When angler Scott Carver sent me a photo of a vibrant 18-inch Brook Trout caught by a friend during his trip to Navarino Island, Chile, I noticed the cadmium red of its eye—something I hadn't seen in Michigan where the brook reigns as state fish. Needless to say, I was thrilled to begin a new watercolor painting.
And here was an opportunity to learn more about a fly fishing destination that Scott co-founded, called Madison Valley Ranch. If you've been dumbstruck by a trout, then you will understand the lure of this Montana wellspring. Scott, who's making life in waders a reality, co-founded this award-winning lodge that welcomes fly fishing enthusiasts from across the country. Here are four questions with Scott.
Can you describe an autumn day on Montana's Madison River?
What kind of wildlife are you seeing on the river...what's biting?
Scott: Autumn is a special time in the Madison Valley. Days are warm and evenings are cool. It's a wonderful time to fish. The crowds have left and, on many days, it feels like you have the river to yourself. Browns start their annual spawning ritual in mid September. They become very aggressive and territorial. We still see hatches of caddis and on cloudy days, some blue wing olives. If we haven't experienced a freeze, hoppers and terrestrials will attract larger fish. But at this time of year...it's streamer time. On cloudy days fishing with streamers can be off the charts. The strikes are aggressive and the fish are big.
Your top 3 flies on the Madison in the fall...
Sculpin, Girdle Bug (sometimes referred to as Pat's Rubber Legs) and Prince Nymph
The aerial photos of Madison Valley Ranch are remarkable. How did you come to discover this beautiful place?
I'd read about the Madison River and Southwest Montana for many years. I dreamed about fishing there. One day when I was reading Fly Fisherman Magazine I saw an ad looking for partners to build a lodge on the Madison. I answered that ad and, as they say, "the rest is history." I went and visited the property. I fell in love with it immediately...an amazing trout stream, surrounding mountains, open landscape, and the vastness of the valley...it was the type of place you'd see in paintings but never thought truly existed. So the rancher who owned the property and I got together and built Madison Valley Ranch. Our wonderful staff and guides have turned it into one of the premier fishing destinations in the West as evidenced by our being named "2015 Orvis Lodge of the Year."
If you could hop on a plane tomorrow and hit any river in the world, where would your next stop be?
It's hard to beat the Madison for consistency...I think it's the best trout stream in the US. However, if I could go anywhere in the world, I think I would go to Kamchatka. Fishing for big rainbows with mouse patterns has to be a once in a lifetime experience. I think I need to do it sooner rather than later.