Madison River Yellowstone

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Madison River

The Madison River is a headwater tributary of the Missouri River, approximately 183 miles long, in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Montana. Its confluence with the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers near Three Forks, Montana form the Missouri River. The Madison rises in Park County in northwestern Wyoming at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon rivers, a location known as Madison Junction in Yellowstone National Park. It flows west then north through the mountains of southwestern Montana to join the Jefferson and Gallatin rivers at Three Forks.

Madison River Fishing Map

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Madison River (Below Ennis Lake): 45.455239, -111.649482
Madison River (Quake Lake to Ennis): 45.095383, -111.662529
Madison River FAS (Valley Garden) : 45.367254, -111.705392
Madison River FAS (Burnt Tree Hole) : 45.314842, -111.747791
Madison River FAS (Cobblestone) : 45.772927, -111.515801
Madison River FAS (Milwaukee) : 45.899335, -111.525071
Madison River FAS (Ennis) : 45.344990, -111.723640
Madison River FAS (McAtee Bridge) : 45.095481, -111.662496
Madison River FAS (Black's Ford) : 45.646380, -111.522472
Madison River FAS (Varney Bridge) : 45.229826, -111.751460
Madison River FAS (Blackbird) : 45.901379, -111.526898
Madison River FAS (Greycliff) : 45.701913, -111.514179
Madison River FAS (Raynolds' Pass) : 44.826839, -111.486039
Madison River FAS (Damselfly) : 45.624116, -111.547879
Madison River FAS (Lyons Bridge) : 44.899096, -111.592586
Madison River FAS (Three Dollar Bridge) : 44.831935, -111.514161
Madison River FAS (Eight Mile Ford) : 45.299980, -111.754050
Madison River, Yellowstone National Park: 44.723991, -111.121902
Madison River (Baker's Hole Campground): 44.705170, -111.100660
Madison River (National Park Meadows): 44.640930, -110.872690
Madison River (Confluence With Gibbon River): 44.642110, -110.866600
Madison River (Gravel Road To Barns Holes): 44.655770, -111.081050
Madison River (Talus Slope Riffles): 44.646246, -110.930607
Madison River (Riverside Drive): 44.654470, -110.993740
Madison River (Fish Trap Bend): 44.653948, -110.957204
Madison River Campground: 44.644730, -110.863340
Madison River (Barns #1): 44.666030, -111.066330
Madison River Bridge: 44.715760, -111.102810
Madison River (7-Mile Bridge): 44.663800, -110.965260
Madison River (Muskrat Pool): 44.668930, -110.981740
Madison River (Grasshopper Bank): 44.668440, -110.986830
Madison River (Bear Trap Canyon): 45.577528, -111.595160
MADISON RIVER NEAR WEST YELLOWSTONE MT: 44.657072, -111.067964
MADISON RIVER BL HEBGEN LAKE NR GRAYLING MT: 44.866392, -111.338781
MADISON RIVER AT KIRBY RANCH NR CAMERON MT: 44.888656, -111.580886
MADISON RIVER NEAR CAMERON MT: 45.233133, -111.751633
MADISON RIVER AB POWERPLANT NR MCALLISTER MT: 45.486594, -111.633858
MADISON RIVER BL ENNIS LAKE NR MCALLISTER MT: 45.490231, -111.634506
Bear trap canyon: 45.577600, -111.595200
FF Treasure: 45.475000, -111.637700
Work: 40.780700, -112.002800

Get turn-by-turn directions to Madison River access points, boat ramps and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing App. See how it works here.

The Madison is home to some of the most famous stretches of water in the west. Many pools and runs on the Madison have angler-given names such as The Barns, Beaver Meadows, Grasshopper Bank, Cable Car Run and Baker’s Hole.

Madison River Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park

The 19 miles of the Madison River in the park, although easily accessible offers technical dry fly and nymph fishing for rainbow and brown trout averaging from ten to fourteen inches, with an occasional 20-incher. Most of the river inside the park resembles a large spring creek and has been called the world’s largest chalkstream.

