Winter Fishing on the Upper Madison
Fishing durring the winter months in Montana can sound pretty silly to people living in other places in the country. Most people think me are in the middle of a frozen tundra. Some days it does feel that way, however this time of year, it can be fairly comfortable as long as your clothing is up to par. Believe it or not a nice day in the 30’s or 40’s can feel pretty pleasant out there. These pictures makes it look alot colder than it really was. The rod guides never even froze up at all.
If you venture to the “Upper” this winter there are a few things to consider. First make sure you have a good pair of gloves and a warm hat for the ears. Sometimes the wind can come up a little and make it a little uncomfortable, especially after you catch a couple of fish and your hands get wet. Second is to maybe bring a pair of snow shoes. It’s not always necessary but can help to get around sometimes. Third thing to consider is to keep your flies to a minimum. Once you find something that works, it will usually keep working. The hatches are minimal so it’s not usually super important to change as the hatches progress or change. This day I used a small San Juan Worm and a Midge Pupa all day. The only thing that made a difference is the trout wanted a red Pupa over black. They still ate a black one but the takes on the red were much more deliberate. With the red, the indicator would take off and leave nothing to the imagination, where as with black I was mostly kind of guessing. Size didn’t matter either, they ate a size 16 just as well as an 18. My buddy Josh used a small Rubberleg Bugger and either a Worm or a Midge Pupa off the back. He got a few more Brown’s with the Bugger, especially later in the afternoon. Other than that we didn’t change flies at all and we both caught plenty of fish from the first cast to the last. After talking to a few people later, several programs were working. One person said everything he caught was on a Stonefly Nymph, another couple of gentlemen were fishing small Klinkhammer’s as an indicator fly and dropping off an RS2 or WD-40. The biggest adjustment is just what kind of water do you want to fish and how aggresive do you want to be.
If you are fishing to risers or just want to be mellow, use the dry/ dropper technique and take your time and cover every little soft spot and behind every rock. You may only cover a couple hundred yards in a day but that’s ok sometimes. If you want to cover a long distance then put on a heavier Worm or Stonefly rig, maybe even a Sculpin, and just fish the prime, most obvious spots and you can cover miles. Both ways can work equally well on this section of river, as can plenty of other programs. Again, feel free to bring as many flies as you like but as long as you have a couple of bigger nymphs, some smaller Midge Pupas or Emergers and a few Dries, you should be just fine.
As far as weather goes, it doesn’t matter if it’s clouy or sunny out. If the forecast shows above freezing in West Yellowstone and Ennis and the wind is below 30 mph or so it could be a nice day.
As usual we have everything you need at our Bozeman Fly Shop to help you have a successful day on the Upper Madison.