Copyright 2016 James Marsh
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Fly Fishing On The Gallatin River In
Montana (Outside Yellowstone
The Gallatin River begins at Gallatin Lake, which is
located high in the mountains of the Gallatin Range
inside Yellowstone National Park. It is over one-hundred
miles long. Most of the river lies outside of the park. The
Gallatin eventually helps form the Missouri River along
with the Jefferson and Madison Rivers.
Throughout its length, inside and outside of the park,
the Gallatin River offers a variety of water, good
access,and some of the most beautiful scenery Montana
has to offer. Fly fishing the Gallatin River is as good as
fly fishing gets.
The Gallatin River runs for more than twenty-five miles
in Yellowstone National Park. This section of our site
provides the details about the National Park section of
the Gallatin River.
After the river leaves Yellowstone National Park, it flows
mostly through public property for over forty-miles. The
section in the park is surrounded by mountains but not
steep and rugged. Once the river leaves the park it
flows through steep mountains and canyons. There are
plenty of whitewater sections, especially downstream of
Big Sky. Highway #191 closely follows the river for that
entire distance. Access to the river couldn't be any
better. There are numerous pull offs along the highway.
Shortly after the river leaves the park boundaries, it
enters a canyon section that is about three miles long.
We have never been able to tell much difference in the
size of the fish in this section of the river from those in
the park. They probably average twelve inches with a
larger one showing up every once in a while.
From the canyon it flows into Lower Basin, a valley,
before it reaches the town of Big Sky. The West Fork of
the Gallatin River joins it before it leaves the valley and
drops into a very long canyon that is over twenty miles
Floating the Gallatin River upstream of the confluence of
the East Gallatin River isn't allowed. Seventy-five miles
of it must be fished from the bank or by wading. This
makes the Gallatin River a wading anglers dream stream.
Forty miles of the Gallatin outside the park flows through
mountainous terrain before it reaches the valley. The
lower section from the mountains through the valley to
Boseman flows mostly through private property. There's
several access sites along this section but it is limited.
The river's decline is lower and the flows slow down. It
also becomes warmer during the Summer months.
The East Fork of the Gallatin River joins in on the flow
about thirty miles below the mountains. Floating is
allowed in this section of the river all the way to the
Missouri River. There's only a few access points along
this section of the river.
Gallatin River Montana
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Fly Fishing Guide to the Gallatin River:
The first section of the Gallatin River outside
of Yellowstone National Park flows almost
exclusively through public land. It is followed
very closely by Highway #191. During May
and June, the runoff affects the river,
especially below the Taylors Fork confluence.
It is sometimes a week into the month of July
before the river clears up enough for good
From Big Sky downstream to the Spanish
Creek Bridge, the banks of the Gallatin River
is lined with forest. It is one more beautiful
place to fish. The river rapidly flows through
the canyons. It is pocket water fishing at its
very best. There are many large boulders
and steep declinations, plunges and plenty
whitewater section with rapids. It sometimes
gets very narrow and almost impossible to
fish in places. Some areas are more popular
for whitewater enthusiasts than anglers.
Wading the canyon section is often difficult
and sometimes impossible. The current is
very strong and can easily sweep an angler
off their feet before they know what's
happening. Felt wading shoes and a wading
staff are highly recommended. Its a good idea
to have someone along with you. High
sticking is a popular method of fishing in this
section of the river.
Seasons follow the general Montana fishing
Fly fishing the Gallatin River during winter
is possible on the better, warmer days.
Spring would be okay, before and after the
From the Spanish Creek Bridge
downstream to Three Forks, the Gallatin
River flows much slower. It flows through a
wide open, agricultural valley. There are
runs, riffles and a few pools. It has one
main advantage over the upstream
sections. The trout are larger.
The flows of the Gallatin River in this
section often depend on how much water
is being used for irrigation. The best
fishing and flows are usually found
upstream of the Shedds Bridge Access
site. The river is much easier to wade
because of the slow flows. Access is far
less plentiful though and is mostly
available at the bridges.
