Friday we hiked in to the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake from Highway 191. It wasn't an easy hike over snow and through mud, but if there's open water on Hebgen, it's usually worth it. To our surprise, it appeared as though the entire Madison Arm was open (can't be positive, though). There were lots of Hebgen midges, but it was blowing a gale and no fish were rising. The lake even appeared to have slightly turned over as it wasn't very clear. So it was one of the few times when fishing Hebgen seemed futile. There were lots (I counted about 50) baetis along the river, and we found one pod of consistently rising fish (alas this section of the river is closed until May).
The estuary is interesting water and hosts some big rainbows.
But, the point is that there are definitely sections of Hebgen that are ice-free and on less windy days, I have no doubt that the fishing is lights out (rumor has it that the South Fork Arm and Whiskey Bay also have open water - the north shore has a ways to go). It takes a little work to get there, but anyone who has fished Hebgen knows of the reward.
On Saturday I towed the camper out to the lower Madison and floated Black's Ford to Greycliff with Clay, Brady, Caroline, Josh Duchateau and his fiance' Sandy. The fishing was good for the first half of the float (for everyone but me, but I digress...). The closer we got to the takeout, the bonier and less fishy the water became. We capped the day with beers around a campfire, enduring that infamous lower Madison wind. We hit the hay thinking the wind would soon stop; alas it gusted and gusted all night. It was kind of insane. I got up at about 6, broke down and came home.
The rest of them floated again today and apparently the fishing was quite good, but windier yet. I wish I could've joined them, but I popped home to get my aggressive dog before last night's campfire, so I was on my own.
Also, last Wednesday I found some new public water on Bozeman's locally "secret" stream. It's a place that doesn't have much for public land so it's always good to find more. The fishing was good - they wanted the baetis nymph.