The Madison River
Photo from Daniel Bragg

Podcast Ep. 103 – Daniel Bragg Part 2. Applying the Five Fly Fishing Skills to the Madison River

In this episode we Wadeoutthere for Part 2 of our discussion with Daniel Bragg from Cameron Montana. 

Podcast episode appears at the end of this short article.

Daniel cut his teeth fly fishing as a youth in the Ozarks and later the mountains of Tennessee while attending school.  

When his promising career out of college left him feeling stuck, Daniel moved to Montana and took a $10/hr job in a fly shop to pursue his true passion, fly fishing.  It wasn’t too long before he was guiding the Madison River at Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn.  

He’s been hunting and fishing in the Big Sky State ever since.  In part two of our conversation we discuss:

  • Casting
  • Entomology
  • Reading water
  • Presentation
  • Fighting big fish
  • Spring on the Madison
  • Summer on the Madison
  • Fall on the Madison
  • How all five fly fishing skills change


Fly fishing, like many complex systems or activities, can be broken down into smaller pieces.  It’s very much the sum of its parts, while maintaining a sort of wholeness which is the spirit of chasing fish on the fly.  What parts? 

The Five Skills of Fly Fishing

Daniel separates fly fishing into these five parts: casting, entomology, reading water, presentation, and fighting big fish.  By doing so he creates skill sets that can be deliberately practiced individually.  This outlook helps us get past the blanket advice, “spend more time on the water” into something more tangible.  Like any skill, it takes practice to improve.  It follows then that the most difficult parts are the ones that are the hardest to practice and vice versa.  

I love this because it gives hope to anglers dedicated to progressing by demystifying the perception that fly casting is the most difficult aspect of fly fishing.  It also reminds us that casting is only part of the formula for success.  It’s a skill, not the whole game.  

Sure, casting can be hard to master, but is it as difficult as learning to land a big fish?  A fish we may only get a handful of looks at in a year?

Use and Practice All Five

Daniel makes one more larger point by breaking down fly fishing into its parts.  Beware of focussing too much on just one skill set in fly fishing.  Fly fishing requires each separate skill to be incorporated together.  

In the past I have been caught in phases of my fly fishing journey when I focussed on one skill more than the others.  I remember when I thought if I could just find the right fly, I’d catch fish.  Or when I devalued casting in the equation of presentation.  Even now I struggle to refocus from a fascination with fighting bigger fish as more opportunities present themselves.  You gotta catch them first right?  

If fly fishing is part problem solving, then the five skill sets that Daniel describes are the tools that we can use to solve those problems.  Each problem is as unique as the day, the weather, the fish, and the river, and each problem is best solved with different tools.

Adjust to Things Outside Your Control

We used to say in the fighter squadron that with all tactics, the weather and the enemy have a vote.  I think that holds true in fly fishing as well, although I hesitate to associate trout as the enemy.  Perhaps, “worthy adversary” is more appropriate.  

But those things outside our control like the fish and the weather does not mean we don’t get to apply our tools.  We simply adjust.  Lean on one or two when the situation arises.  If we forget to, or if our tools are not sharp.  Well then, the fish wins one more that day.

Like all things in life that are difficult to master, we enjoy the process of improving.  For those of us at Wadeoutthere, it’s that journey that brings us back.  The memories combined with the tactics.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Welcome to Wadeoutthere

Thanks Daniel for the reminder about what this great sport is made up of, so we can attack each part with intention and enjoy more fish in the net as we practice ALL of the skills that are fly fishing.

Key Takeaways

  • Streamers are the most versatile year round fly on the Madison

Spring on the Madison:

  • The rain and runoff in the spring brings with it lots of worms
  • The Madison has all five types of stoneflies: skwalas, golden stones, salmon flies, yellow sallies, and nocturnals
  • The water can be moving so fast that it rolls over over rocks and even boulders on the bottom river, kicking up tons of bugs 
  • Spring is the easiest time to catch a bunch of trout with nymphs and streamers
  • Fish are right up close to the bank.  If your wading your spooking fish
  • Cast straight upstream and strip quickly as the fly comes downstream

Summer on the Madison:

  • The Madison stacks it’s insect hatch all the same time 
  • There are almost always salmon flies somewhere on Madison on June 28th
  • The salmon flies start low on the river and move upstream
  • There can be golden stones, caddis, yellow sallies, green drakes, and salmon flies on the river all at the same time
  • Salmon flies crawl onto dry land after three years, crack their backs to hatch, and only breed and die. (they don’t even have mouths)
  • The salmon fly hatch is typically 2-3 weeks
  • You can dead drift or skitter salmon flies to induce a take
  • You have to move your eyes fast to stay ahead of the next cast while drifting
  • The salmon fly hatch is fast and furious and requires a lot of accuracy

Fall on the Madison:

  • Great streamer fishing in the fall
  • Kelly Galloup has a streamer school in the fall
  • Avoid fishing to trout on Redds for the health of the fish
  • Staging areas before the redds are good places to find trout
  • Inside bends and “river wide holes” are good water types in the fall
  • 250 grain sinking line as a technique when streamer fishing
  • Long casts with a big mend upstream followed by letting the fly sink and finally jigging it
  • Move the streamer with the rod tip and bring in line with your hand
  • Trout typically eat it on the fall 
  • Streamer colors: white, black, olive, and yellow but it is best to fish what you are confident in 
  • Streamer selection technique: yellow in the spring, black is better on dard days
  • Fish the streamer all the way to you
  • Keep rod down when strip setting streamers to keep it in the water and get another chance at an eat
  • Cast downstream because you are fishing downstream 

Learn More

To schedule a guided trip with Daniel or learn more about the Madison River visit:

Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn

For more information the topics we discussed read these blog posts from Wadeoutthere:

Tips for Fighting Big Trout From a Drift Boat

Fish the Riffles

If you enjoy the Wadeoutthere Fly Fishing Podcast, and want to help it grow, please leave a rating and review.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed talking with Daniel. Wadeoutthere friends.


Jason Shemchuk

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