The very lowest section of the Gallatin
River, the last twelve miles above Three
Forks, has very little access. However, it
can be floated.
The Gallatin River is one river that you can
almost always find a place to fish without
seeing another angler. If the drive up
highway 191 doesn't give you a heart
attack, the river may very well do it. I'm
kidding, of course, but there's some truth
in the statement. It's a dangerous highway.
Never-the-less, fly fishing the Gallatin
River is one exciting experience.
Gallatin River Hatches and Trout Flies
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in the
Gallatin River and in all stages of life that are
applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call. We
not only will help you with selections, you will
learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of
the thousands of our customers will use
You will find a early season Blue-winged
Olive hatch during June and a late season
one that starts in late September and early
October. Don't overlook them because when
they are hatching, they are often by
Little Black Caddis, called the Mother's Day
Hatch in the West, may be hatching when the
season first starts. You may want to be
prepared for it if you fish during early June.
PMDs, or Pale Morning Duns are the most
consistent of the mayflies on the Gallatin
River in the park. They start hatching about
the Middle of June and last almost through
the month of August into early September.
Spotted Sedges are very plentiful. They start
hatching around the first week of July and
last through August. Green Sedges are very
plentiful. Imitations of their larvae, called
Green Rock Worms, will catch trout all during
the season. These caddisflies hatch from
about the middle of June all the way through
September and into October. There are
several species of them. Little Short-Horned
Sedges hatch from about the middle of July
until the middle of August.
Little Sisters are fairly plentiful and usually
start hatching about the end of July. They
last for about three weeks. Little Brown
Caddis are also fairly plentiful. They begin
hatching about the middle to the end of July
and last about two weeks.
Green Drakes hatch from about the third or
forth week of June for about three weeks.
The weather and water temperature can
vary this hatch a week or two and even
more some years. It is not very heavy but
they do hatch on the Gallatin. Flavs, or
Small Western Green Drakes start hatching
about the middle of July and last almost a
month. They are only fairly plentiful.
Salmonflies are present in the Gallatin
River, but not in huge quantities inside the
park section. They are far more plentiful in
the canyon section outside the park. They
start hatching about the first to the middle of
July and last around a couple of weeks.
Golden Stoneflies will start hatching about
the same time as the Salmonflies, or just a
little past the time they hatch. Yellow Sallies,
or Little Yellow Stoneflies, are plentiful and
hatch about the middle of July until the
second week in August.
You will find Pink Ladies, or the Eperous
species, hatching from about the last week
of July through August. March Browns start
hatching about the same time and last
Grasshoppers, ants and beetles are very
plentiful. The high grass and shrubs along
the banks of the stream are a perfect
habitat for them. Imitations of these insect
will work during July, August and most of
Streamers that imitate sculpin work great in
the Gallatin. You should use them early in
the season when the water is still cold,
anytime it is slightly stained from heavy rain
and during low light conditions such as early
and late in the day.
Our "Perfect Flies" have been tested
extensively on this river and have proven to
be more effective than any of the generic or
attractor flies. If you haven't tried them
already, we certainly hope you will. We have
specific imitations of everything that hatches
on the Gallatin River in all stages of life that
trout eat them in.
The Summer would be best for fishing the
Early Fall presents some good
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: The water temperature
is even lower than last week and
there is snow forecast everyday for
the coming week. We recommend
fishing the lower section of the river,
or better, any nearby bottom
discharge tailwater. Midges and
Winter stoneflies are hatching. The
Brown sculpin streamer should still
catch the larger trout. Keep track of
the latest strategies, flies to use,
stream levels and weather by
checking the above linked Gallatin
River fishing report.
Gallatin River Map
10/13/15 Stream levels are good and cooler weather is in store for the coming week. It is a
good time to catch a trophy brown trout. They are taking streamers very well. October Caddis
are hatching and so are Blue-winged Olives. The Gallatin River is a pure freestone river that
fluctuates with the melting snow and rainfall. Trout can be caught on generic trout flies but
you are far better off fishing specific imitations of the naturals.
