The Madison River is formed within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming with the confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers. From Madison Junction, the river bends through open meadows on its way to West Yellowstone.
After a few miles of exiting YNP's border, the Madison enters Hebgen Lake, a dammed reservoir built in 1914. After passing through the oft-troubled Hebgen Dam, the Madison rumbles through a few short miles of pocket water on its way to Earthquake Lake, formed by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake that shook the Northwest in 1959.
Below 'Quake Lake is where the Fifty Mile Riffle begins. For fifty beautiful miles, the Madison twists and turns northwest towards Ennis, Montana. In the middle lies the best pocket water and riffle fishing found in Montana. Stout, bright, wild Rainbow and Brown trout are your regular customers with a handful of West Slope Cutthroat in the mix.
The best way to catch them? While seasonal conditions can dictate which technique is most productive, the beauty of the Madison is the diversity of applicable fly fishing techniques. While many see the river as a shallow riffle, the minute differences between runs, shelves, and trenches lead a creative angler to master the big three; dry fly, swing, and nymph fishing. Few other rivers in the world inhabit this unique mix of speed, depth, and composition.
Slow, deep, meandering runs define the first section of the Madison River. Most popular for its late fall swing fly fishing.
After shooting through Hebgen Dam, the Madison River rips through 2 miles of pocket water before entering Quake Lake. Popular year-round due to its easy access.
The upper wade section on the Madison River is defined by a swift riffle with outstanding bank-side pocket water. Boats are allowed only as transportation.
From Lyon Bridge to Ennis the Madison River is in full swing; this section is dominated by riffles with plenty of big boulders, gravel bars, and side channels in the mix.
Below Ennis Bridge, the Madison River begins to braid out into multiple channels before dumping into Ennis Lake. This is the Madison's second wade section, boats are allowed only as transportation.
Starting with a whitewater section in Beartrap Canyon, the Madison River begins to slow down as it reaches Three Forks, MT, where it forms the Missouri River along with the Gallatin & Jefferson Rivers.