Madison River

Dam: 1,410 cfs

Kirby: 1,940 cfs and rising

Last week was another wet one throughout Southwest Montana.  We all know that we’ll be counting our blessings when August comes around, but a lot of people around here are just flat out ready for summer.  That being said, we received this letter from FWP this morning:

Inflows into Hebgen Lake have doubled in four days from around 1700 cfs to
3500 cfs. To slow down the rate of filling the lake, three increases will be
made today. The outflow will be increased from about 960 cfs to about 1300
cfs at the end of the third increase. The Madison River above Hebgen Lake is
down from a high of 1550 cfs on Saturday to about 1150 currently so most of
the inflow is from precipitation. West Yellowstone has 315% of normal
month-to-date reported by the NWS. The Weather Channel shows 2.78 inches of rain since the first of June. Normal for the month is only 2.21 inches. Hebgen Lake is at elevation 6534.07 ft which is 0.80 ft from full.

The initial release “should” give the fish a little lock jaw until the water stabilizes sometime in the next few days, but once it does the fishing should only get better.  This tends to surprise a lot of people, but think about it– More insects get washed down stream as water levels rise,  and fish are forced to take in more food because they are working twice as hard to stay in the holding water.  Given that they can’t see as well in dirtier water, they start mouthing anything that resembles food drifting pass them, and this can make for some truly great days on the river.

Your best bet will be nymphing in the wade section with caddis larva, midges, and baetis nymphs trailed behind big rubberleg stones, and san juan worms…just make sure you’re bumping bottom.    The areas you’re most likely to find fish during high water will be along the banks and in the cushions and slicks behind large boulders.  It might take a little bit of walking to find the good high water holes, but when you find one it is usually packed with fish.  Streamer fishing can also be extremely effective this time of year, and we usually have the best success throwing black sculpin patterns tight into the banks or behind boulders.  If you choose to float, try throwing streamers tight into the banks, and hop out of the boat to nymph the bigger holes near the banks.  Water clarity is still around a foot of visibility (greenish-brown), but with Cabin and Beaver creek pumping more mud into Quake every day it won’t be long before it reaches the outlet and the Madison becomes a steady stream of chocolate milk.  We will keep you updated as conditions change over the next few days.