THE FLY FISHING CHRONICLES OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK ( part 18 )
|Part 17 can be found here|
For many anglers who are visiting the West for the first time, the Gallatin River typifies their idea of western rivers. This is especially true if they view the river for the first time in the canyon stretch along US 191. The Gallatin River in this section is a brawling, moderate size, freestone, mountain stream. The Gallatin is 120 miles in length from its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park to where it joins with the Madison and Jefferson Rivers at Headwaters State Park near Three Forks, Montana to form the mighty Missouri River. Much of the river is easily accessible to anglers since US 191 runs right along the river over much of its course. The river was named by Meriwether Lewis in 1805 for Albert Gallatin who was the Secretary of the United States Treasury from 1801 to 1814.
The Gallatin originates in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park where it begins as two branches on the north slopes of Three Rivers Peak and these feed Gallatin Lake which sets at 9,500 feet. From this lake, where the water is clear and very cold, the Gallatin is born. The Gallatin River can be first seen from mile marker 22 on Highway 191, at this point Fan Creek enters from the north, then Divide Creek joins from the south and then Bacon Rind Creek runs in from the west. These creeks greatly expand the flows of the river.
The Gallatin is a small, friendly stream that is easy to fish as it meanders through the high open meadows. It is a classic combination of riffles, pools and flats, with many undercut banks. There are good populations of trout in this water, with rainbows, browns and cutthroats. The trout average 9 to 12 inches, however trout from 12 to 16 inches can be taken and even a few up to 20 inches. The run‑off starts in May and this section of the Gallatin is usually fishable by mid‑June, long before the lower river will clear to fish. During late June and throughout July, there is a good diversity of insects on the Gallatin, including stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies however the hatches are seldom heavy. This is not uncommon with this type of stream like the upper Gallatin. The hatches are generally sparse in nature and this keeps the trout from becoming too selective. This section of the Gallatin receives very little fishing pressure as many anglers think that the trout are small and sparse, but this is not the case.
During August and into early September there are good terrestrial insect populations and the trout will feed quite readily on Beetles, Ants, Hopper and Cricket imitations.
Unlike the water further downstream, the Gallatin River in the Park is easy to wade with a nice gravel bottom without the slick uneven rocks that you can encounter further down the river. The upper Gallatin is one of those rivers that are truly fun to fish and seldom will you have trouble finding the trout. Over the years I have spent countless afternoons fishing this open and seldom crowded stream and have treasured every hour that I have spent on this delightful stream.
Choosing effective fly patterns is seldom a problem during the hatches as long as common sense is applied. If there is no hatch then your favorite attractor patterns, both dry and wet, will generally work well. There is a great deal more of the Gallatin River to fish beyond the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park but that will have to wait for another time and place.
Next time you want some small stream fishing that is uncrowded and fun give the Gallatin River inside Yellowstone National Park a try. You may also find yourself sharing the water with elk, deer and the occasional moose. Remember to stop and get your Yellowstone National Park Fishing Permit before fishing the waters in the Park, and check the opening dates and other regulations that pertain to fishing in Yellowstone. Generally the season runs from Memorial Day weekend in May to the first Sunday in November.
Enjoy & Good Fishin'
|Part 19 can be found here|