Fishing Report – Madison River, Lower Madison, Hebgen, and Hebgen Lakes

The Madison River (commonly referred to as “Fifty Mile Riffle”) is an exceptional trout stream. Flows are steady, and the runs, banks, and mid-river gravel bars offer ample fishing opportunities with both nymphs and dries, depending on the time of year.

Wading only on this section from Raynolds Pass to Lyons Bridge (closed for float fishing), plenty of pocket water and long riffles require breathable waders with felt or cleated soled boots as an absolute requirement for success.

Lower Madison

The Lower Madison River provides an excellent alternative to the Upper Madison and is where most float trips occur. It winds through beautiful canyons and open ranch lands, boasting large rainbow and brown trout populations and easy wading. Fishing here is good throughout most of the year – with springtime offering mayfly hatches providing excellent mayfly fishing and June’s runoff period providing some of the most productive periods on the river once runoff ends!

At Slide Inn to Lyon Bridge, the river is wade-only and offers abundant fishing opportunities. Pocket water, long sections of riffles, and dry fly and nymph fishing are viable options here. Blue-winged olive mayflies appear around April 1 and continue into mid-June; later on, Yellow Quills become active around late May/early June before Western Green Drakes appear as larger adult mayflies that last until mid-August, providing excellent fly fishing experiences!

Nymph fishing here can be highly productive throughout winter and early fall. Look for deep troughs near ice shelves, as this is where many fish will be holding. Winter can be brutal due to cold waters and snow cover, but with an experienced guide, you may discover some large specimens.

The section below Hebgen Dam, commonly called “Between the Lakes,” is an exceptional wade-only section of the river for trout fishing and tactical nymphing. Here, the water is rich in nutrients, clear, cold, and often the driest dry fly season; streamer fishermen also find this spot particularly productive as the trout are usually more significant here than elsewhere upstream. With stunning canyons and a high desert landscape, fishing here offers some of the best experiences available in California.

Upper Madison

Flows remain stable for late summer, and trout take advantage of every available opportunity both morning and evening. Nymphing with girdle bugs or small mayfly nymphs remains productive, while streamer fishing remains effective along specific stretches, particularly with olive/white or olive/black patterns.

The upper Madison River is a remarkable freestone stream that combines characteristics of both tailwaters and spring creeks. This section of the river flows from Hebgen Lake in Yellowstone Park through Quake Lake, created by Mother Nature during a rockslide in 1959, to Ennis Lake located near Ennis, Montana – this stretch known as “Fifty Mile Riffle” is one of Montana’s premier trout fisheries.

From Raynolds Pass Access downstream to Lyons Bridge, this section of the Madison is open only for wading and is closed to float fishing. This stretch features pockets of fast-moving riffles dotted with large boulders. When wading anglers tackle these rapids and runs, they should use a wading staff and felt or cleated rubber-soled fly shoe to safely navigate this river area.

The Madison becomes highly fishable after runoff has concluded – usually during the first week of July. Salmonflies begin hatching in their lower sections in mid-June and can continue migrating upstream through August 1. Caddisflies also flourish at this time, including Little Black Caddis, which often produce prolific hatches, and Spotted Sedges, which typically emerge around mid-June until mid-July.

The Madison also supports an abundant spinner and baitfish population from Hebgen to Lyons Bridge and beyond. Spinners can be practical anywhere along its length; baitfish include minnows and crayfish and are regular participants on small jigs or spinners. It even boasts several great sand bottom creeks with exceptional spinner and baitfish action!

Hebgen Lake

Hebgen Lake lies near the West Entrance to Yellowstone, providing a picturesque and healthy trout fishery that attracts anglers worldwide. Famed for its trophy brown trout population, Hebgen offers anglers using streamer or nymph techniques a rewarding fishing challenge.

The Madison between the lakes has recently produced some excellent fishing, with abundant surface activity and feeding fish up on bugs on calm evenings and days. A dry dropper rig using a #10 Salmonfly Skinny Chubby with either a #16 Poudre Pupa or a #18 Radiation Baetis as droppers would work effectively; streamers like #8 Sheila Sculpin or a #10 Super Bugger may also prove effective.

On the Upper Madison, flows are currently low, and water clarity is high. Nymphing with a fly setup has proven productive – look out for PMDs, white miller caddis, and stoneflies hatching in this stretch of river; soft hackles like partridge & green or hare’s ear soft hackles may also prove effective.

As soon as Hebgen weather settles down, keep an eye out for gulpers to move up from the flats and start moving shallow. Now, switch up your fly selection by going larger – something like an Ice Cream Cone or Diawl Bach 3D can work well as more extensive options.

Early risers remain active in Madison Arm, and Callibaetis should start hatching later today on Hebgen. A dry dropper rig with Trico’s or two #16 Adams Parawulffs, with one with an offset dropper case PMD 4 inches below, is your best chance to find rising fish.

The Upper Madison is a multi-brooded mayfly river, starting with Blue Winged Olive hatches on April 1st through June and then Green Drakes from September to mid-November. Each section of the river has different hatching schedules; to succeed at fishing the Upper Madison, you must learn its flow conditions at each location.

Valley Garden

Valley Garden is a non-commercial community garden dedicated to teaching new and experienced gardeners organic growing methods, relieving food scarcity by providing plots to families and individuals without private land for gardening, beautifying its green space location, cultivating and distributing excess produce to area food pantries as well as serving as a gathering spot where visitors can learn, enjoy, and meet fellow gardening enthusiasts.

Hoop net surveys conducted along this portion of Madison River produced seven channel catfish and two potential Young-of-Year (YOY) flatheads. A week later, low-pulse electrofishing surveys detected twelve channel and one flathead YOYs within 4.8 river miles, providing anglers with ample harvest opportunities.