Cabin Fever Cure – Spring Float

Ian Kennedy May 4th 2020

Spring is a great time to hit the water. Especially in these times where social distancing is a must. Saturday was the day! A float on the Madison was the cure for being cooped up for weeks! With rods and dogs loaded we took off. The water on the Madison was high and dirty. This was a great recipe for nymphing up some hungry trout! Most fishing folk forget that trout feed primarily on nymphs and with the Salmon Fly hatch right around the corner, big stone fly nymph patterns were on the menu. With the water being off colored you had to be patient and make sure your fly was bumping the bottom. Then in a split second your indicator was screaming towards the bottom! Most of the fish we landed were 14 to 19 inches long and fought like crazy. You had to be on your game to land these trout in the high water. They knew exactly what to do…. run into the fast water and then rocket up and jump!




The setup we were using on the river was a simple one. I usually use a 9 to 10 foot leader that goes to 4x tippet. With these water conditions you can get away with 3x or even 2x. The fish will not care. I was using a very big Salmon Fly Nymph pattern that I tied, but any dark colored wiggly legged nymph should work. Coming up the rig I tied a tab on using a triple surgeons knot about two and a half feet above the bottom fly. I had a San Juan Worm hanging out and the rainbows couldn’t get enough of it! Another two feet above the worm I tie another triple surgeons knot and trim it clean. I use this to place a large split shot to help the flies get down. This is nice, because your sinker won’t end up by your fly and tangle the rig up!

This time of year most of the fish are still sitting in the deep pockets and holes. If you can read water it helps a bunch! Find soft seams and buckets below gravel bars. If it looks deep and somewhat steady moving chuck you’re flies in it. Most likely there will be a couple fish hanging out. Remember to keep a good amount of weight on your nymph rig. If you run it through a fishy looking spot with no luck, add more weight. You pretty much want to see and feel your flies bumping along the bottom. You will learn pretty quickly the difference between a rock bite and a chunky rainbow! Spring runoff can be overwhelming because of all the water, but the fish are feeding hard you just have to find them! P.S. – When you rent your raft for that awesome trip on the Madison or Yellowstone get the rod holders that we have. I dumped a Helios 2 in the drink…. Had to have a beer after that!

Madison River Brown

When you come to pick up your Spring and Summer floating equipment keep an eye out for river specific fly kits. I will be tying up my favorite dirty dozen fly selections so you don’t have to guess as much about what the fish are eating!