10/20/15 The Gallatin has continued to produce some good catches for the last month. The
water has been low but back up to near the normal levels. Little rain is forecast, so the levels
should remain good. October Caddis are at the peak of their hatch and bringing trout to the
surface to feed on the egg layers. Brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage and very
aggressive and territorial. Some are probably already spawning.
10/27/15 October Caddis are still the main hatch taking place. It isn't happening everywhere
but is occurring further downstream each day. The egg laying female caddis are bringing trout
to the surface to feed on them. Blue-winged olives are also hatching. The are mostly size 20
but there are some size 16 baetis starting to hatch.
11/03/15 The tropical climate weather spell is over and cold weather arriving fast. There is
rain or rain and snow in the forecast every day for the next week. The stream levels are okay
right now but rising. Some big browns have been caught on Sculpin streamers lately. Blue-
winged olives and midge are the only insects you can expect to hatch for a long time.
11/10/15 There is a lot of rain and snow in the forecast for the next week and there was for
the previous week but the stream levels still remain in good shape. It is a good time to fish the
Gallatin. There are few anglers doing it and the watesr temperature is still well in a good
range. Brown Sculpin streamers have been consistently producing trout. Blue-winged olives
and midges are the only insects hatching.
11/17/15 It has turned cold but in reality, just normal for this time of the year. It has been
unseasonably warm. There will be snow through Friday, then clearing. You should fish the
lower elevations on the river. Midges would be the best option for those brave enough to try it.
Trout can be caught. Let us hear from you if you do.
11/24/15 The weather has finally turned cold and of course, that is very normal. There is a
winter advisory in effect as I write this and the high temperature will not exceed freezing during
the coming week. Fish the lowest end of the river if you dare try to catch a trout. Midges, best
fished in tandem, would be the best fly choice. Freezing guides will be the biggest problem
12/02/15 I don't guess we have to mention that fishing the lower end of the river will be your
best option. There is rain and snow forecast every day for the coming week but it will be
warmer. You can catch trout if you fish midges. We recommend fishing the larva as the bottom
fly and the pupa about a foot or more up the tippet. The Brown sculpin streamer has been
producing some big trout for the past month.
12/08/15 There is a lot of rain and snow in the forecast for the coming week. It is difficult to
predict stream levels or the color of the water. One thing for sure is that you would want to fish
the lower elevations of the river. It is slightly warmer but the water doesn't top forty degrees
anywhere right now. Notice we added Winter stoneflies to the list but midges are still the most
12/15/15 We have a working USGS gauge again and the stream levels are fine. The water is
very cold in the middle and upper sections with a lot of ice on the water. Fish the very lowest
elevations of the river. Midges and Winter stoneflies are the best options for flies. It isn't going
to be easy fishing and if you insist on fishing, you would be better off on a tailwater.
12/29/15 This is the coldest stream in Southwest Montana and you would be better off with
the cold temperatures fishing a nearby tailwater. You can catch trout in the lower sections of
the river, but it will take midges and winter stonefly nymphs fished in the slack water to do very
much. Remember, the trout won't hold in current when it is this cold.
01/05/16 Some anglers think ou cannot catch trout when the weather and water is as cold as
it is now, but you can. It is not uncommon to see trout sipping midges from the surface in the
early afternoon hours. We generally recommend the pupa and larva fished in tandem, but
midges do hatch during the winter and the dry midge fly will sometimes work good.
01/12/16 You might be able to catch some trout on the lowest end of the river. The stream
levels are in good shape. Getting up to the water with the deep snow may be a bigger
problem. Midges and Winter stonefly nymphs are the insects you need ot imitate. The White
Belly sculpin may work good with all the cloud cover.
01/19/16 The weather is going to be much warmer than it has been but don't let that fool you.
The water temperature will be about the same and that is 36 degrees at the highest point in
the lowest section of the river. The warmer weather brings snow and rain and melting snow
keep the water temperature down.
