Gallatin River Fishing Report, May, 2016
Perhaps the most accessible river in the Bozeman area, the Gallatin River offers great year-round fly fishing for the ambitious angler. A river of multiple personalities, it can easily be divided into several different sections, all with great access.
Starting in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, the initial stretch of this freestone fishery is arguably the finest piece of dry fly water that the river has to offer. A meandering meadow stream at this point, it is rich in insect life and boasts a solid population of rainbow trout and brown trout in the 12” range. Stealth is of paramount importance. Blind casting with attractor fly patterns and standard nymph flies can be productive and a stealthy approach with accurate casts will often lead to larger fish.
Once reaching its confluence with the Taylor’s Fork, just north of the Yellowstone National Park boundary, the river’s character gradually changes to a fast-paced canyon type fishery. Traveling parallel to highway 191, numerous pullouts provide access to pocket water and deep runs. Heavy nymph rigs are necessary to get flies down to the fish on this stretch. Throughout the summer months surface activity can also be prolific, particularly in the early or late hours of the day. Anglers looking to avoid the crowds should note that most rafting and kayaking activity occurs between Storm Castle Creek and Moose Flats in the middle of the Gallatin Canyon.
Leaving the canyon several miles south of Gallatin Gateway, the Gallatin River changes character once again. The textbook qualities of a classic freestone trout fishery are evident here as it flows uninterrupted through the ranchlands and mature cottonwood stands towards Headwaters State Park and its confluence the Missouri River. Access is scattered throughout this stretch. Long runs, riffles, and undercut banks provide prime habitat for fish slightly larger than those found upstream.
In most instances, a good rule of thumb for Gallatin River Guides and Anglers is to keep on the move. With so many fishable areas and so many types of water, it pays to travel until finding active fish or a bit of solitude. Remember that most anglers rarely leave sight of the vehicle.
From drifting nymphs to stripping streamers and fishing dry flies, most standard trout fishing techniques will succeed. And while nymphing is often the most consistent bet, a variety of hatches provide dry fly anglers with plenty of opportunity as well. In the pocket water of the Gallatin Canyon, trout are often quick to respond to attractor dry flies and terrestrial patterns. Further down river, anglers may find much the same in long riffles and along undercut grassy banks.
The Gallatin River is rich in forage foods, offering a variety of stoneflies from salmonflies to Yellow Sallies. Consistent caddis fly hatches are available throughout the summer and there is abundant mayfly activity early in the summer and into the fall. Fish numbers are also strong, meaning that most good looking holes are likely to hold fish. Those willing to be persistent and thorough will typically get results. Move often, explore different depths, add a weight, move the indicator and try a new fly, as experimentation is key.
As an undamned river, spring runoff often hammers the Gallatin and in many years renders it unfishable from mid-May to the beginning of July. Anglers should also note that the Taylor’s Fork, above Big Sky, is a known sediment producer and summer thunderstorms can turn the river to mud.
With so many different types of water and some of the most incredible scenery in southwest Montana the Gallatin River is always a great place to spend some time if you were to find yourself in the Bozeman area. There are few places that can rival the Gallatin Canyon on a hot summer day with its cool and refreshing water and willing trout just waiting to strike your dry fly! For more information about fishing the Gallatin River or if you would like to hire a Gallatin River fishing guide for a day, feel free to contact us here at the shop.
For updated photos of the Gallatin River, visit our Blog Site and head to the Gallatin River Fishing Reports page. There, we will try to keep you up-to-date with reports from the Gallatin River and other area rivers.