Madison River Fishing Report for May 16th, 2023
Dam: 854 cfs
Kirby: 1,350 cfs
Varney: 2,380 cfs
The Upper Madison has been fishing well over the last couple of weeks with nymphs and streamers, and I think it’s safe to say that we have officially entered the beginning of runoff. Right now the Upper River from Quake to the West Fork is running green with about 2.5 feet of visibility, but we expect that to become more like 8″-12″ here shortly — Cabin and Beaver Creeks are putting in a lot of brown water into the lake and we expect the mud line to make it to the outlet by Saturday or Sunday this week. The West Fork of the Madison is also putting in a big stripe of brown water below Lyon’s Bridge, with most of it mixing between Windy Point and Palisades. Don’t fear the mud though, as the sections between the Slide area and Windy will continue to fish throughout runoff. Everything downstream from there will be a little more inconsistent unless we get a cold snap that clears up the creeks for more than a few days.
We have been fishing the upper stretches of the Madison this month, and have done very well with nymphs and streamers since the first plug of dirty water made it through the lake. The key to fishing runoff on the Madison is to concentrate your efforts on the slowest water you can find, and it really doesn’t have to be that deep either. With decreased visibility, fish become a lot more comfortable hanging out in more obviously spots for one simple reason…you can’t see them and they can’t see you. With that in mind, don’t be affraid to start nymphing a couple feet off your rod tip and you’ll be amazed at what you find. Some of our better patterns this week have been Pat’s Rubber Legs, Squirmy and San Juan Worms, #14-#16 Olive Caddis Larva, Purple Lightning Bugs, Juju Baetis, Black Perdigons, and Black Zebra Midges. Just make sure that you have enough splitshot to get your flies on the bottom, and keep changing them up until you figure out what they’re eating.
Streamer fishing on the Upper Madison has also been very good over the last week. Larger articulated patterns have been a lot more productive recently, as they tend to show up better in the dirt and push a lot more water. Black, olive, natural, and yellow have been our most consistent colors and will likely continue to be until the visibility gets above 3 feet again. Dungeons, Boogie Men, Double Screamers, Envys, and Mini Whiteys have been some of our most consistent producers over the last week, and there are days that the profile matters just as much as the color selection, so be sure to keep changing up your pattern/color until you crack the code.