Visually, the Gallatin River is stunning, which is why “A River Runs Through It” filmed many of their fly fishing scenes here. It is lined with spruce, cottonwoods, aspen, and willows and is nothing short of breathtaking in the fall. The other notable thing is its proximity to Bozeman, specifically, the Bozeman Airport. You can fly into Bozeman and be on the river within an hour.
The Gallatin makes it beginnings in one of the most picturesque areas of Yellowstone in the northwest corner. From there the river heads downhill through the Gallatin National Forest and into the Gallatin Valley on its way to the Madison and Jefferson Rivers at Three Forks, which then becomes the Missouri River.
The Gallatin does not have the size of the Yellowstone or the Madison but it is definitely a blue ribbon river. It is a walk/wade river, no fishing from a boat is allowed but in some areas you are allowed to get from point to point in a boat until you reach the East Gallatin portion. There are certainly excellent areas for walk/wade but the farther south you go you will encounter river rock that are slippery and a fairly strong current. If you aren’t familiar with the river a guide will make it a memorable experience. The Gallatin does get muddy with runoff.
The Upper Gallatin
The upper Gallatin River follows Highway 91 north from Yellowstone National Park with many turnouts offering excellent public access to the river. Brook trout and Browns and rainbows are the primary species found, but you will also encounter whitefish and cutthroat.
As you get closer to Big Sky you will encounter rafting float trip boats and once you enter the “canyon” north of Big Sky, there is a lot of whitewater rafting. That said, the fishing is still great and it is not uncommon to land a fish just after a boat full of rafters goes by.
Another perk of the Gallatin is the number of campsites along the river. With Highway 191 running parallel there is a bit of noise but believe me, the perks of fishing the Gallatin out-weigh this minor flaw.
Upper Gallatin River Trout Fishing Schedule
1. Adams – Sizes 16 – 20
2. Royal Wulff – Sizes 14 to 18
3. Stimulators – Sizes 8 to 16
4. Caddis – Sizes – 12 to 18
5. Grasshoppers – Sizes 6 to 10
6. Ants – Sizes – 14 – 16
1. Pheasant Tails – Sizes 14 to 18
2. Beadhead Caddis – Sizes 14 to 18
3. Prince Nymphs – Sizes 12 to 18
1. Muddler Minnow – Sizes 4 to 10
2. Woolly Bugger – Sizes 4 to 12
3. Girdle Bug – Sizes 4 o 12
1. Spinners like Panther Martens,
Vibrax & Rooster Tails
2. Worms, Crickets, Maggots
Buck’s T-4 Lodge
Corral Motel, Bar & Grill
Fly Shops/Outfitters/Guide Service<s/strong>
East Slope Anglers
Wild Trout Outfitters
Red Cliff Campground
Moose Creek Campground
Swan Creek Campground
Greek Creek Campground
Lower Gallatin River
This section of the Gallatin River is not quite what the upper is, but it is still very good fishing for rainbow trout, brown trout, and whitefish. Flowing north toward Belgrade, Montana, then west toward Three Forks, Montana where it joins the Madison & Jefferson to form the Missouri. Drift boats are allowed for transport from point to point but no fishing is allowed from the boat. The state fishing access sites are plentiful, as well as, walk/wade at any bridge over the river