Ennis, Montana: Fantastic Fishing and Friendly Folks

A country lane in Virgelle, Montana. photos by Laurie Gough.By J.C. Bailey

The official fly-fisherman sculpture greets you as you enter Ennis
The official fly-fisherman sculpture greets you as you enter Ennis

The official fly-fisherman sculpture greets you as you enter Ennis.

Severely blue skies, clean, crisp air, white wispy clouds and blue-gray jagged peaks of local mountains all surrounding a gigantic valley full of vast grazing fields in ribbons of green and gold. This is Montana.

The valley rises from approximately 6,000 feet to surrounding mountains peaks at over 11,300 feet. There are also many fast flowing, cold water streams finding their way down from the high country to tangle and merge into one mighty river.

America still has real gems for vacation homes or getaway spots and Ennis, Montana is one of those spots. Why should you consider visiting Ennis over France, Malta, the Caribbean or other more exotic places?

Well, for beauty, summer climate, access to other great places, friendly people, relaxation and, most of all, fantastic fishing Ennis Montana cannot be beaten.

Panning for Gold and Rubies

Lewis and Clark came across the Madison Valley back in 1805, a place where Shoshone, Flathead and Bannack Indians always returned for the spring. Madison County was created in 1864 in what was then Idaho Territory.

Two months after gold was discovered in Alder Gulch, William Ennis homesteaded the site along the Madison River that quickly became the town of Ennis. By the late 1880s, three major stage lines were established in Ennis while horse, sheep, and cattle thrived and wild game was plentiful.

Virginia City, Montana, only 12 miles away, is considered to be the most complete, original town of its kind in the U.S. Walking the streets takes you back 120 years as you peek into old shops, watch the blacksmith beat tools from fiery iron and when you savor original recipes from gold rush days.

Nearby Nevada City has been rebuilt as a busy mining town the way they used to be. You can find some real gold by trying your hand at panning or take an old-fashioned wood-burning train ride between the two towns.

There is boating and fishing on the main reservoir, Ennis Lake and in the nearby Ruby Valley, you can even learn how to pan for real rubies.

The Fly Fishing Capital

Ennis and the Madison Valley are both close to many attractions including Yellowstone Park, Big Sky Ski Resort and some of the greatest fly fishing in the world. In fact, the town is billed as the Fly Fishing Capital of the World.

Along with the Madison River, nearby world-class fishing locations include the Ruby, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Jefferson and Gallatin rivers.

Downtown Ennis. photos by JC Bailey.
Downtown Ennis. photos by JC Bailey.

Each year over the Labor Day weekend, the town hosts its annual Fly Fishing Festival to celebrate the art and sport of fly fishing. Main events include fly casting competitions and skill development seminars, equipment displays, conservation group booths, book signings, antique displays, entertainment, food, and dining experiences.

Everyone in the community participates in specials and raffles – last year one lucky fisherman won a fishing boat.

With thousands of acres of private ranch land, national forest, wilderness and primitive areas, you have a destination like no other, especially if you like to fish and relax. Even if fishing isn’t your main desire, the area has horseback riding, boating, hiking, camping or just relaxing.

When to Go

The rainiest months are May and June. During the summer, the Madison Valley is known for its cool summer days with low humidity and the temperature seldom reaching 90 degrees. Fall is glorified as the Aspen trees and pastureland turn to gold. The nights and mornings are crisp, the days filled with sunshine and blue skies.

Where to Stay in Ennis

Accommodations in Ennis vary from six motels to five bed & breakfast inns to private ranches. None is overly expensive and the rate will depend on what you want in the amount of luxury and amenities during your stay. For instance, lodges that includes outfitting for fishing or hunting and command higher prices.

The Jeffers Inn, in Ennis.
Downtown Ennis. photos by JC Bailey.

The best place to stay for sheer comfort, atmosphere and wonderful people is the Jeffers Inn, barely a mile away from Ennis and across Madison River. Jeffers is home to some of Montana ’s oldest ranches and is named after New York native, Myron D. Jeffers who came looking for gold in the 1800’s. The Inn, built in 1900, has been updated with two new suites, new spacious bathrooms, furnished with antiques and has very comfortable beds.

Breakfast is served every morning from 7:00 – 9:00 am and every evening they have wines and hors d’oeuvres from 6:00 – 7:00 pm. They also have evening wildlife tours by mule-drawn carriages. They are open from May through October every year. Prices range from $65 to $250 per night.

