Montana Road Trip Expedition I Update 2

Greetings from the Madison!

After arriving in Bozeman, the Montana Road Trip Expedition spent the first few days chasing the salmon fly hatch on the Madison River and dry fly eaters on the Ruby River. We have found the salmonflies; now we need to find the fish gorging on them. After that, we plan to head over to the Missouri River, where we will get float fish for big browns and rainbows. 

We spent the first night of the trip at the LFFE base camp in Ennis, MT. After we got acquainted over some smash burgers on the Blackstone we started prepping for the fishing. When everyone had their rental gear, we practiced our casting, then went over the three most common knots needed to be an independent angler: the clinch knot, double surgeons, and blood knot. With a bit of daylight to spare and the group eager to hit the water, they made a quick trip to the river that evening. They didn't have long to fish but still managed to land the first few fish of the trip. The following day, the group had pancakes at camp before moving to set up camp at Valley Garden campground on the Madison. Valley Garden is at the top of the walk-wade-only section of the Madison and is also the closest campground to where the Madison runs into Ennis Lake. After Will's Entomology talk, the group took to the river in search of signs of the legendary salmon fly hatch. Like most aquatic insects, the salmon fly hatch starts low on the river and moves upstream as the temperatures warm. The group spent two nights at Valley Garden, and despite not seeing any signs of the salmon flies, they still managed to find some fish willing to eat their flies. 

The group decided to move upstream on the Madison for the next two nights in search of the salmon flies. It didn't take long before they pulled into Ruby Creek Campground on the Madison and found the bushes crawling with 3-inch orange and black bugs. They set up camp at Ruby Creek and have been dividing the group to float fish the Madison and wade the smaller Ruby River (different from Ruby Creek where they are camped). After everyone has spent a day floating the Madison and wading the Ruby, they are all on the board with some nice fish. The Ruby River has provided fast-paced action for some nice mid-sized brown trout, and the Madison is fishing better by the second. We have caught a few fish on salmon fly imitations, but the fish haven't started to key in on them yet. That could change into ferociously eating every salmon fly in sight at any moment. We hope it happens before we head to the Missouri River in search of some more dry fly action.  

Tomorrow, after one more morning on the Madison, we will pack up and head to the Missouri with our rafts in tow. The much deeper and slower Missouri River is home to an abundant population of Mayflies and trout that love to eat them. The glass-like surface of crystal clear pools full of big fish makes for some great nymphing during the day and some epic dry fly fishing in the evening. Like the last two, this campsite is right on the river. With this group's level of determination, I have no doubt some big fish will be caught. 

It feels like yesterday that we were all at the airport, but somehow, we are almost at the midway point of our trip. The group is getting along great, and we all look forward to the great fishing and adventures yet to come. Next time you hear from us we will be on the Missouri. 


Tight lines, 

Henry, Phillip, Gillman and the boys 

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


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Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

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Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204