The Largest Hatch Ever

Fly Fishing, Perfect Fishing Days
Added Date:
Tuesday, 26 Jul, 2016
After a day of horseback riding we pulled into Ennis campground, and I could feel the excitement building in my gut. We quickly compared our mental notes on this fishing location. What are the best spots? How would be divide it up? What flies should we use?

Does He Have the Fishing Gene? Part III

(See Part I and Part II)

After a day of horseback riding we pulled into Ennis campground, and I could feel the excitement building in my gut. We quickly compared our mental notes on this fishing location. What are the best spots? How would be divide it up? What flies should we use?

As we parked the car we quickly loaded up our weapons. I went with a black woolly bugger and a prince bead. Alex loaded up with the same woolly bugger but with a copper john. We decided to go ultra light – small box of flies, clippers, and tippet. That’s it. We walked down to the very end of the campground where Alex went down stream and I went up.

Thirty minutes in I had nothing. I found a few gravel bars and hit them hard but not even a bump. I tried to get a glance of Alex to see where he was at, but he must have been around the corner because he was out of site. I hoped he was doing better than I was.

As I continued moving upstream, I found a nice little hole which was off the path of drift boats so I was hoping it was not hit yet. I decided it was time for a change up. I was going to go with a double nymph approach.

As I was standing in the river focusing on tying 4x onto my second bead, I looked up to see the largest hatch ever. There were thousands of cinnamon caddis everywhere. It was actually hard to see past them to the shore! I quickly switched gears, and started looking for a dry fly that closely resembled the cinnamon caddis. I knew exactly the fly that would work but of course it was back at the car.

Why did I go ultra light?! It so happened that the only dry fly I had was a Parachute Adams. It will have to do. I quickly snipped the nymphs off my leader, added some 5x, and tied on my fly. I went to add my gink then realized that too was at the car. I thought, “ARGH! How did I forget that?”

I looked up and the hatch was larger than before. How was that possible? The 10-mile per hour gusts were having little effect on the direction of the Caddis. I sat back just watching in awe at these insects as they flew together like a flock over the water, moving from place to place like one large bug. I threw out my first few casts above the small ripples near the hole making sure my line did not hit the water.

As soon as I had enough line out, I laid the next on the water. Perfect. As it dropped into the hole, I thought for sure that was the one. It drifted down until there was drag. I reloaded, shooting to just a couple of feet further out to the outside of the hole. It drifted down again and nothing.

I continued for about 5 or 6 casts and my fly started syncing. Damn! I wish I had my gink. I stripped my line in and dried off the fly the best I could with my shirt. I reloaded my line and hit the next line by the hole. I was starting to think I was going to be shut out for the day as the sun started setting when a rainbow rose to the surface and aggressively took the fly. I immediately hooked the fish and stripped it in. I unhooked the 10-inch rainbow and released her back into the water. Great! No shutout.

The hatch was still swarming so I quickly dried off my fly and started back again. After a few rounds of float, float, sink, I decided I had enough of sinking dry fly and decided to call it a day. I started walking to shore when I noticed Alex. It was the very end of the hatch and many had finally disbursed. I walked over to him and asked him how he did. “Two” he said. Of course, he always catches more than me.

montana river map

As we walked back to the car exhilarated, that feeling crept back into my head. “Ethan’s big fishing day is tomorrow. I hope he likes it.” We reached the car, broke down our rods, and decided to go down to the local watering hole for a quick beer.

As we gulped down our first beer (and bourbon chaser for me), this tall goofy man with a big grin walked into the Gravel Bar. It was Eric Shores, our guide for the big trip. He sat down next to us and said with a smile on his face, “Boys, how’s it going?” We quickly ran down the day for him, horseback riding in the morning fishing in the afternoon.

As we started talking about the details of our quick fishing excursion, you could see he was highly attentive, taking notes of all of the details. A guide is only as good as his information network and Eric has a great one. He sat next to us, ordered his own beer, and went on to rattle off the plan for tomorrow. Meet up was 7am at the Trout Stalker Fly Shop. We were going to fish Upper Madison River, hoping to possibly catch the tail end of the Salmonfly Hatch. He had it all figured out. All we needed to do was show up. We finished up our drinks, said our goodbyes, and left back to the Rainbow.

Next - Part IV
Reading Time:
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
Ennis Lake is a medium sized reservoir that separates the Upper and Lower Madison Rivers. A day trip on Ennis Lake is a great option when planning a Montana fly fishing trip. The lake ... moreis located just minutes from the town of Ennis and is also a short drive for anglers fishing around Bozeman. 

