Madison and Henry's Fork Rivers

I and two friends (also casting students) fished the Madison river for 4 days, June 20-24. The river was very high so that wading was difficult. In addition, every afternoon, without fail a thunderstorm would roll in with high winds, lightning, hail, rain, ... Montana at her best :beathead:

We stayed at Kelly Galloup's "Slide Inn", met Kelly (erstwhile star of many of OLN's Fly Fish TV episodes), and had a great time. He's a very funny and personable guy.

We fished the stretch around Raynold's and Three Dollar bridges. One time we hiked about two miles below Three Dollar, but for the most part we stayed between Raynold's and a mile below three dollar.

We did very well. Mostly Browns. We fished Big black or brown nymphs (Kaufman's Stone was my favorite) with a small bead head of some kind (I used a #18 lightning bug and/or #20 copper john). On advice from Kelly, we did not use indicators, but fished using classic high stick technique. Yep, we lost a lot of flies, but picked up fish when others were not.

For rainbows, we high sticked the pocket water, especially the splash pools behind big boulders. Once we found a fish, we could usually pull at least one more from the hole. My friend Eric caught 4 nice rainbow from one. For browns, the winning technique was to make a little tuck cast upstream to within 6 inches of the bank. If there was a fish there, we would usually hook up.

On the 25th of June Eric and Lou went home and I drove over the divide to fish the Henry's Fork. I was fortunate to have been guided by J.D. Miller out of Mike Lawson's Henry's Fork Anglers. I say fortunate because when I said I wanted a technical fishery he really delivered. We worked one fish for 45 minutes in the rain and wind and cold. We threw PMDs and emergers, flavs, tandem rigs... you name it we tried it. Finally, he took the offering but came unpinned after about 30 seconds bawling: J.D. estimated the fish to be well in excess of 20 inches.

The Henry's Fork is an experience every trout hunter should enjoy. Stalking and sight fishing to these big rainbows is truly a learning experience. I was able to entice about 50% of the fish we stalked to bite. Of those, I landed about 25%. The fish that didn't bite ultimately were put down because of poor casting. Of the fish I failed to land, none broke off. They just shook the hook. I've attached a picture of a beautiful, chunky Henry's Fork rainbow I saw sipping PMDs, stalked and caught in the flats of Harriman Ranch. Took about 20 to 30 minutes from the time I saw him to when I finally caught and netted him.

On the way back home, I stopped at Wade Lake (Across the Madison at three Dollar bridge and a few miles up a dirt road) because I had heard the lake held some huge fish. Alas, I was only able to get a 14 inch rainbow before the afternoon winds blew me off the lake.

To sum up: I intend to make the Madison (and other adjacent rivers) an annual boondoggle. However, I'll probably not fish the Henry's Fork again. The experience was worth the time and $$ because the fishing is really challenging and I really wanted to test myself. If you've never had the experience of stalking and working a single fish for hours on end, you owe yourself the opportunity. For me, the win was simply to get the fish to take the fly. Honestly, I wasn't disappointed that I lost so many fish (tho' I had to constantly reassure J.D. that the hook up was what I was looking for, not landing the fish).

A note on the pictures: The 21" brown was taken late in the evening, hence the dark photo.



Looney Toon

New, but no stranger..
I have the same trip planned for next summer. Thanks for sharing. Maybe I should wait a little later in the mid July.


Active Member
Sounds like you had a great trip!- we were there same time from the 19th thru the 1st though- the thunderstorm the night of the 24th ( I think I recall correctly) was epic! We sat on the patio of the Trout Hunter bar and drank lots of rum and watched even more lightening hitting the Ranch. After you left the Madison dropped and cleared considerably and the fishing was epic as well on the 29th we caught and released over 40 trout. Below Lyons. We floated & or fished the Madison,Henrys Fork (Mesa stretch & The Box and the Ranch),South Fork(Canyon),Fall and Warm rivers, Clark Fork, Fish Creek,Big Hole and Rock Creek on this trip. We return in three months for all of October. Probably rubbed elbows and didn't know it.

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