June Fishing on the Madison River

June weather, stream flows, and summary

June on the Madison River is the tale of two seasons—the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Dry fly anglers will delight in the aura of the salmonfly hatch, streamer anglers find plenty of big fish on the move, and number-crunchers can revel in success with subsurface weighted two-fly nymph rigs. However, like many rivers in Montana during June, patience is paramount because snowmelt runoff peaks this month…the challenge is knowing when that will occur. 

Much like the fishing, the weather in June is varied. Early June sees average daily high temperatures hover around 70 degrees F while later in the month average daily high temps tick close to 80 degrees F. Later in the month the prevalence of sunny days far out-weigh overcast days. These warmer and drier days mean more comfortable fishing conditions. The warmer and sunnier days coupled with a river that is poised and primed for salmonflies, Golden stoneflies, and PMDs make the Madison one of Montana’s most consistent fisheries during June. 

Both the Upper Madison, defined as the river upstream of Ennis Lake, and the Lower Madison, defined as the river downstream of Ennis Lake, experience similar hatches and behavior. However, the Lower Madison’s hatches dwindle by late June and most anglers shift their focus entirely to the upper river. 

Most years the Madison’s major tributaries—Cabin and Beaver Creeks and the West Fork of the Madison—run clear by the second week of June. Because the majority of the Madison’s flows are regulated by dams, Hebgen on the upper river upstream of Ennis and Madison Dam at the mouth of Bear Trap Canyon north of Ennis, fishing can occur throughout all of runoff. But when the tributary streams clear and drop, the Madison River comes into form and the clock begins ticking to signal the start of the world famous salmonfly hatch. 

Salmonflies are not the only insect to make its yearly debut on the Madison in June. Pale Morning Duns (PMDs), Golden Stoneflies, Yellow Sally stoneflies all debut in June, while various caddis species have strong emergence in June as well. With a diverse and abundant cornucopia of hatching insects, June fly fishing on the Madison River covers all the bases.

June fishing: what to expect

Fly fishing in June on the Madison is quite unique. Many years the river fishes differently in early June compared to later in the month. Mountain snowpack continues to melt and create muddy and full-flowing rivers in early June. In some years it can continue into the middle of the month, but by June 15 stream flows are dropping. Depending on flows and clarity, a typical day in early June will be entirely different than later in June. Early June has most anglers fishing weighted two-fly nymph rigs. Choose one stonefly nymph in sizes 4 through 8 and one prospecting nymph such as a Pheasant Tail or Prince in sizes 10 or 12. Hatches of caddis may occur early in the month, however streamflows and clarity will determine viability of fishing the hatch. 

As snowmelt runoff begins to subside typically sometime between June 15th and 20th, the fishing transitions from exclusively subsurface to dry fly friendly. Hatches of salmonflies begin on the Lower Madison in mid-June and anglers can fish large dry flies with stonefly nymph droppers. From the start of the salmonfly hatch and through the remainder of June, anglers will see hatches of Golden Stoneflies, caddis, and PMDs. Most successful days begin fishing weighted two-fly nymph rigs below a strike indicator. As stonefly and PMD nymphs become more active, a dry dropper rig will begin to catch fish. Fishing a size 6 through size 10 high-floating dry fly and a size 8 through 12 weighted nymph is useful. Depending on the hatch—stoneflies, PMDs, or caddis—opting for a single dry fly and targeting specific water can be quite a fun way to enjoy June dry fly fishing on the Madison. Target the banks or mid-river structure if stoneflies are hatching and target riffles, shelves, and runs if PMDs are out. 

Because the Madison has two distinct sections—the Lower Madison below Ennis Lake and the Upper Madison above Ennis Lake—an understanding of their variances in late June is important. Because Lower Madison flows originate from outflows created by the Madison Dam on Ennis Lake, the river downstream of Ennis Lake must be treated differently. Ennis Lake is a shallow lake and as the angle of the sun gets steeper in late June the direct sunlight warms the shallow water of Ennis Lake. These warmer waters then flow through Madison Dam and downstream, creating warm and less favorable water conditions for prolific hatches and actively feeding trout. By late June many anglers forgo the Lower Madison River due to high water temperatures and focus entirely on the river above Ennis Lake. 

Where to find June trout on the Madison

Madison River trout cover a variety of habitats during June. Early in the month most trout will be found along the banks or structure near the banks and near any logs, rocks, or other middle-of-the-river structure. Because stoneflies hatch by clinging to structure and then emerging from an exoskeleton, trout follow the insects and become opportunistic feeders as the current washes away the structure-clinging nymphs. Additionally, the high and fast stream flows so common early in the month necessitate trout hold near structure to gain a respite from the strong current. 

When PMDs begin to hatch, often in the later third of the month, streamflows are lower and trout can now hold in riffles, runs, near mid-river shelfs, and even on shallow flats. On the Madison in June during a PMD emergence, trout can be found at the tail end of a shelf or riffle gorging themselves. They can also be found on a shallow flat sipping adult mayflies. 

Because fly fishing the Madison in late June sees such a variety of hatches, trout are found in a variety of habitats. It sounds simple to stay, but the best place to find trout on the Madison in June is pretty much anywhere that stoneflies, PMDs, or caddis are hatching. 

Important June hatches

The salmonfly hatch is the crown jewel of the Madison River’s June hatch chart. The timing of the hatch varies from year to year, but most years these insects hatch around June 15th on the Lower Madison and around June 25nd on the Upper Madison.  After salmonflies, Golden stoneflies and Yellow Sally stoneflies hatch, creating even more large dry fly fishing opportunities. Salmonflies and Golden stoneflies may get the most attention of June hatches on the Madison River, but it is a mayfly that is the cause of so many great fishing days on the Madison River in June. Pale Morning Duns hatch in abundance on both the Lower and Upper Madison Rivers. Ranging in size from 12 to 16, PMDs in the Madison River make up the majority of a trout’s diet during June. 

Madison River fly box for June

PMD nymphs sizes 14 to 16

PMD emergers sizes 14 to 18

PMD dry flies sizes 14 and 16

Stonefly nymphs in brown and black in sizes 4 to 10

Salmonfly dry flies in sizes 4 to 8

Golden stonefly dry flies in sizes 8 and 10

Yellow Sally nymphs in sizes 10 to 16

Yellow Sally dry flies in sizes 10 to 16

Caddis pupae sizes 14 to 16

Caddis CDC emergers sizes 14 to 16

Caddis dry flies with dark grey, black or brown bodies in sizes 14 and 16; 

Crayfish patterns in sizes 2 to 8

Sculpin patterns in sizes 2 to 6

Streamers in olive, black or brown in sizes 2 to 6