For the past two years, I have made the unusual call of fly fishing the upper Madison River in March. Normally, March can be an equally cold Winter month in Montana; but, there are few times during the month when the sun shines and bluebird skies appear…Those are the days to fish!
I love the area below Hebgen Dam. The Henrys Lake Mountains tower right next to the river and make for a majestic scene.
For many, there is relatively easy access to the river near the Cabin Creek Confluence, not too far from the dam. In this area, even in the Winter, one can just pull over to the side of the road and walk quite easily to the river.
Winter on the Madison River below Hebgen Dam
If solitude is what your looking for, however, then try hiking or skiing into the area known as Ghost Village…an area named after the effects of the tragic 1959 earthquake.
Winter on the Madison River, Ghost Village
This year, I hiked into the river using the Refuge Point Trail just a quarter mile down the road from Cabin Creek. Be prepared to snowshoe or ski this area because it will be filled with snow. I just put on my waders and hiked alongside the cross country ski trail…It was slow going and I plunged into the 12 inch snow banks every once in a while; but, believe me, it’s worth it. The views overlooking the river along the Refuge Point Trail are fantastic.
Once you get to the river and settle into its icy embrace, you will think that you died and went to heaven…It is so peaceful. That day, not a soul, besides myself, was on this stretch of river.
I spent about two hours on the river; but, within the first hour, I landed this twenty plus inch rainbow…easily the largest fish I have ever caught on my fly rod. It was a beast. I had to use both of my arms to control the rod and keep its nose pointed up. Cold water makes trout sluggish, however; so, I was eventually able to land it. I don’t think the same fish would have been so cooperative during the Summer months.
Further down highway 287, I have had equal success with the monsters of the Madison near Raynolds Bridge. About one year ago, to the day, I caught my second largest trout in this area. Again, the water was cold enough to make that beast docile enough to land.
For me, the monsters of the Madison only appear in the dead of Winter…That’s fine with me. Never has there been so magical and peaceful a place as the upper Madison River during a fine Winter’s day!
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