01/26/16 The Gallatin is still very cold but you have a chance to catch some trout in the lowest
section on Midges and Winter stonefly nymphs. You do have to fish the slack curren, mostly in
holes in the bottom, deep pockets and other areas out of the main current. Fish the midge
pupa and larva in tandem with the lava the bottom fly.
02/02/16 As mentioned in the attached report, the Gallatin is too cold to fish anywhere but
maybe the lowest section the river exist. The water temperature there is only 35 to 36
degrees. There is a lot of slush ice in the river from the middle section up stream. If you do
fish, midges is the only way to go.
02/09/16 The Gallatin is still cold but there is going to be a little break in the very cold
temperatures this coming week. It may warm the water a degree or two and make the trout
wake us a little. Fish midge imitations (larva and pupa) in holes in the bottom out of the fast
current. You may find a hatch of midges about early to mid afternoon but don't waste time on
top unless you do.
02/16/16 You may find some warmer water near the confluence of the spring water in the Big
Sky area of the river. It helps warm the water a little and sometimes, a little makes a big
difference at this time of the year. Midges, both creams and reds, are the insects you need to
imitate. There are little Winter stoneflies still hatching as well.
02/23/16 The weather continues to be warmer than normal. So far, the warm weather has
melted a lot of snow and ice in the watershed and that has tended to keep the water
temperature down. The warmest water is still near the springs in the Big Sky area. Midges and
winter stoneflies are still the most important insects to imitate.
03/01/16 The weather is continuing to be warm but with that comes snow and rain, mostly
rain. The levels will probably increase, so what that. Midges are hatching and those that are
using the right flies and strategies are catching some trout on the surface. The preferred
section is still the area near Big Sky where the water from springs enter the river.
03/08/16 The river continues to flow at a good stream level but it is still very cold. Melting
snow, thanks to the warmer weather, is keeping the water temperature down. We are still
recommending fishing near the confluence of the spring water at Big Sky. Blood midges (red)
and cream midges are both hatching good.
03/15/16 I guess everyone has heard about the 35 million gallon sewage spill at Big Sky into
the Gallatin. The health department is saying it poses no threat to the fish or anything but we
are not sure of what the consequences may be. I do know fish are still being caught and I do
know I would want to eat any of them. The river is at a good level and midges are sill the most
important insect to imitate.
03/29/16 The Gallatin is getting into very good shape for this time of the year. The stream
levels are normal and the water getting a little warmer. It is still cold and midges and little BWO
nymphs are still the main aquatic insects to imitate but it will pay off for those who fish the
slack water seams the right way. One customer was able to catch some on the surface this
past week on midges.
04/05/16 The stream levels are up just a little and the water a little stained from melting snow.
The weather is going to be much warmer. We still think the best section to fish in just below
Big Sky. The little extra warmth from the springs helps keep the trout active. The sculpin
streamers, brown and white belly, work great under these conditions.
04/12/16 The Gallatin is currently blown out. There is more rain forecast every day through
Friday, so it will be a few days dropping and clearing. We usually recommend the White Belly
Sculpin streamer when it first drops down to a reasonable level to fish.
04/19/16 The Gallatin is down some from last week, but still high and stained from melting
snow. Look for this to increase this coming week. The weather is going to be very warm and
more rain is coming this weekend. The water is too high to wade safely in most places, so you
would be fishing from the bank or a drift boat in the lower section of the river.
04/26/16 The Gallatin is high and badly stained. There is rain and wet snow in the forecast
every day for the next week, so this is unlikely to change much. You will just have to watch the
stream levels but for now, it isn't looking very good for the next week.
05/03/16 The Gallatin is one of the colder streams in Montana, starting out at a high elevation
in Yellowstone National Park. It is warm enough in its lowest section for the Mother's Day
caddis hatch to begin and it will move upstream as the water warms. Right now, it is dingy and
high and there isn't much opportunity for fly fishing.
05/10/16 The river is high and badly stained and will probably remain in foul condition for the
next week. There is colder weather and little rain on the way and it will clear back up. The
Mother's day hatch started on the lower end of the riiver but will stall out. The pre-run off
conditions will continue soon.
