Madison Valley Ranch, MT
Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge in Ennis, Montana.
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At the Ranch:
The Madison Valley Ranch offers 12 guest rooms across three buildings and accommodates up to 24 guests at a time. Outside each room's front porch is a stunning view of the surrounding three mountain ranges, the ever-changing Montana Big Sky and the resident wildlife in the fields. While each room differs slightly in size and bed configurations, the local and warm Western touches are comfortable and consistent in all.
Various gathering areas provide a relaxing environment to catch up with friends, check emails using Wi-fi or the house computer, watch HD satellite TV, sit by the fire, or even host a corporate meeting using the fully-equipped conference space. Enjoy the hot tub as a relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day or to gaze up at the night sky the likes of which you’ve never seen before.
Food & Drink:
Madison Valley Ranch takes great pride in providing an exceptional food and beverage program. Executive Chef Matthew Pease works with his team to provide gourmet breakfast with house baked bread, pastries, locally-sourced meats, and eggs. Evening appetizers present an opportunity to connect with your fellow guests sharing stories from your day on the river, and is followed by a gourmet four-course dinner made entirely from scratch using uniquely Montana ingredients. Everything is prepared fresh in house from the dessert to the bread and pasta. The Ranch features local craft beers and a wide selection of wine that pair nicely with each dinner.
The Madison Valley Ranch provides guests with everything they need for fly fishing during their stay. Many guests arrive with no fishing equipment at all and that's just fine!
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when packing for your trip to the Madison Valley Ranch:
5 and 6-wt. rods, reels, and floating lines will suffice for most angling scenarios on the Madison River. 4-wt. rods have their time and place though, especially during the spring and fall baetis hatches. 7-weight rods are used primarily for chucking streamers on sink-tip lines and for casting a foam-body dry fly through the wind with ease.
The Channels sections adjacent to the Ranch provides excellent European-style nymphing opportunities. A 10'6" 3 or 4-weight is ideal for this type of application.
There is also plenty of opportunity to fish trout spey rods in the main channel of the river. A 4-wt. switch rod around 11' long will work great.
Leader and tippet requirements vary depending on the time of year, but Madison River trout are NOT typically leader-shy. 0X-2X is ideal for streamer fishing. 2X-4X is regularly used for nymph rigs and #4-16 dry flies. 5X-6X works well for #16-22 adult mayfly and midge patterns. The Madison River is quite shallow in most places, so a 7.5' leader is great for nymph rigs. A 9' leader is an appropriate length for dry flies.
The best flies for the Madison River tend to be the ones your guide has. Bringing your own flies is not a bad idea, but you shouldn't feel like you need to load up prior to your trip as the Madison Valley Ranch has a great selection. If you don't find what you need there you can head to one of the Madison Valley's fly shops for more.
- Girdle bugs
- Prince nymphs
- Lightning bugs
- Hare's ears
- Flashback pheasant tails
- Zebra midges
- Parachute Adams
- Elk hair caddis
- Griffith's gnat
- Chubby Chernobyl
- Henry's Fork stone
- Flying ants
- Royal Wulff
- Trevor's sculpin
- Flash minnow
- Anything by Kelly Galloup and Dan Delekta
- Large buggers
Clothing wise, we recommend coming prepared for anything regardless of the month. Though highly unlikely, we've seen snow in July!
Recommended Clothing and Outerwear:
- Long underwear
- Neck gaiter
- Heavyweight socks
- Lightweight socks
- Breathable, quick dry pants
- Lightweight, long-sleeve fishing shirts
- Puff jacket or vest
- Waterproof rain jacket and pants
- Polarized sunglasses
Spring Season (April 1-May 15)
Bring your fly rod and your skis. If you are flexible and fitted with the right gear, then you're in for a real treat. Depending on the year, spring in Montana can be in the 60s or blizzard-like conditions. The fishing can be simply amazing though. Locals call it the best fishing of the year, when rainbows stack up and gorge on midge, mayfly and stonefly nymphs. Later in the spring, you'll see skwala stoneflies, blue wing olives and march browns hatch for some great dry fly fishing opportunities. And early May offers the spectacular Mother's Day caddis hatch that must be experienced to be believed!
River Runoff (May 16-June 14)
The Madison Valley Ranch is generally closed for fishing trips during our spring runoff, however we are open to inquiries for corporate retreats, family reunion events, and weddings. Call us for more information!
