Tan or Olive Zirdle #6
Clouser Crayfish #6
JJ Special #4
BH FB Hare's Ear #12
Diamond SH #14
Providing anglers with abundant public access, relatively easy wading and a healthy population of rainbow and brown trout, the water of the Lower Madison River is an exceptional alternative to the Upper Madison River, considered the river upstream of the town of Ennis. Starting immediately below the Madison Dam, the Lower Madison’s journey to the town of Three Forks takes it through the picturesque Bear Trap Canyon, open ranchlands and cottonwood bottoms.
Considering the absence of a boat ramp below the dam and the presence of a Class IV rapid known locally as the “Kitchen Sink,” the eight-mile stretch through the canyon is rarely floated except by those with rafts and solid whitewater experience. Fortunately, traveling this stretch on foot is a viable alternative. There is nearly a mile of great wade fishing opportunities below the dam, and this combined with trails starting at the northern mouth of the canyon gives those fly fisherman willing to hike great access to pocketwater, deep holes and boulder strewn runs.
Starting around the Warm Springs Boat access, the river begins its gradual retreat from the canyon towards the open valley below. It is here, with a well maintained boat ramp, that most floating begins. Wade fishing is also popular between Warm Springs and Black’s Ford fishing access. This seven mile stretch is nearly 100 percent accessible through state land that borders the river. Generally speaking, this is a shallow stretch of water with a forgiving river bottom that makes for easy wading.
Trout populations are substantial between the Warm Springs and Greycliff fishing access points, and while this stretch is often considered difficult to read and figure out, the effort it takes to do so is well worthwhile. Concentrate on weedbed edges and deep holes, keeping in mind that such “deep” spots are seldom more than 2-3’. Many such spots exist in the middle of this river and those who stay oriented towards the banks will miss much of what the Lower Madison River has to offer.
Downstream from Black’s Ford, wading access is limited to the Greycliff Fishing Access Site and the Cobblestone Fishing Access Site. Boat fishermen should note that Cobblestone does not have a boat ramp, and as a result floaters must travel from Greycliff to the Blackbird fishing access point at the I-90 bridge near Three Forks, nearly a 17-mile float trip. Meandering through cottonwood bottoms and an open high desert landscape, this last stretch of the Madison River boasts beautiful water with fish numbers somewhat lower than those found upstream. This is a quality over quantity stretch well suited to streamer fly fishing.
Because of its shallow nature and warm water discharges from Ennis Lake during the summer months, the Lower Madison could be considered a seasonal fishery. From mid-September through the end of June, water temperatures are prime. Once the water warms to the 70 degree mark during July and August, the river’s fish become relatively inactive. This, coupled with the fact that the Lower Madison becomes a popular inner tubing destination during the summer, tends to make it less popular during these months.