Fishing the Brown Drake Hatch on Lower Madison River – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
Close x

Category_Vintage -

Fishing the Brown Drake Hatch on Lower Madison River

Every year, around mid-June, the evening skies of Southwest Montana fill with insects of every sort. Although often too early in the summer to be described as “prime-time,” there are always a few evenings in June that stand out, year after year. Salmonflies are almost always heavy on the upper Madison around then and our Bozeman fly fishing guides are up early trying to beat the crowds to Ennis. Other anglers look to the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks as the PMD hatches are “blanket-thick” by then as well. Some of us, though, know that the lower Madison is the place to be around 6:30 pm for hat special week or two in June.

Legend has it that Brown Drakes just started to show up on the lower Madison in the last few years with warming water temperatures and increasing siltation. However, they have been around for as long as I have been a fly fishing guide on the lower Madison. I recall a tough, high water day back in the mid-2000’s when I could hardly find a fish to eat from Warm Springs all the way to Black’s Ford. As we brought a small brown to hand, a pile of odd looking nymphs was regurgitated onto my lap as I removed the hook. All I knew was that they were some type of Mayfly nymph and that I had nothing in my box that would do them justice in terms of imitation. I think that they have always been there, but most Bozeman anglers are too distracted by other hatches to have ever paid these much attention.

Brown Drakes are burrowing Mayfly and thrive in areas with loose sand and gravel bottoms. There long, narrow bodies are designed for active swimming and are noticeably different from the tapered bodies of March Browns and the flat profile of Green Drakes. The Brown Drake nymph is generally pale in color and best imitated with a twitching retrieve or with a down and across swing.

Brown Drake Nymph

The evening spinner fall starts around 6 most evenings for a week or two around mid-June. Water conditions and temperatures dictate the exact timing, but the best way to keep tabs on the timing is to stop in our Bozeman fly shop and ask if anyone went fishing the evening before. If we say that we did, chances are that we were fishing the Brown Drake spinner fall in the lower Madison.

Brown Drake spinners are adults that emerge the day before and show up in thick clouds along the river’s edge once the evening shadows start to cover the water. These bugs are best imitated with a size 10-12 tan or brown colored Mayfly dry pattern, fished dead-drifted over rising fish. Rise forms created by feeding trout are often explosive and look as if someone is throwing small rocks from high-above. When trout are feeding in this way, pattern selectivity is typically not nearly as significant as fly size and placement. A large dry fished over feeding fish will almost always result in some “happy eats” during the peak of the Brown Drake spinner fall on the lower Madison river.

Fishing the Brown Drake Spinner fall on the lower Madison River with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman fly shop and Montana fly fishing guide service

This hatch event has been growing in notoriety the last few years among local and travelling anglers alike. The peak of the hatch, in terms of fishing usually only lasts a week before it kind of just “sizzles out.” Our Bozeman fly shop brings several patterns specifically for this hatch into our inventory around mid-May each year and they disappear quickly as the savvy Montana fly fisher knows their significance quite well. Fishing this hatch is a great way to spend the evening with friends along the river and makes for a unique, half-day Bozeman guided fly fishing trip that time of year. Be sure to watch our fishing reports on the lower Madison River for updates on the timing of this hatch as we get closer to June in 2018. Email our Bozeman fly shop and Montana fly fishing guide service to book a guided fly fishing trip on the lower Madison River this June as well.