THE GALLATIN RIVER
MONTANA & YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
The Gallatin extends from its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park to the confluence with the Madison and Jefferson Rivers near Three Forks, Montana (where the combined flows form the Missouri River). Along the way, the river passes the towns of Big Sky, Bozeman, and Manhattan. The Gallatin flows predominantly north through terrain ranging from alpine meadows, to pocket water and riffles, to brawling canyons, and gains many tributaries on the way. It’s one of the most accessible rivers in the area as it flows near roads for most of its length.
The park stretch is closest to West Yellowstone and it offers excellent fishing into the late summer due to its cold, clear water. It typically is fishing well by the second week of July.
The river is home to a nice mix of fish with rainbow, brown, westslope cutthroat, cutt-bow, and the occasional brook trout as well as mountain whitefish. Fish are generally smaller than those on the Madison, with 10-13 inch fairly common. Key hatches include Salmonflies, golden stones, green drakes, PMDs, caddis, and terrestrials like hoppers and beetles.
Easy to access and wade due to its approachable size and character. But don’t be fooled by the innocent appearance. The Gallatin can throw anglers a mighty curve ball from time to time, in addition to surprising you with occasional fish far out of proportion to the size of the stream.
North of the Park boundary the Gallatin transitions from a small meadow stream to a full blown canyon river, and then back to a large, meandering, braided river. Lower in the watershed it fishes best both early and late in the season when water temps are most favorable.
Even if the Gallatin isn’t your #1 destination in the area, it just begs to be fished if you are ever driving from Bozeman to West Yellowstone.