Seasons of The Upper Madison River

The Upper Madison River has been my year round fly fishing home for over 25 years.  The seasons and rhythms are ingrained into my soul.  I would like to break these seasons up into categories for our Fishing Reports.  The current season, as of May 4, 2008, is going from Winter conditions into Spring.  Our Winter fishing starts in November and can last into April.  During the November to April periods, stonefly nymphs in sizes 4 to 10 dominate, medium size nymphs in sizes 10 to 14 work and the ever present midge hatch in sizes 18 and 20—both dry and wet—work.     The Spring season begins with the first big stonefly hatch of the year–the skwalas, which can start at the end of March and last into April.  The BWO mayflies and the midges overlap the skwalas and continue into April or the first part of May.  The next mayflies to show up are the March Browns, which can start in April and continue into May.  Then there is the famous Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch.  Good luck finding the 3 to 5 day period that they come off.  The Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch can start from the end of April through the second week of May.  The Spring time fishing has always been my favorite—the first big hatches start, the weather is getting warmer, and water conditions are stable during March, April, and May.   The next best season for me is June and the first part of July.  Stonefly nymphs and dries can dominate in sizes 4 to 12, along with caddis dries and wets in sizes 8 to 16, and mayflies in sizes 12 to 16, depending on water flows and temperatures.  Streamers are especially good during high water periods.  This is the time of salmonflies, golden stones, caddis—from big to small, and mayflies—from big to medium.  This smorgasboard of  hatches continues until the middle to end of July, when the PMD mayflies, caddis, and nocturnal stones dominate.   Late summer brings tricos, small caddis, small PMDs, flying ants, and yes, my favorite late summer hatch—the wind blown hoppers.   

Fall fishing starts when Mother Nature decides to cool down.  September and the Fall BWOs take over.  Streamer fishing and BWOs dominate until October turns into Winter.     Then what I like to call the Winter Season starts, from November until April.  Stoneflies, nymphs—4 to 12, medium sized nymphs—10 to 14, and midges, wet and dry, dominate.   These seasons are a general outline and are subject to snowpack and weather conditions that change on a moments notice—welcome to Montana.  Also, with over 2000 different fly patterns in our shop, we will leave the fly selections to one’s own imagination. 

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