Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Oct 21, 2013

Sysadmin Note
Part 14 can be found here

The Madison River begins life at the junction of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers the confluence of these two rivers create one of the headwater tributaries of the mighty Missouri river. The river was named in July 1805 by Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition for James Madison who succeeded Thomas Jefferson as President of the United States in 1809.

The Madison River in Yellowstone Park is nineteen miles long and has been called the largest chalkstream in the world. The reason for the river's rich waters is the enriched waters from the both the Firehole and the Gibbon, both of these rivers receive additional water and enrichment from the hot springs and geysers that run into both of fabled rivers.

Much of the Madison River in the Park is named like the waters of the famous chalk streams, there is the Barns Pools, Beaver Meadows, Grasshopper Bank, Cable Car Run and Baker's Hole to name a few place. 

The river also has an explainable draw besides the many anglers who come to fish the water. There are also those who studied the river and have written about it. Heading the list of authors is the legendary Charlie Brooks and his book The Living River published in 1979 gives great and complete details about this legendary trout stream. Today anglers like Craig Mathews and Bob Jacklin are creating their own legends on the waters of the Madison River.

My first introduction to the Madison River in the park was due to the efforts of Wally Eagle and Neil Travis in 1976. Wally and Neil were friends and after the introductions were made Wally lead us to a place he called Johansson's Pool, located downstream a short distance from Seven Mile Bridge. Wally explained that this was where he was fishing on June 26th, 1959 when Ingemar Johansson defeated Floyd Patterson to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. 

On day we were fishing the Madison River the caddis were hatching and we enjoyed some excellent fishing on a new river that was new to me and on a very interesting piece of water. I actually spent little time fishing and a great deal of time soaking up the knowledge that Wally Eagle was willing to share about the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. Over the years I have fished Johansson Pool many times but never without thinking of that long ago afternoon when Wally Eagle shared his knowledge of the Madison River.

Depending on the time of the year, the Madison River can be different rivers to different anglers. I remember fishing the area of Junction Pool a few years ago with my fishing partner Paul Gates. We had spent the morning on the Firehole and had moved down to Junction Pool to see if the small black caddis or midges had started to hatch. We were hoping to end the season with a hatch as this was the final day of the season and tomorrow the season would be closed and the trout would not see another angler until the opening day of the next season far away in late in the month of May.

We found the little Black Caddis hatching and that was followed by Baetis and midges. As we approached the top of the pool we noticed a lineup of anglers about third of mile below us and after watching for a period of time we determined that they were fishing streamers. Surprisingly there was no one fishing the pool but we noticed working fish and began to move into position. Paul went upstream to cross both the Gibbon and the Firehole to gain access to the other side of the pool while I began to work the edges of a back eddy on my side of the pool.

Soon we were both into trout. About this time one of the anglers that had been fishing streamers wander up and asked how we were doing. I replied that the fishing was good and the trout were eating the little black caddis and the emergers. He was shocked that we were fishing dry flies and proclaimed that he would never fool with a dry fly when the large brown were running up out of Hebgen Lake. About that time Paul hooked a large brown trout which turned out to be 21½ inches long. The trout jumped and I couldn't help making the comment that we were only working the larger trout. The angler was speechless as the trout jumped four different times before Paul could slip the net under him. The spectator finally wandered back down to the lower end of the pool and after a couple of casts he moved on downstream to some unknown point. Throughout the rest of the afternoon the trout continued to rise and we continued to take trout on the surface. Paul's trout was the largest one that we caught, however we still enjoyed every one of the trout we managed to hook.

On other occasions I to have worked streamers on the Madison in the hopes of enticing one of the larger fall run brown trout and at times I have been successful and at other times the fishing gods have turned their back on me.

In the early season I have fished the Salmon Fly Hatch on the Madison just inside the Park and shortly after that I was fishing the PMD's hatch in the long meadow above Seven Mile Bridge.

Due to its close proximity to West Yellowstone the Madison River always seems to have its fair share of anglers and often your favorite section is in use by other anglers. Just explore a little bit and you will be able to find an open section where the trout haven't been bothered by others. Furthermore the number of anglers really means nothing at all. Many of the anglers are unfamiliar with the Madison and are clueless and are no threat to the trout.

From opening day until early July and then from September 10th to the closing of the Park is the time period that I like to fish the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. However I will tell you that everything changes and a few years ago I spent a couple of days on the Madison in mid-August and had excellent fishing with crickets and fly ants. Therefore fish when you have the chance!

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 16 can be found here


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