River, Yellowstone River and Missouri River. Here is the data for the Madison River. The Pine Butte sample section is located only a couple of miles down river of Three Dollar Bridge, and the Varney section is located a couple of miles up river from Ennis, Montana. Stay tuned for the numbers on the Missouri River. I did not receive any data from the biologists on the Yellowstone River.
OUR THIRD STOP IN OUR TRADE SHOW SEASON WILL BE AT THE 43RD ANNUAL HOUSTON FISHING SHOW
George R. Brown Convention & Exhibit Center – HALL E
1001 Avenida De Las Americas
Houston Texas, 77010
Show Hours
Wednesday February 28th: 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Thursday March 1st: 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Friday March 2nd: 12:00pm – 9:00pm
Saturday March 3rd: 10:00am – 7:00pm
Sunday March 4th: 10:00am – 6:00pm
I am happy to announce that Bayou City Angler in Houston, TX will be hosting me at their fly shop on Wednesday March 7th.
3641 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77027
I will be giving a presentation on “When & Where to Fish The Madison River” from 7pm to 8pm at Bayou City Angler on March 7th.
The Madison River is fish-able year round no matter what the news or social media says about river closures, runoff conditions and wildfires. Climate change is real and we adapt to these new conditions by changing when and where we fish. Because of river closures and environmental concerns, more and more anglers worry about limitations to their fishing vacation in SW Montana. I want to reassure you and help you make the most of your fishing vacation to the Madison River by letting you know when and where to fish it.
The Madison River is a very different river from Yellowstone National Park to the headwaters of the Missouri River. I think of it as 6 different rivers in one, with three lakes thrown in. I will be discussing the best times to fish each sections based on runoff, winter conditions, river closures, some major hatches and crowds. I will also touch on the types of structure to fish as some anglers struggle to read much of the Madison River. I may mention a section of river that fishes best based on a major hatch, but I will not be going into details of hatches.
Snow Pack
What a difference five days has made. Since the last snow pack I reported on 2/14, the Madison Range has jumped from 116% to 125%.
We hope to see you in Houston, Texas!