5 Flies for Dirty Water on the Lower Madison River – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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5 Flies for Dirty Water on the Lower Madison River

As we head into the early spring on the Lower Madison River, anglers should expect variable water clarity on a day to day basis. Melting snow in the lower elevations, coupled with periodic rainstorms will cause some of the small streams like Cherry Creek, Beartrap Creek, and Elk Creek to kick some dirty water into the river. Also, the ice has come off Ennis Lake so breezy days will usually stir up some silt on the lake, resulting in downstream color in the Lower Madison. Water clarity can certainly be discouraging, but fishing is still available in off-color situations and can actually be quite good. Stop in our Bozeman fly shop and check with us as we get reports throughout the day this time of year, plus check the stream-flows (always current on our fishing reports) before you head out (if the river is rising quickly, don’t bother…if it’s stable or dropping; it’s always worth a shot).

5 Favorite Flies For Dirty Water Spring Fishing on the Lower Madison River

San Juan Worm for the Lower Madison River picked by Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop.No list of favorite flies would be complete without a San Juan Worm or two, especially for springtime fly fishing around Bozeman. Rising waters get the aquatic worms moving stirred up in the weed beds and bring a few earthworms into the river with eroding banks as well. Just about any color will work, but I tend to lean heavily on the Hot Pink in the spring.

Dead-Drift Crayfish for the Lower Madison River from Fins & Feathers Bozeman fly shop.I have no idea how many crayfish are in the lower Madison, but I know that the fish ALWAYS eat them. Warming water temperatures on the Lower Madison in the spring tend to get these guys moving around and the trout seem to notice. I go to the Dead Drift Crayfish as my number one pick when the water gets off-color and the flows approach the 2000 c.f.s. mark.

Delektable Mega Prince for the Lower Madison River at Fins & Feathers Bozeman fly shop and fly fishing guide service .

The Delektable Mega Prince was made for dirty water nymph fishing and it really shines during this pre-runoff season on the Lower Madison River. Our guides like this pattern from the boat as it “rolls” through the skinny water and sinks quickly through the shallow, mid-river buckets. Trout take it for Crayfish in the larger sizes and as Stonefly nymphs in the #8-10 sizes.

The Smoke Sparkle Minnow for the Lower Madison River at Fins & Feathers Bozeman fly shop

Although most of us in the shop probably prefer stripping streamers over every other type of fly fishing right now, it’s not always the most productive due to cold water temperatures. Dead-drifting or “slow dragging” a bugger under a strike indicator is very effective in these off-color situations and the Smoke Sparkle Minnow is my personal favorite for the Lower Madsion River right now.

Zirdle for the Lower Madison River at Fins & Feathers Bozeman fly shop and fly fishing guide serviceNot quite a rubber leg, not quite a girdle bug, and not quite a zonker…in fact it’s not even quite a Zirdle. Rick Weisend’s ZIC (mini-zirdle) has been one of our go-to patterns for many years now on the Lower Madison. Bead-chain eyes and the right color scheme keep this fly working in those shallow runs where other bugs tend to snag up time after time. This is a must have on the Lower Madison River during the spring and fall.