05/17/16 There isn't any opportunity for fly fishing the Gallatin river this coming week. The
stream levels are very high and the water dingy or dirty is a better word. The weather forecast
is showing chances of rain every day for the next week and that should make matters even
worse. We recommend choosing a nearby tailwater this coming week.
05/31/16 Spring runoff is underway and will continue for the next several days. In addition,
there is a lot of rain in the forecast, adding to the high levels. There is little to no opportunity
for fly fishing the Gallatin untile this ends. You can be planning on the red hot action that
always begins as soon and the water drops and clears.
06/07/16 The Gallatin is a sight to see but not a stream to fish right now. It is high and rolling
with mud, track and you name it. The runoff is underway and will most likely continue for the
next few days. Lets hope the early start means an early end to it but we will have to wait and
06/14/16 From the amount the stream levels have come down since last week, you may think
the runoff is over. It isn't, The stream is still very high and highly stained. There isn't any fly
fishing opportunity and most likely won't be for another week or two. Lets hope the runoff
does end early this year. It got off to an early start.
06/20/16 The stream levels are down a lot from this past week. Some places are okay to wade
and others still to high to be safe. The water is mostly clear. A lot of insects are starting to
hatch. Most of them are on the lower end of the river. In general, the hatches move upstream
as the water warms. Normally, the river is in very good shape by the first of July, but it may be
earlier this year.
06/27/16 The river has gotten into good shape. It is still a little on the high side making wading
difficult or not safe in some sections but others are fine. The water is clear in some areas and
stained in others depending on the section that has tributaries staining it. There are a lot of
insects hatching including all the stoneflies, Pale Morning duns and Green drakes, again
depending on the section.
07/05/16 The river is in good shape from the park to the lowest section, with mostly all clear
water and lots of insects hatching. The levels are down to where much of the stream can be
waded. We have some customers fishing the river this week and will be reporting on their
experiences this next week. The hatches vary according to the section of water and elevation.
07/12/16 The Gallatin River is in very good shape for early July. Trout are being caught from
the National Park line, (in the park as well) to the lowest end of the river. The hatches vary
with the elevation but Pale Morning duns, Spotted Sedges and Little Yellow stoneflies are
about everywhere. Golden stoneflies are very plentiful and there are still some Salmonflies
07/19/16 The river is finally in good shape in all sections from the national park boundary to
the lowest section. Our customers are sending in some good reports. The river has plenty of
anglers fishing but there is still a lot of untouched water. Now is the time to fish. Lost of
stoneflies are still hatching including the Goldens and Little Yellow species.
07/26/16 The stream levels are still in decent shape and anglers can wade much of the river.
We received two good reports from customers this past week. The water is getting warmer
and some hatches are showing down. Pale Morning duns, spotted sedges and Little Yellow
stoneflies are continuing to hatch good. Notice we added Tricos to the fly list.
08/02/16 We are receiving good reports from customers fishing the Gallatin in the upper and
middle sections of the river below the National Park. The lower section is getting a little warm
in the afternoons. The stream is running a little below normal for this time of the year but there
is rain in the forecast, and the levels are likely to come back up. .
08/09/16 The Gallatin is under Hoot Owl restrictions from the confluence with the Madison
River at Three Forks to Sheds Bridge (Hwy 84) near Four Corners, MT. You cannot fish after
2:00 PM. Fish streamers early mornings. The uppermost section and canyons is the best
areas to fish. There are still plenty of hatches taking place including PMDs, two caddis
species and Little Yellow stones are plentiful.
08/16/16 The river is still under Hoot Owl restrictions in the lower section. Fish the section
from the National Park line down to the Sheds Bridge. There are still a lot of insects hatching.
Imitations of terrestrials like or Japanese Beetles, Carpenter ants and Sandwich grass
hoppers are working good as well. Early morning fishing with Sculpin streamers is also
08/23/16 We received some good reports this past week from customers fishing the canyon
sections. There are still some little Yellow stoneflies hatching, Tricos on the lower end, and
lots of Spotted Sedges and Green Caddisflies. The river is still under Hoot Owl restrictions in
the lower section. Fish the section from the National Park line down to the Sheds Bridge.
