Madison River Montana Fly Fishing, Camping, Boating

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Madison River

Formed from two small rivers in the central region of Yellowstone National Park, the Madison winds its way through parts of Wyoming and Montana offering excellent trout fishing opportunities with spectacular scenery.

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  • Healthy Rainbow and Brown Trout populating the Madison River are supported by numerous Salmon Fly, caddis and grasshopper hatches.
  • Excellent wade fishing opportunities exist in Yellowstone National Parkas well as several other sections outside the park.
  • Despite the lack of traditional trout habitat, the 'Fifty Mile Riffle' outside of Ennis offers prime fishing with a beautiful backdrop.


Formed at the confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers in Yellowstone National Park, the Madison flows 140 miles before it reaches the waters of the Missouri River at the town of Three Forks, Montana. The Madison River houses healthy populations of wild rainbow trout and large brown trout.  

From its headwaters, the Madison runs 23 miles within Yellowstone. As it leaves the park near West Yellowstone, MT it travels through a series of lakes, white water canyons and wide open stretches perfect for float fishing.

Fishable Sections of the Madison

Within Yellowstone, the Madison as well as the Gibbon and Firehole offer excellent wade fly fishing opportunities. Thermal activity keeps the river both fertile and warm.

Fishing is popular at Hebgen and Quake Lakes as well as the short stretch of river between them. Highway 287 follows the river closely here providing convenient, yet sometimes busy fishing.  From Quake Lake, the river blasts through a steep 3.5 mile white water section. Large boulders, holes, and swift current provide an exciting ride though not the best float fishing section.  Wade anglers will find streamers are a good weapon of choice for the deep pools found in this section.

Beneath the white water section, which ends above the Highway 87 Bridge, the river runs another 53 miles through the Madison Valley towards the town of Ennis. A beautiful section flanked by mountains, the river supports riffles, runs, and pools and provides some of the best fly fishing on the river.  Early June brings a Salmon Fly hatch that can often be accompanied by high and discolored water. Multiple caddis fly hatches along with the grasshoppers found in the grassy valleys keep fishing great on this section all summer and into the fall. Some popular fly choices include the Parachute Adams, Pale Morning Dun, Elk Hair Caddis and Green Drake.

Fishing Seasons

Seasonal fishing tends to be the best in early summer and again in the fall. Occasionally, warm summer temperatures require park officials to close the river to fishing.

Some of the best early fishing occurs in mid-June as the caddis and Salmon fly hatches come on. Fall brings migrating large brown trout from Hebgen Lake, thinning crowds and cooler temperatures and is a wonderful time to fish and spend time in Yellowstone.

In the Spotlight

Other Madison River Resources

Henrys Fork of the Snake River

Like the Madison River, the Henry's Fork is famous for its incredible fly fishing.

Jefferson River

The Madison joins the Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers at Three Forks, Montana.

Buffalo River

Scenic river and great fishery near Island Park, Idaho.