Finding Rainbows and Gold in Montana’s Madison River

American Rivers’ Steve White describes finding gold at the end of the rainbow on Montana’s Madison River.

Pat Clayton

On a recent fishing trip to Montana, I saw another reason why the state’s nickname is the Treasure State.

I was in the southwest corner of the state with my son, brother, and cousin trying to get a few of Montana’s big trout to eat a fly.

We were on one of the state’s more popular trout streams, the Madison, at one of its most popular sections, $3 Bridge, with Rainbow trout being the main fish we were after.

It’s a real success story that this is such a popular stretch of river, since several years ago there was a proposed diversion that would have pulled a significant amount of water from the river for a proposed and unneeded hydroelectric plant. Thankfully, American Rivers and our partner organizations opposed the project and it hasn’t happened, leaving the river in good shape and the trout plentiful.

Steve White
Finding Rainbows with my son

Though the parking lot was pretty full, we had no problem walking downstream far enough to find some open water.

My son is 15 and had done well earlier in the week in Wyoming, and he was excited by the prospect of a bigger fish here.

Thankfully, the river cooperated, giving up several, including a beautiful 17” Rainbow that was his biggest fish to date.

Not long after, the weather changed as it seems to do a lot in Big Sky Country. After a brief, heavy rainstorm, we were welcomed back onto the river by a full rainbow overhead, with colors that inspired the name of the trout we were after. This bright rainbow seemed to be saying that there were more fish to be had, so we continued fishing and catching till dark.

Steve White
Luck of the Irish

We have enough Irish in our family that when we think of Rainbows, we naturally think of pots of gold. So at the end of the day, having seen both kinds of rainbows, we were greeted by a golden sunset over the river that one of the locals said was spectacular even by Montana standards.

Appreciating what the day had given us, we thanked the Madison, the state of Montana, and the conservation efforts of American Rivers and local partners for sharing Montana’s treasure once again.

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