The Madison River is one of the most famous and recognizable names in western trout fishing. Thousands of anglers from all over the world flock to the Madison to fish its hallowed waters. Trout in the Madison consist mainly of rainbows and browns running in the 10-16 inch range.

In the fall, monster brown trout move out of nearby Hebgen Lake to spawn. This is perhaps your best chance to catch huge brown trout. The Madison also contains impressive numbers of mountain whitefish.

Fish on the Madison are notoriously picky and hard to catch. Wading the Madison can be difficult on several stretches. The water may look shallow, but often it is deeper than it appears. The water here runs fast and powerful; don’t get yourself into a dangerous situation. The bottom of the Madison between Seven Mile Bridge and Nine Mile Hole is deep silt, making wading dangerous.

Madison River Fly Fishing Tips

The Madison is an early summer and fall river and offers poor fishing in midsummer because of high temperatures contributed by the Firehole River.

Fishing in the fall is excellent when significant numbers of brown and rainbow trout enter the river from Hebgen Lake. These are usually taken with large streamer patterns.

Spring runoff usually subsides by late June, but often runs later after a big snow year. A sporadic stonefly hatch starts the dry fly season in late June and early July. Baetis, Pale Morning Duns and Green Drakes also hatch about this time.

Caddis begin hatching in June and continue to hatch in strong numbers until late fall.The Madison is at its best on overcast and rainy days. Fish early and late for the best results.

Tricos show up in August and September, hatching on the quiet stretches of water. Terrestrials such as low-profile hopper patterns work well from July until October.

September sees the arrival of spawning brown trout and fishing is best in cold, wet weather. Streamers like Wooly Buggers and Zonkers work well. Big, weighted nymphs like a Beadhead Prince will produce fish. Spawning browns can be caught until the season’s end after the first Saturday in November.

Madison River Real-Time Stream Flow

Before you head out to fish the Madison River be sure to check the stream conditions.  The USGS stream gauge (see below) near West Yellowstone, MT gives you a good idea of the stream conditions inside Yellowstone National Park.

USGS Water-data graph

Madison River Access in YNP

The West Entrance Road and an abundance of pullouts makes access to the Madison River easy. The road follows the river from its confluence for about 10 miles. Access to the river is then restricted to several gravel roads. It is also possible to hike into the Madison River. The section of river from Seven Mile Bridge and Nine Mile Hole may be closed to protect nesting trumpeter swans. Click on the above map icons for access information and driving directions.

Madison River Fishing Regulations in YNP

The Madison River is fly fishing only in Yellowstone National Park. Catch and release all grayling, cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish. Check the Yellowstone fishing regulations for more information regarding the Madison River and seasonal river closures.

Lower Madison River

Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Montana and our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park for information on fishing other area streams.

About the Author Ken Sperry

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.

Leave a Comment:

Fck74105
fred kirk says

I fell in love with this web site after reading about the Big Holeriver in Montana. However, your write- up on the Madison river only covers the YNP section. Then specking generally you say it’s poor fishing in the middle of summer? The whole river? I’ve fished it in July/August for several years now and it fishes quite well below Hebgin Dam, at 3 Dollar Bridge, and the section between the town of Ennis and Ennis Lake. I live in Oklahoma and will be fishing here again July 2018. I’m quite confident the fishing will be excellent fishing a dry dropper rig. I would love to see an expanded write- up on the Madison including Bear Trap Canyon. Thanks for a great resource for us diy guys!

Reply
    Ken Sperry
    Ken Sperry says

    Hi Fred,
    This article really only discusses the Madison River up in YNP. I definitely need to expand the article to cover the 3 tailwater sections from Hebgan Dam to Earthquake Lake, Earthquake Lake to Ennis Lake and Ennis Dam to Three Forks (including Bear Trap Canyon). It’s on the to-do list! The upper two tailwater sections of the Madison fish just fine through the summer and don’t experience the thermal stress the river reach in the park does. Glad to hear you are enjoying the site!

    Reply
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