Located in Southwestern Montana, the Gallatin River is one of the most beautiful western trout streams you will ever see . From its source high up in Yellowstone National Park, it flows for over 100 miles before reaching the Missouri River. During its journey, the Gallatin passes through awe inspiring canyons and open meadows. The river is open all year round with a Special Regulations section. Rainbows, browns and cutthroat all make up the population of trout in these waters.
The section of river inside Yellowstone National Park, is a small brushy stream met by Route 191 for a couple miles before leaving the park. As the river flows to the north, it begins to gain volume, depth, and width as it nears Belgrade. At Belgrade the Gallatin picks up Route 90 and parallels it to its end at the Missouri river.
From where Route 191 meets up with the Gallatin to the town of Big Sky in Montana, the river is a narrow and shallow stream. This skinny section of river flows through a tight canyon which then opens up as it nears Big Sky. The river has many feeder creeks especially in its headwaters, but it is the Taylor Fork that is most important.
During runoff and rainy periods, the Taylor Fork, near the town of Belgrade, brings muddy and turbid water to the Gallatin. If fishing clear water is your thing, the upper Gallatin above where the Taylor fork enters, is much better during wet periods. Going down to Big Sky, the river holds a good number of trout which are a little smaller but less selective then the fish in the bottom end of the river. There are many access points along this stretch of river which sits along Route 191.
Downstream of Big Sky, the river runs for approximately twenty five miles before reaching the end of Gallatin Canyon. The canyon here is steep and rocky but access to this area is relatively easy. The river gains double the width and volume as it plunges past large boulders. Swift riffles and runs with long pools in between also characterize this stretch. This is a popular section of river for both fly fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts. This section is known for its awesome Salmon Fly hatch.
After exiting the canyon, the Gallatin flows for a couple more miles before reaching the influx of the East Gallatin River. The river slows in pace and flows through agricultural land as it wanders through a widening valley. Here, the river braids and warms during the summer months as brown trout become more and more prevalent. This part of the river can be excellent fishing all year round, although some years water depletion for agricultural purposes can have a major impact on the system. Trophy browns are taken each year throughout this stretch, with fish up to 24" on a variety of flies from grass hoppers to salmon flies to big woolly buggers.
Below where the East Gallatin enters, the river flows for a few more miles before reaching the Missouri River. This is the best section for people who wish to fish from a drift boat. The river wanders through big slow pools, gentle riffles, and runs. Fish tend to migrate here from the Missouri River for spawning purposes. There are also plenty of resident fish in this area as well. Hatches on the Gallatin include Blue Winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns, caddis, and stoneflies. The salmon fly hatch usually occurs between June and July. Although it is often met with high runoff, the large stonefly can still offer excellent fishing if the conditions allow. Terrestrials like ants, beetles and hoppers, will fish well during the late summer months. An attractor dry, streamer, or nymph will be very productive on the river throughout any time of the season.
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