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A Looming Change Of Season

Updated: Feb 8


Trout release
Dress for success. Springtime conditions can be tough, but the fishing doesn't have to be.

As we count down the hours to April 1, signs of Spring are popping up all around the Madison Valley. Several species of our feathered friends are arriving from far away wintering grounds. Sandhills showed up this week from warmer climes in Utah, California, and Mexico. Bluebirds are helping brighten the grayscale landscape with their vibrant feathers.



Redwing Blackbird on cattail in Madison Valley
If Redwing Blackbirds say it's Spring, then dammit it is.

Redwing blackbirds are staging in the cattails. All along the banks of the Madison, pairs of Geese are settling into nesting spots. Meadowlarks are announcing the start of each day now. All of these critters are certainly helping form a light at the end of the winter tunnel.


Fishing over the last week or two has ranged from terrible to fantastic, a typical late winter mixed bag. As one fishes further upriver on the Madison the action has been considerably better and more consistent. Although good reports are starting to trickle in from the Varney to Ennis section this week as more brave souls get creative with launching boats over icy banks, it still seems slower down here than upriver.


It's also been pretty effective recently stopping the boat and fishing the slower riffles that are a foot or so deep. Dragging girdle bugs in these shallow riffles has produced great action. Not many big fish in these zones lately, but certainly plenty numbers of fish.


Girdle bugs are the main attractant right now in our experience. So much so, we've been running double girdle bug nymph rigs from the boat pretty frequently recently. Other flies like bigger jig head hare's ears, prince nymphs, worms, and lightning bugs have also pulled fish out.


Bluebird in the Madison Valley
A welcome brightspot in the Madison Valley

On a trip recently, the crew enjoyed antelope burgers for a nice shoreside hot lunch. Fishing was slow in the morning but so were the humans with the temps in the 20s. As the sun warmed us up, the fishing picked up as well.


Fishing from the drift boat was a little difficult in the frigid temperatures. Deep outside bend pools where you could soak a girdle bug for a minute got action, but outside of those specific types of holes, it was challenging to say the least. Our hottest action was between Ruby Rock and McAtee Bridge where we boated a dozen or so fat Rainbows. Fish should start dispersing a little more soon with warmer water temps.



The spinner game isn't quite there yet. We need some slightly warmer water temps to elicit more aggressive follows for that to get strong. It won't be long now though. This time of year I like a number 1 or 2 Blue Fox spinner with the treble replaced with the single barb hook, or crimped treble to make it easy for release. A fast downstream retrieve is the ticket.


Speaking of spinners, the Lake finally saw its first slice of open water as the river works on cutting through. We'll keep you posted on open ice conditions as we move into the next few weeks. It's an exciting time casting spinners into deeper water on the lake at ice out.


Underwater release of Rainbow trout
Keep 'em wet. An underwater release shot of a Rainbow at Pine Butte on the Madison