The Gallatin River is one of the more scenic, blue-ribbon trout waters found in the Bozeman area. The river changes in character from a small mountain stream near its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park to a medium-sized, classic western river once it flows into the Gallatin Valley. The middle portion of the river flows through the Gallatin Canyon and is characterized by pocket water and swift currents. Once it leaves the canyon stretch, the river slows its pace with much of the trout water being found in a classic riffle, pool, and run water types. The Gallatin River is noted for having very clean, cold water throughout its course and served as the setting in which much of "A River Runs Through It" was filmed.
With over 75 miles of quality trout water to be found on the Gallatin River, there’s hardly a need to drive too far from Bozeman to experience some great Montana fly fishing. The upper and middle portions of the river are easily accessed at dozens of roadside turnouts along HWY 191. These stretches are very popular with local and visiting anglers alike, so it can be quite busy and we avoid guiding these areas. Commercial and recreational whitewater rafting and kayaking are also very popular throughout much of the upper and middle stretches of the river. It is illegal to fish the Gallatin from a boat or raft from its headwaters to its confluence with the East Gallatin River, near Manhattan, MT.
The Gallatin River is a year-round fishery in the Bozeman area and can be a great choice anytime, with the exception being in May and early June during the spring runoff. There are no dams on the Gallatin, so it is very susceptible to changing water levels and clarity as the winter snow melts and even following heavy rains during the summer. The Gallatin River often gets overlooked by locals in July and August as they focus their attention on the Yellowstone and Madison. We enjoy guiding fly fishing trips on the Gallatin River any time of the year and usually recommend fishing it for at least one day on multi-day guided fly fishing trips in the Bozeman area.
Rainbows and Browns are the primary fish that we’ll find on our Gallatin River guided fly fishing trips. We’ve found the occasional Brook and Cutthroat Trout over the years, and even a Graying or two in years past. As a wild trout fishery, the size ranges dramatically with the average size of fish being in the 12-14 inch range. There are days when it seems like every fish under 10” is eating, and the next thing we know there are two feet of Brown Trout screaming down the river with flies in tow! Although the lower river has a reputation for having some large Brown Trout, we tend to catch more large Rainbows here than anywhere else around Bozeman with a few fish in the 22-25” range coming to the net every year.