Summer Season (June 15-September 15)
This is the quintessential Montana fly-fishing season. The upper Madison River is usually near the end of runoff come early-mid June. From there forward, it's game on! Caddis hatches cloud the river each afternoon until sometime in August. Mayflies are abundant well into July. But you can't forget about the stoneflies that hatch towards the end of June. Most notable is the salmonfly hatch that practically made the upper Madison River world-famous. This is a tricky hatch, but with a good guide you have a chance at a 20'+ trout on a huge foam-bodied dry fly! Golden stoneflies and yellow sallies keep things interesting once the salmonflies have disappeared.
As the summer moves into August, we start to see a variety of terrestrial insects take flight over the nervous water of the upper Madison River. Hoppers allow for some consistent surface action but the best terrestrial 'hatch' comes in the form of flying ants. These small, protein packed insects are easy meal for trout and once again our big fish will readily sip a helpless imitation floating over them. August also happens to be a very productive month for streamers on the upper Madison River as brown trout prey on first year trout and sculpin. Depending on the year, the summer weather can push into late September. Other years we'll see fall as early as mid-September. For most of the summer, though, anglers can expect warm temperatures and no need for waders.
Fall Season (September 15-October 31)
Fall is best known for beautiful conditions in the Madison Valley and epic streamer fishing. This is the time of year in which brown trout prepare to spawn and as a result they become territorial and voracious. Stripping large articulated streamer patterns with a 7-WT rod is a very productive method for turning big brown trout. While not quite as volatile as spring, the fall weather can vary from summerlike to cold from day to day. On certain days, we recommend wearing waders and a waterproof jacket to stay comfortable.
Closed for Winter (November 1 - March 31)
The upper Madison River supports a blue-ribbon fishery for wild rainbow and brown trout along with Montana's native whitefish. Recent fish counts and creel studies have indicated exceptional fish populations and catch rates throughout the entire system. The average trout size is between 12-16'. Trout in the 17-19' range are very common and a fish in the 20-22' range is an everyday possibility. 23-27" is a trophy and we see several of these specimens caught each season. Though highly improbable, there are definitely a few 30" brown trout lurking somewhere in the upper Madison River.
The upper Madison River flows north over 60 river miles from Hebgen Lake to Ennis Lake. Though classified as a tailwater river, the upper Madison River has an insect population similar to a freestone river along with small to large size boulders under shallow water throughout. It looks and fishes like one giant mountain stream. Average flows vary in the range of 1,000-2,000 CFS depending on the season and scheduled releases from Hebgen Dam. Despite increased sediment and flows during spring runoff, the fishing on the upper Madison River remains floatable from spring through fall and is rarely unfishable due to flows. It is without a doubt the most consistent river to fish year round in Montana.
The upper Madison River offers an abundant combination of possible float options with 14 boat access sites along its entire stretch. Typically, MVR guests depart before 9 AM and will drive with their guide 10-30 minutes up river to the put in. Due to the river's shallow depths and uneven terrain, it is best fished from a drift boat. Some anglers prefer to wade and in these situations we recommend using the drift boat as a means for transportation to the best wade spots. Conveniently, The Madison Valley Ranch is located in the lower reaches of the upper Madison River, along the Channels Section of the river that braids out before entering Ennis Lake a few miles to the north. This section offers some of the best wade fishing in the state of Montana!
There are a few precautions to take before embarking on a day of fishing the upper Madison River. Many visiting anglers often overlook the fact that the upper Madison River is above 5,000 feet in elevation. Combined with low humidity, it is very possible to become quickly sunburned and dehydrated. Sunscreen and drinking plenty of water is a must!
Spring Season (April 1-May 15)
Weather can vary from t-shirt conditions to blizzard conditions in the 30-60 degree F range. The Ranch supplies our guests with bootfoot waders if needed, but we strongly encourage layering up in the morning and adjusting accordingly as the day progresses. If you've got the proper attire you'll be surprised how comfortable you can when it is cold due to our low humidity. Around here there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear!
