Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Trip reports, findings, events, and general experiences with tenkara fishing. Tell other tenkara enthusiasts about your tenkara experience

Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby BrianF » Mon May 17, 2010 4:10 pm

With a complete fishing kit under six ounces, I headed out solo to Bear Trap Canyon in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness for four days of fishing on the Madison River. The water was clear, the caddis were hatching like mad, and the trout were feeding on the surface just about all day. Ideal conditions on one of the best trout streams in the world -- but since I went in the middle of the week, I didn't see another angler on foot the first three days I was in the wilderness, just a few boats floating down. I had the Madison River pretty much to myself. Well, me and the grizzly sow with two tiny puffball cubs I saw the first day. Fortunately, she wasn't interested in the fish, or fishermen.

Caught a lot of trout. I rarely count past one, but I would have lost count anyway. In one area of the river near the Kitchen Sink (class IV water infamous for claiming the lives of kayakers), my fly couldn't go four feet without getting a strike. The fish were in a rare mood for Madison trout, acting more like brookies than the big picky fish they usually are.

Tenkara-related notes: The Yamame with 5X was just enough to handle the bigger fish, including some big browns that had me jogging down the bank after them. But then I ran out of 5X. Oops. With 6X, I started losing some of the bigger fish, usually immediately after a really vicious take on the surface. Fortunately, I had lots of opportunities to hone my skills catching big fish with the wrong gear, and I got a bit better at it. But I'll make sure to bring more than five feet of 5X next time. And maybe learn how to tie that Bimini knot I read about here.

As I exited the trailhead on Saturday, I watched the conventional flyfishermen with their vests and chest waders, laboriously throwing out forty feet of line just to get four seconds of decent drift, and I thought, "I can't believe I used to do that."
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Location: Montana

Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby rvrgzr » Mon May 17, 2010 4:25 pm

Sounds like a great trip, especially being away from the crowds. Nice pics.
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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby b1gjoe23 » Mon May 17, 2010 5:44 pm

I'm interested in the Yamame... do you think it is too stiff to still enjoy catching a ten incher?
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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby rsetina » Mon May 17, 2010 7:19 pm


Sounds like you had a great time on the water with some nice fish to play with. Sorry to read you ran out of 5X.



I'd say a Yamame would be a little stiff for a 10 inch fish. You'd be better off with a Ayu or an Ebisu 5:5. Since Brian was on the Madison the Yamame would have been my choice too. You can get into some big fish there.

My Tenkara Rods:
13' Ayu, 12' Yamame, 11' with a conversion handle, and an Ito.

My Wife's Tenkara Rods:
12' Ebisu and 13.5' Amago, 12' Iwana with a conversion handle, and an Ito.
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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby BrianF » Mon May 17, 2010 10:53 pm


I'd only use the Yamame for big fish or difficult wind conditions. I haven't tried the Ayu or Ebisu, but I have an Iwana and I much prefer it to the Yamame. I can still feel a bit of "Tenkara elbow" in my casting arm right now from the weight of the Yamame. In contrast, the Iwana feels perhaps one-fifth as heavy (even though it isn't). And the Iwana is definitely plenty of rod to handle a ten-inch trout. When I hit small streams in the park this summer, I won't be taking the Yamame.
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Location: Montana

Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby solocanoe » Tue May 18, 2010 9:53 am

Brian - nice trip! great pics too - thanks for sharing :!:

Simple trip with simple gear in the middle of simply beautiful perfect is that!
Lucky to get out. Whenever I can. Never enough. Romans 8:31
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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby rapidan » Tue May 18, 2010 11:46 am

envious :P

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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby BrianF » Tue May 18, 2010 12:17 pm

Another pic from the trip. This is just downstream of Bear Trap Creek. If you ever make it out to the Madison, even for a day trip, I highly recommend hiking in at least this far. It's only about 3 miles of easy trail, but those three miles (and the tempting rock gardens along the way) weed out perhaps 90% of casual day-use folks. And the Bear Trap Creek crossing weeds out 50% of those who are left. (I don't know why people head out to hike in the wilderness but are afraid to get their feet wet -- but I'm not complaining.) Once you cross the creek you truly feel like you're in wilderness, and you're fishing pools and runs that receive exponentially lower angler pressure than the first three miles.
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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby bjanzen » Tue May 18, 2010 6:18 pm


Great trip report. I haven't seen that area in the summer. Was out there last winter to ski Big Sky and saw way too many rivers on the car ride to and from the slopes.... Will bring a rod next time.

Love your tarp... I am an ultra light backpacker too. Really works better than a tent as well. Welcome to the Tenkara family.......... You will enjoy your experience.

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Re: Trip Report: Madison River, Montana

Postby bennett » Mon May 24, 2010 7:57 pm

Brain F
Brings back old memories for me. My father took me down the bear trap when I was
a kid. Early 60's as I recall. I remember walking through the power plant to get to the trail. Is that still the case?
I remember seeing a sign that mention rattle snakes were quite common in the trap. :o :o

I also had a favorite hole called the cement mixer hole near the power plant. Caught some nice browns out of there.

We also used to fish Odell creek near Ennis( use to be CB ranch, Cynthia Boomhower) not far from the bear trap. All private now and patrolled I have heard. It is a clear spring fed creek that runs into the Madison. Probably one of the best undercut bank brown fishing I ever fished.
I was much younger but still wish I could fish it. It would be phenomenal Tenkara water.

I will make it back to the bear trap one day.
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