From Ice Cream to Yummy Meals

Some 13 restaurants are available throughout Ennis providing everything from pizza to elk with porcini mushrooms. They even have a Dairy Queen and a drive-in coffee hut in town. The best place for lunch is at the Yesterdays Restaurant and Soda Fountain located in the Ennis Pharmacy building.

Great sandwiches, superb ice cream and wonderful service are their specialties. Another lunch location is DJ’s, which is in the Claim Jumper Saloon and has tables outside on Main Street.

Dinner can be quite an experience in Ennis. Scotty’s Supper Club, in the back of the Longbranch Saloon, has pork chops that are enormous. But the best place to dine in Ennis would be at the Continental Divide restaurant. From exotic meats like elk to delicious seafood, this is a world class place.

The elk in porcini sauce, served as medallions along with an au-gratin potato wedge cannot be described – you’d just have to try it! The beef tenderloins are so tender they can be cut with a fork, and the order comes as two fist-sized portions.

Expect to pay a more for this cuisine but also understand that it’s worth it. Also, the wine list is just as excellent and reasonable.

Fishing and Other Activities

There are many outfitters around the area each commanding a wide range of prices. In downtown Ennis, the Madison River Fishing Company can provide everything you need to get out on any of the rivers and catch some of those 11 million trout.

The store itself has everything from waders to hats to flies and lures. They also publish a daily notice outside letting everyone know where the fish are biting and what lure is working best.

One of the best items offered is their customized guide trip for fishing down the Madison River by boat. Both half day and full day trips are available complete with boat, equipment and guide. The half-day costs $225 and the full day costs $325 for two people.

The fishing license runs about $25 for two days, $39 for four days and $52 for 10 days per person.

In the fall, there are other outfitters for hunting elk, deer, grouse, pheasant and duck. Many of these are associated with ranches in the area, so calling each one may be necessary to find what you’re looking for.

The best place to find these outfitters is through the Ennis Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber in Ennis is very strong and well organized. You can obtain a directory of members via the web or by calling 406-682-4388.

Once you spend some time in Ennis and see what a wonderful place it is, you may start thinking about getting your own little piece of heaven. As with outfitters, food, lodging and attractions, real estate costs throughout Montana depend on what you’re looking for.

The best people to call for local expertise on everything from lots to houses to complete ranches are Rich and Shelby Hewitt at 406-682-5423 (hewitt@3rivers.net).

All in all, Ennis, Montana has a wealth of attractive features for anyone, whether as a short term guest, summer visitor or permanent resident. Prices are moderate, there are plenty of things to do and see year-round, the people are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxing and the fishing is great.


The Jeffers Inn – Bed & Breakfast Highly Recommended!
75 Jeffers Road
Ennis, MT 59729 Phone: 406-682-7000 E-mail: thejeffersinn@hotmail.com

El Western Cabins & Lodges P.O. Box 487, 4787 US Hwy 287 N
Ennis, MT 59279
Phone: 406-682-4217
E-mail: elwestrn@3rivers.net
Ennis Homestead
206 2nd St
Ennis, MT 59729
Phone Number:
(406) 682-4240
Email: reservations@ennishomestead.com

Sportsman’s Lodge PO Box 305, Highway 287
Ennis, MT 59729 Phone: 406-682-4242
E-mail: sportsmn@3rivers.net

Meals & Dining

Continental Divide–Highly Recommended! PO Box 1237 Ennis, MT 59729 Phone: 406-682-7600 E-mail: jaztbn@yahoo.com

The Claim Jumper Saloon 305 Main Ennis, MT 59729 Phone: 406-682-5558

Yesterday’s Soda Fountain (Ennis Pharmacy) 124 Main Street Ennis, MT 59729
Phone: 406-682-4246 E-mail: ennisrx@3rivers.net

Scotty’s Supper Club Longbranch Saloon PO Box 148 Ennis, MT 59729 Phone: 406-682-7370

Fishing Outfitter

Madison River Fishing Company, Highly Recommended!
109 Main Street / P. O. Box 627 Ennis, MT 59729
800-227-7127 mrfc@3rivers.net

Chamber of Commerce
Ennis Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 291 Ennis, MT 59729
406-682-4388 info@ennischamber.com

Real Estate Consultants
Rich & Shelby Hewitt* PO Box 708
Ennis, MT 59729

J.C. Bailey spent 20 years as a copywriter and has begun traveling and writing about various trips. 

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