Summer Season (June 15-September 15)
Summers are dry and warm in southwest Montana. Daytime highs average around 70-85 degrees F. Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common, but with the Madison Valley being so large, it is rare to get caught in the middle of one. It can happen though! We always recommend bringing along an extra layer in case a rain shower moves over. Fortunately, we see a big temperature change once the sun goes down. It is common to have a 30-40 degree temperature swing overnight. A lightweight sweatshirt in the morning can be quickly shed by 9 or 10 A.M. most days. The Madison Valley gets a lot of sunshine, so a good hat and proper sun protection is key!
Fall Season (September 15-October 31)
Our fall weather is similar to spring, but usually a bit warmer and more summerlike. It is not uncommon to have a snow storm starting in October though. They are usually pretty mild and we typically see fall temperatures in the 50-80 degree range. Due to the wide variations in temperature, the best thing to do is be prepared for anything Mother Nature might throw your way.
All-Inclusive Fly Fishing Packages Starting From: $2260 per person
View Rates Here: www.madisonvalleyranch.com/fly-fishing-vacation-packages/
What is Provided:
The Madison Valley Ranch is an all-inclusive fly-fishing lodge and provides guests with everything needed both on and off the water.
All-Inclusive Fly-Fishing Packages include:
- Comfortable, luxurious accommodation with private bathroom and semi-private porch
- Breakfast, riverside lunch, and four-course gourmet dinner
- Beverages, including soda, wine, and beer
- Guided fishing trips
- All fishing gear, including use of Orvis waders, Orvis fly rods, and flies and tackle for guided fishing from our on-site fly shop
- Fly-casting instruction upon request
- Lodge staff gratuity
Packages Do Not Include:
- Airport shuttles
- Montana State Fishing Licenses
- Guide gratuities
- Montana state lodging tax, due at checkout
- Retail purchases from onsite fly shop
What to Bring:
The town of Ennis has most of the conveniences and services you may need during your trip including a grocery store, pharmacy, outdoor sporting goods, liquor store, automobile mechanic and a local hospital.
There are a couple of other items you should consider packing. Make sure you pack your bathing suit for the hot tub. Bring a camera if you want to take pictures of the scenery and wildlife. A bluetooth speaker comes in handy for listening to tunes on your porch. And a good pair of walking shoes will be nice for strolling down to the river or for a morning walk along the road.
What's a typical day at the Madison Valley Ranch?
Most guests start their day with a cup of coffee on the porch followed by a wonderful buffet-style breakfast in the main lodge building. Fishing guides will typically arrive towards to end of breakfast, but there is never a rush to get out the door here in SW Montana. Guests will usually return to their rooms to get ready for the day before heading out with their guide. Expect to return to the lodge between 3:00-6:00 P.M. as dinner is served around 7:00 P.M. in the Main Lodge. It stays light until 10:00 P.M. in the summer and many guests will head out to the pond or wade the Channels for a couple of hours of evening dry-fly fishing before bed.
I have never fly-fished before. Is that a problem?
Absolutely not. We host many beginners each year. Our guides are experienced, patient, and specialize in teaching beginners. No one should be afraid to give fly fishing a shot!
On what rivers do you typically fish?
The upper Madison River is literally in our backyard. It is a spectacular river that offers amazing views and blue-ribbon trout fishing. We're pretty partial to floating the upper Madison, but our guides are very experienced on the lower Madison River, Beaverhead River, Big Hole River, Jefferson River, Gallatin River, and Yellowstone River 'all within a 1.5-hour drive from the Ranch.
What about gear, what do I need?
Upon booking your stay at the Madison Valley Ranch we will promptly send you an equipment list, map, and confirmation. A 5- or 6- wt. rod, reel, and line is ideal, along with leader/tippet in the 2X-5X range. Waders and felt or rubber soled boots are needed during the spring and fall. They are not usually necessary though from June-September. A hat, polarized sunglasses, and a waterproof jacket will come in handy as well. Bring some flies, but also know that we have a fully-stocked fly shop for you. If you prefer to pack light, we have all the equipment you need for a successful day on the water.
What is the best time of the year fish the Madison River?
This is a tough question to answer. Not December, January or February though! If you are willing to put up with colder weather and have the river mostly to yourself, then April is the best month for that. If you want to experience the best weather and best dry-fly fishing then June-September is ideal. If you want to target a big brown trout, September-November.
My partner does not fish, what can they do while I fish?