08/30/16 It is still hot weather and the Hoot Owl restrictions are still in place on the lower river
but the good news is, the weather will be cooling down some by the weekend. Fish the
uppermost section of water up to the National Park. The water in the canyons is always a little
cooler. Tricos and caddisflies are everywhere. There are still a few little Yellow stoneflies.
09/06/16 The river is in good shape from the Yellowstone N. P. line to the lowest section of
the river. The weather is cooler and so is the water temperature. Our customers sent in some
good reports over the long holiday weekend. Trout are being caught a number or ways but
early morning streamer fishing with Sculpin patterns seems to get the larger fish. Terrestrial
imitations are working good at times.
09/13/16 The river is in good shape from top to bottom. The canyon sections are producing
very well lately. Little Yellow stoneflies are still hatching along with lots of caddisflies and a few
mayflies depending on the section of water, or more specifically the elevation. Terrestrials are
also working well.
09/20/16 The river is running a little low now but should be coming up soon. It is raining and
will likely continue off and on through Friday. October Caddis and Mahogany duns have
started to hatch. Blue-winged olives continue to hatch good as well. Our customers are still
using terrestrials with good success. This week should be a great time to fish the river.
09/27/16 There are lots of October caddis hatching along with Mahogany duns and Blue-
winged olives. The brown trout are becoming aggressive, or getting into the love mode. They
will attack our Matuka sculpin streamers and Brown Sculpin streamers with vigor. The stream
levels are just a little below normal, the weather nice and cool. What are you waiting for.
10/04/16 Lower water temperatures and weather is helping the "catching" on the Gallatin big
time. Our customers are catching trout throughout the system, and especially in the lower
sections of the river. There are lots of hatches taking place for the first part of October.
Sculpin streamers continue to catch the aggressive brown pre-spawn trout very well.
10/11/16 Mahogany duns and Blue-winged olives are hatching big time. The constant cloud
cover is really helping. Our customers are catching good numbers of trout and some very
large brown trout. The Browns are taking the Brown and White Belly sculpin streamers very
well. They are in the pre-spawn stage in most sections of the river.
10/18/16 The river is flowing along at a very good level at this time, just a little above normal.
There is rain forecast everyday for the coming week, so this is likely to change. Blue-winged
olive hatches are good throughout the river. The added cloud cover should make it even
better. The brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage and some may be spawning.
10/26/16 The stream is up a little above normal as I am writing this but falling. There is rain
forecast everyday for the coming week, so don't expect it to stay down long. The cloud cover
really helps the Blue-winged olive hatches. The brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage with
some big one being caught. Our Brown and White Belly sculpin streamers will work for that.
11/02/16 The river is flowing at a higher than normal level but can still be waded in some
areas. It is falling and there's little rain in the forecast, so it will be back down soon. Blue-
winged olives and Cream midges are hatching good. Brown trout are ranging from post-spawn
to pre-spawn stages, depending on the area you fish.
11/09/16 High water levels continue to hamper the fishing opportunity. It isn't safe to wade in
most all of the sections of the river. Drift boats can fish where it is legal but the current is
strong. It is falling and will continue to do so all week. There isn't any rain in the forecast. The
hatches are down to Blue-winged olives and cream midges.
11/16/16 The Gallatin is getting cooler thanks to a more normal weather pattern for this time
of the year. You will see a big drop in water temperature during this next week. Midges and
little Blue-winged olives will become the main insects to imitate. Sculpin streamers like the
Black and Olive Matuka sculpin and the Brown and White Belly sculpin streamers will continue
to catch the larger trout.
11/23/16 The stream levels are down some from the past week, but still a little high, too high
to wade in many places. The hatches are down to midges and a few little Blue-winged olives.
Sculpin streamers should continue to work good. There is snow in the forecast everyday for
the next week. Watr temperature is down to the low forties.