Three Dollar Bridge Fishing

by | Adventures, Fishing

Three Dollar Bridge on the Madison is one of the most iconic fishing spots in the west. People travel here from all over the world to try their luck. If you are making the trip here is a bit of info that I have learned over the years about fooling these trout.

The water at Three Dollar Bridge is moving quite fast. Most of the best fishing is close to the bank and in seams that form behind the large boulders that are scattered throughout this section. You want to move slow in this water. I have spooked trout sitting under the bank before and also fish sitting in inches of water. Moving slow will also help you maneauver the river, it is very slick and falling in will ruin the day! Check out our Simms wadding boots to help you prevent a brisk spring swim!

The trout you will encounter in this stretch are very healthy and fight hard. The trick to landing them is keeping the fish under control. They know what you are up to and will shoot straight to the fast water if you aren’t using your rod pressure to steer them into the calm water. Most of the fish I have landed in the section range from 12 to 19 inches. There are some big ones up there, you just have to get lucky or spend a good amount of time looking for them. Rainbows and Browns are the most common trout you will catch. Mountain Whitefish are very abundant as well. These native fish are fun to catch and I usually call them Montana Bonefish!




Three Dollar Bridge Rainbow

Lets talk gear and flies! Everyone has their favorite leader setup or you don’t have a clue what to use. For this upcoming spring the water will be high, but there is plenty of opportunity to catch these trout using all the tricks. If you like nymph fishing this will probably be your most effective method. Check out the Art! The top left picture below is my go to nymph setup. This setup allows you to change flies which is nice as well. I use a tripple overhand knot to tie the tab on and clip the top of it so you have a nice section to tie on to. I like to throw a dry dropper at Three Dollar, because you cover all the bases. The Bottom left picture shows how I set this up. This can be a very effective setup for Three Dollar. The fish are usually sitting pretty shallow and this allows them two feeding options. I usually throw a bead head nymph so it will get down a bit!

Nymph Rig For Madison
Madison Rainbow
Dry Dropper Setup
Madison Brown

Fly Time! Being a beginner or advanced fishing person, flies are the hardest. The shops are packed full of them! Colors, sizes, materials, bright, dull, etc.. Making a decision is overwhelming. I stick to the tried and true method of using my eyes and flipping rocks. Three Dollar is not complicated when it comes to what you should use. How you deliver the fly is usually the issue. The four main insects you will encounter in this section are mayflies, caddis, midges, and stoneflies. We actually caught this huge Salmon Fly Nymph, seen in the picture to the right, on a Rapala! In the spring when the water is high I really enjoy nymphing large stonefly nymphs with an emerging caddis or midge above them.

Usually if you roll over a few stones you can see what is crawling around and the size/color of them. Just use the basics… if you see mayflies go with a pheasant tail. Pats rubber legs are a great stonefly imitation, and an olive caddis nymph pattern is always deadly. Keep an eye on the water during the day. How the fish are feeding will give you a great advantage.

Nothing going on up top… Nymph it up! See explosive action on top but nothing is buzzing around? Put on a dry dropper or nymph rig with light weight. The fish are eating right in the film or picking bugs up as they rise towards the surface.

What type do I use???? Take a sec and watch the water flowing by you, usually you can see husks floating by. This will tell you the size and type of insect that is emerging. Then just dig in the box and try and match it up! Just remember, fishing is not catching! Hopefully this will help guide you to some chunky fish though!


Salmon Fly Nymph on the Madison