There are many options. Several of our guests travel with non-angling partners and we often suggest they ride along in the boat for at least one day or a portion of a day. It's a great way to relax, see wildlife and spend a nice day outside. Other options include scheduling a horseback ride, spending the day in Virginia City (a must see mining ghost town only 14 miles away), visiting Bozeman, Big Sky, or Yellowstone National Park (only 72 miles away). Or you might opt to take a bike ride, walk along the river or relax, read and rest at the Madison Valley Ranch. The cowboy town of Ennis with it's shops and art galleries is also a great place to spend the day. You certainly do not have to be a fisherman/woman to enjoy Madison Valley Ranch!
What is the best airport to fly into?
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Bozeman, Montana is the closest airport with a 50 mile drive from MVR. Most guests fly into BZN. Bert Mooney Airport (BTM) in Butte, Montana is another option. It's about a 1.5 hour drive from Ennis, but occasionally the fares are better than BZN. Yellowstone Airport (WYS) in West Yellowstone, Montana is only open in the summer, but might be a good option if you are planning to stay near the park for a portion of your trip. Lastly, you can fly right into the Ennis Airport if you're flying in on a private jet.
Like going over to your best friend's backyard, the staff at the Madison Valley Ranch sincerely welcomes you to feel at home, sit back, relax, and take advantage of all that this pristine property and SW Montana have to offer.
Enjoy your time at the Ranch where trout tales and camaraderie abound'not to mention great food. A gourmet four-course dinner with appetizers and drinks may tempt you away from your own relaxing and spectacular porch views. Enjoy marvelous mountain sunsets, sandhill cranes in their mating dance, the moose wandering by, or an eagle or osprey diving into the pond to catch dinner.
Meandering trails lead you from the Ranch down to the river for a bird watching stroll, an invigorating run or you may like to borrow one of our mountain bikes and head out for a ride. Afterwards, you can soak in our Hot Springs hot tub as you take in the Big Sky and backdrop of the three mountain ranges framing the Madison Valley.
After dinner hit the hatch for our private Jurassic Pond rainbows. Test your skill on Jack Creek or even sneak down the path for more wild trout in our backyard Channels of the Madison River. We suspect you'll find yourself not wanting to leave!
Located in the heart of SW Montana, the Madison Valley Ranch offers anglers unparalleled access to wild trout on renowned blue-ribbon rivers, but that's not all'there are plenty of outdoor activities and attractions to fulfill everyone's desires!
Yellowstone National Park
Only 72 miles from the Madison Valley Ranch, Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 as America's first National Park. Exploring this national treasure is an excellent sightseeing activity. Experience Old Faithful, the most popular geyser in the world, or view the colorful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. View bears and wolves, elk, and buffalo in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. Learn about the history of national parks and the National Park Service. Many of our guests opt to take a day off from fishing to take a scenic drive into the park. We would also be happy to set up a guided tour for you.
Leave the fly rod at home and head out on float down the Madison River for whatever your heart desires! Bird watching, photography, wildlife viewing, booze cruise, or just plain ol' sunbathing are all fair game!
Virginia City and Nevada City
These famous historical mining ghost towns are only 15 miles from the Madison Valley Ranch, and are definitely worth exploring. The drive over the hill into the Ruby Valley offers stunning views of the Madison Valley. Virginia City sits high in the Rocky Mountains in a bowl along Alder Gulch, where gold was first discovered in 1863. Within a year the town grew to over 10,000 and became the Territorial Capital in 1865. Today Virginia City, Montana's main street, provides an exceptional example of commercial architecture from the late 1800s. Many of the original structures are filled with genuine artifacts. This is cultural tourism at its best and self-guided tours are available.
Lewis and Clark Caverns
Montana's first and best-known state park showcases one of the most highly decorated limestone caverns in the Northwest. Naturally air-conditioned, these spectacular caves, lined with stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites, date back through time. See geologic development in conjunction with the history of early exploration and gain a unique insight into the delicate ecology of this world without light. Plan to spend a minimum of two hours to hike two miles on a guided tour through the caverns. The park also provides hiking trails, a visitor center, an amphitheater, and several picnic areas. Tours run every 15 minutes from May-September and no reservations are needed.
Shopping and Touring
Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Big Sky, and Ennis all have many fine shops, galleries and restaurants. Be sure to ask about specifics when you arrive and we'll chart out a day of shopping.
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