Trip Report Madison River Ennis Montana July 14-16

This year for my annual summer/birthday trip I decided to do a stream I’ve heard a lot about but was leery of finally fishing; The Madison River near Ennis Montana. Read lots of discussion on this and other forums about crowding, regulation changes for lowering angling pressure, etc. and about the fishing which always sounded terrific. Fished three days July 14, 15, 16 (Tues-Thurs) with guides out of “The Tackle Shop” in Ennis Montana. Lodging was with the Fan Mountain Inn. Good, comfortable no frills motel close to downtown Ennis.

Drove down from Butte to Ennis the first morning. Lots of Pronghorn out eating breakfast in the fields. Calling the drive and area “Scenic” is an understatement. Checked in at the shop and headed off for first day floating Pallisades to Storey (Mosquito!) Slough. There were a fair number, say 10, boats in the lot and being prepped for launch at around 9AM, but it wasn’t what I would call crowded. Fishing was terrible. We couldn’t even get a whitefish to bite before 2PM. Picked up a couple of 12-14-inch rainbows late in the day to keep the skunk away but that stretch of river had almost nothing going on at all for everyone. I have no idea why but when we checked out of the hotel in Butte for the drive down it was cold, and frost was on the car. I didn’t recall seeing many bugs the first day. Some caddis in the bushes but that was all. And mosquitos, lots of mosquitos at takeout. My guide said it was the worst day of fishing he had this year.

Day 2 was Storey Slough to Eight Mile (I think). Morning temperature was much warmer and unlike the day before, at the put in caddis were everywhere in the bushes but fewer mosquitos. Quickly picked up a couple whitefish and 12-15-inch rainbows and browns nymphing, with a Prince nymph working best but nothing really spectacular. Then did a dry/dropper till around 11 when the dry fly bite turned on. Small foam something and mayfly dry tandem did pretty well getting bites but with a bunch of smaller fish also trying to play. At lunch we notice lots of yellow sallies in the air so made a switch to a small stonefly pattern and cazat! 22 inches of rainbow crushes it midriver. Rest of the day was strictly dry fly with the stonefly pattern. Banks, overhangs, deeper buckets and runs midriver and along the banks, all produced 6-15-inch browns and rainbows. Not spectacular but steady fishing.

Day 3 was Varney Bridge to Ennis. It was a lot like day 2 except the two big fish came unstuck. One hooked at mid river headed toward the bank woodshed and forced an LDR. The second was a subtle take of a size 14 mayfly about an inch from the undercut bank followed by a big boil, tail slap, and gone. Tail looked as big as my hand. I had no chance with a 5WT and 4X. One suggestion I would make to someone fishing the Madison is bring a 6WT.

My two guides, Ken Stock on day one, Nick Acosta day two and three were simply fantastic.Ken went through his total bag of nymphing tricks to get a couple fish on the very slow first day. I’ve been there before and on days when the fish simply shut down IMHO your guide counts more than ever. Ken changed a day of poor fishing into a fun day on the Madison with a couple fish as a bonus. Sometimes it takes a day like that to remember catching is part of, not the total game. Ditto for Nick. Anyone who fishes with either of them is in good company. Nick produced the second largest dry fly fish I’ve ever caught. Incredible fishing and river knowledge, boat handling skill, casting tips, fun company, etc. Good guides make a trip memorable in more ways than just number of fish in the net. That IMHO also sums up a fishing trip on the Madison.

.River view 2.jpgRiver View 1.jpgRiver view 3.jpgSocial Distancing in Montana.jpgMountain view 2.jpgMountain view 1.jpgMountain view 3.jpgMountain view 4.jpgTarger species Brown Trout.jpgTarget species Rainbow Trout.jpgLarge Rainbow.jpgTom and Guide day 3.jpgOsprey.jpgMoose 1.jpgMoose 2.jpgThe Tackle Shop.jpg

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