Copyright 2015 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Gallatin River - Yellowstone National Park
The Gallatin River is one of the best small dry fly streams in the park in terms of action. Trout
will eat on the surface most of the entire season. The hatches are not as prolific and plentiful
during the early Fall, but even then dry flies will work most days. This is not to say you will
never need to fish a nymph or caddis larva imitation. They work great too. It's just that most
anglers prefer the dry fly and they work great on the Gallatin most of the time.
This river is one of the colder ones in the park and doesn't really warm up enough to provide
great fishing until about the first of July. It can be good earlier provided its a low water year and
the weather is on the warm side for June. If you fish the stream in June, it probably would be
best to use a stonefly nymph. Either the large Salmonfly nymphs, Golden stonefly nymphs, or
Yellow Sally nymphs should produce if the water is in the forty degree range.
Each of the small tributaries have plenty of fish but they average on the small side. They are a
lot of fun to catch and fishing them will get you away from the crowds along Highway #191.
Either the upper section (not visible from the highway) of Bacon Rind Creek, or the larger parts
of Fan Creek, Divide Creek and Specimen Creeks will provide plenty of action for small,
headwater stream trout. Of the four streams, Specimen is probably the better one but all are
good little streams. The small cuthroats, cutbows and rainbows are not very selective and will
usually take attractor and generic flies well.
The bottom of the Gallatin consist mostly of golf ball to dinner plate size round stones or
cobble. The stream is easy to wade in most places. There are a few deep places but not many.
The stream has plenty of undercut banks, shallow bars, and some very long riffles and runs.
The trout in the stream along the highway will definitely focus if not become completely
selective on large hatches of PMD and Spotted Sedges. It is best to try and match the hatch
during those times. The action is usually continuous when you do. We have caught over fifty
trout on this river many times in about a half days time. Contrary to popular belief, there are
also some larger cutthroats and rainbows in the river. We have caught them up to and one or
two larger than sixteen inches, so you can't be too relaxed about small trout. We have taken
plenty in the fourteen to sixteen inch range.
One tip we can give you is to get there early. Most anglers don't start arriving until around
eleven or twelve o'clock. We have caught lots of trout from as early as nine in the morning
using dropper rigs with a large foam hopper on top and a small PMD nymph or Spotted Sedge
pupa imitation trailing or dropped below the hopper.
Sometimes you cannot fish nymphs without constantly catching whitefish. There's plenty of
them, especially in the deeper areas of the stream. Many anglers enjoy catching them and
some don't. You actually have to change locations to avoid them on a nymph at times. By the
way, the river has some very large ones in it. Speaking of hoppers, terrestrial insects are very
plentiful along the Gallatin River. Imitations of ants, beetles and grasshoppers work great along
the deep, grassy banks of the river.
If you fish the stream in July, you will find heavy caddis activity every starting late every
afternoon. You can catch trout until it is too late to see your fly. In fact, it is best after the sun
has set and long after most anglers are eating dinner.
If you fish Yellowstone National Park, it would be a crime not to fish the Gallatin River in the
park at least a half or a day. It is one of the most enjoyable streams to fish in the park.
Gallatin River, YNP
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