Ennis lake is a very shallow impoundment with most of the lake less than 8 feet deep. The inlet where the Channels of the Madison drain into the lake provide shallow flats with weedbeds that harbor outstanding trout habitat. These shallow flats also allow for wade fishing. We use drift boats to access the upper half of the lake during prime hatches that take place on the lake in the late summer. The majority of the fishing on Ennis lake is sight fishing to large cruising browns and rainbows. We either fish directly from the drift boat or get out and wade on some of the flats. Occasionally we split a day with the morning spent casting to rising trout on Ennis lake and the afternoon spent fly fishing the Madison River.

Fishing is good early in the season when the ice first melts but the fish are deeper and blind fishing around drops and structure is most productive. As the summer progresses callibaetis and tricorythode mayflies become the dominant food source for the trout. Intense hatches occur daily in the late summer producing a daily feeding frenzy that every fly fisherman should experience. Trout feeding during these famous hatches have been labeled "gulpers" after the frequent sucking noise they make as they swim around with open mouths while inhaling the hatching mayflies.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Fishing Access Sites:
The Jefferson River is an important part of a system of rivers that combine to form the majestic Missouri. Starting at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers near Twin ... moreBridges, Montana, it winds 77 miles in a northeasterly fashion to Three Forks. Here, it meets with the Madison and Gallatin rivers that together converge into the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park. Like so many other rivers in Montana, the Jefferson, named by Clark in honor of the U.S. President, runs deep with history. In fact, the Jefferson River is a segment of the larger Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by our National Park Service.

When thinking about the Jefferson, a Class 1 river for recreational enjoyment, most observers view the river in three distinct sections. Characterized by slow, meandering flows, the upper third works its way through a broad, arid valley. Along this braided, 44 mile long floodplain, you will encounter working farms, dense cottonwood stands, flowered meadows and a variety of wildlife until you reach the town of Cardwell. Throughout the next 15 miles, its waters flow through a narrow, steep canyon where the water can be deep, slow and contained. As a result, the stretch from Cardwell to the Sappington Bridge has comparatively fewer trees, swamps, meadows and wildlife.

At Sappington Bridge the river once again becomes a circuitous, rambling river, rich in swamp life, colorful fields, large cottonwood groves and productive agricultural land. The presence of significant agriculture has resulted in competition for water use. During dry years, the river was tapped generously for irrigation, dropping water levels to the point where fish populations were adversely affected. Recent improvement in riparian management has tended to alleviate these issues. Primarily known as a brown trout river, rainbows, mountain whitefish, burbot and northern pike can also be found here. Less well known and less discovered, the Jefferson offers the opportunity to catch large fish in a scenic, un-crowded environment.
The Madison River is arguably one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of southwest Montana, if not the entire world! It’s certainly the most talked over, written up and frequented ... morein the state of Montana – which is considered by some the capital of fly fishing. Anglers will find plenty of great access sites to wade or float along the Madison’s banks and reservoirs (including Hebgen Lake and Ennis Lake). Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, and more abound in this majestic fishing stream.

The Madison begins its course almost twenty miles into Yellowstone National Park. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hebgen Dam releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintains relatively low water levels and provides wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
/ Boat
1 - 3 anglers
5 days
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 5 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants. The following day provides instructions again for a do it yourself wade day. Location will depend on the hot locations during your visit. The final day is another full day float day on the lower Madison River. All together, you will experience the Madison River like never before by true expert.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
Spend the day fishing for huge rainbows and big browns on the famous Madison River, a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream. With more than 2000 fish per mile, the Madison River offers challenging ... moreand fun fishing for novice to seasoned angler.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
A full day float trip on Ennis Lake is a great experience. Ennis Lake offers very diverse opportunities for great trout fishing. Countless tactics and approaches work for wade and ... morefloat fishing Ennis Lake. Montana Fish Man can help unlock the Ennis Lake secrets and give you the angling tools for future success. This is a great summer season option for beginners and expert anglers alike. Fly fishing and light tackle spin fishing. For one or two people.
Welcome to Southwest Montana's finest fly fishing adventures. Blue ribbon trout water is literally steps away when you visit us in the picturesque town of Ennis, Montana. You may spend ... morethe day on our home river, the world famous Madison or drive to one of our other local rivers such as the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby or the Jefferson. Whether you are a new angler or an old pro we have the expertise and patience to make your time on the water chasing wild trout a success.

Discover Your Own Fishing and Hunting Adventures

With top destinations, guided trips, outfitters and guides, and river reports, you have everything you need.