Montana’s Quake Lake can most likely be best described in one word: eerie. The lake is situated between the “Slide” and the “Between-the-Lakes” section of the Madison River. The Madison River once flowed through this section until August 17th of 1959. On this day, a terrible earthquake occurred in the area, resulting in a massive rock slide that buried twenty-eight people camping on the Madison River that night in over 80 million tons of rubble.
In addition to the twenty-eight individuals killed by the landslide, five more perished in the flooding that immediately followed. There is a sign on one of the pullouts that overlook Quake Lake that describes this event as “The Night of Terror.” There are still trees that line the lake on both sides that stick out from the water.
Over sixty years later, Quake is now a popular place for anglers to target healthy populations of trout that average between 17-19 inches. The trout here are solid and powerful fighters. They will try to break you off on the many trees and downed timber present in the lake.
Starting in mid-July, hatches of callibaetis mayflies occur. These mayflies can be represented using a size 14-16 hook. In mid-August, anglers can target rising trout cruising the bank with tricos, hoppers, and spruce moth patterns.
In late fall, brown trout move from Quake Lake to the “Between-the-Lakes” section of the Madison River. Anglers can target these large brown trout by swinging large soft hackles or stripping streamers.
It is best to fish Quake in the early morning or late evening when the wind isn’t present. As soon as the wind picks up, the dry fly fishing is entirely over. If you’re looking to target or have a shot at a trophy-sized fish on a dry fly, then Quake Lake is a great place to do it. Again, the lake is very weather-dependent, but if you’re planning a Madison River fly fishing trip in late summer, this is a great add-on. For anglers not fishing from a boat, there are numerous access points and pull-offs along the road.
Recommended Hebgen Lake Flies:
- X-Caddis – tan/white (size 14)
- Sparkle Duns (size 14-20)
- Rusty Spinner (size 14-20)
- EZ Caddis – tan/white (size 14)
- Buzzball (size 16-18)
- Hi-Vis Trico Spinner (size 18-20)
- Ice Cream Cone (size 12-16)
- Home Slice (size 4-6)