The Gallatin River in Montana is one of the top fly fishing destinations. It is located in the beautiful Gallatin Valley in south-central Montana. Flowing north from Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin River travels ~100 miles and then joins the Jefferson River and Madison River to form the Missouri River at the Missouri Headwaters State Park in Three Forks, Montana.
The views in this part of Montana are some of the most scenic in the world. As the Gallatin River leaves Yellowstone National Park it winds through river brush and meadows before dropping into the canyon section south of Big Sky. Expect to see many types of wildlife and make sure you bring your camera to capture some of natures best scenes.
For the fly fishing enthusiast, the Gallatin River is a bucket list place to fish. The main fish you can expect to catch on the Gallatin River are mainly Brown trout and Rainbow trout with the occasional Cutthroat trout.
Get the DIY Fly Fishing App to get turn-by-turn directions to access points shown on the map above and real-time stream flow conditions.
Access to the Gallatin River is pretty easy as Gallatin Road / US 191 runs parallel to the river from the boundary of Yellowstone National Park all the way to Four Corners, Montana. Access points vary from roadside pull-offs, bridge crossings, campgrounds and designated Montana Fishing Access Sites as shown on the map above.
The Gallatin River can be fished throughout the year. However, the best time to fish the Gallatin is mid-spring to late summer. You will find the long summer days of Montana to be very inviting with plenty of time on the river. From March through September you can expect to find hatches of caddis, stoneflies (salmonflies and golden stonefiles), mayflies, spruce moths and midges. These various hatches lead to some of the best fly fishing on the planet.
There are a number of area fly shops, outfitters, lodges and on-line retailers that publish Gallatin River fishing reports. Listed below are a few to check out.
Notable fly hatches on the Gallatin River include:
The upper reaches of the Gallatin River are relatively small and 7 1/2-foot 3-wt or 4-wt rod with a 9-foot 4X leader is all you need. For fishing the middle to lower reaches of the river a 9-foot 5-wt weight rod will be a better option to cover the large water and handle the wind.
Travel to the Gallatin river is fairly simple. If you are travelling from out of state, you will want to fly into the city of Bozeman. You can also fly into the cities of Billings or Butte. When traveling to Montana it is good to check different airport destinations for price. Billings and Butte are within a pleasurable drive down Interstate 90 to the Gallatin. You will more than likely make a connection in Salt Lake City and then make the short connection ( 1 hour) into Montana.
Once you have landed and have your vehicle, you will be traveling along Interstate 90. If you plan to fish the upper and middle sections of the Gallatin, you will need to travel to the small town of Four Corners. Once at Four Corners you will need to travel to River Road to gain access. If you plan on fishing the lower section you will need to take I -90 to the town of Manhattan.
There are many campgrounds throughout this stretch of Montana a person can stay at. If you desire a hotel setting, it is common to find one that is locally owned. There are the regular hotel chains in and around the Bozeman area. If you desire a luxurious accommodation you can find those near the Big Sky resort area.
The Gallatin River outside Yellowstone National Park is open to fishing year-round. The combined limit for brown and rainbow trout is five daily, and in possession, only one over 18 inches. All grayling and cutthroat trout must be released immediately.
A Montana fishing license is required. Options include a 2-day, 10-day or a season license and are available on-line from the Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Fishing the Gallatin River inside Yellowstone National Park also requires a Yellowstone National Park fishing permit. See our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park for more information.
Looking for more places to fish in Montana? Be sure to check out our Guide to the Best Fly Fishing In Montana.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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