Madison river fly fishing is possibly at its best in October. The river is nearly empty as tourists have gone home and many locals are in the woods hunting. This is also a time of the year when some of the largest trout of the year are landing including a few fish each year in the 28-30" class. Dry fly fishing can also be great. Here are a 5 good tips for fishing the Madison in the fall.
1) Try the lower river
Although the Upper Madison near Ennis is the most famous part of the river, the Lower Madison from the Warm Springs access to Three Forks is also a great fishery. Trout numbers are highest near the exit of Bear Trap Canyon and this is also the section that gets the most angling pressure. In the fall, fishing pressure is very light despite the great fishing. Because this section is too warm to fish for most of the summer, it doesn't get the same pulicity that the more famous upper river does. Despite its lack of fame, it produces some of the largest trout in the river.
2) Fish bad weather
Your best chance at catching a truly monster trout is on cloudy, rainy and snowy days. Big browns hate bright light and often feed after dark on bright sunny days. When the weather turns sour the big boys go on the feed. This is the time to pull giant streamers and swing for the fences. The baetis hatch also comes off very thick so don't forget about the great dry fly fishing.
3) Fish hoppers
Just because it is October doesn't mean you should put your hopper box away. October often produces some gorgeous weather and on nice sunny days in early October the hopper fishing can be awesome.
4) Fish bees
Bees and hornets get a little punch drunk in early October as winter is fast approaching. The insects slow down and frequently stumble into the water. I recently saw over a hundred honey bees staggering around the bank of a small stream that I was fishing and saw several in the water. A yellow double humpy is a good imitation. Fishing the bee on a warm October day can be very productive on the Madison.
5) Fish the main runs
Remember that the big browns are on the move so they will be working their way through the main runs vs. little side channels. Working large main runs with big nymphs trailed by beads is a very effective way to hang a fish of a lifetime.