Montana Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Gallatin River

Bitterroot River

The Gallatin River

Gallatin River Fly Fishing Guides & Lodges
Discover the secrets of fishing the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone with Montana's top guides. Montana Angler Fly Fishing offers guided trips and world class lodging packages on the Gallatin River and other legendary waters. Outfitter #10770.


Gallatin River in the canyon
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The Gallatin River begins at Gallatin Lake, which is located high in the mountains of the Gallatin Range in Yellowstone National Park, and flows for 115 miles to its end at the beginning of the Missouri River in Three Forks. Throughout its length, the Gallatin River offers a very wide variety of water, excellent river access, relatively low fishing pressure and gorgeous scenery.

The Gallatin River runs for more than twenty-five miles in Yellowstone National Park. While in the park, floating on the river is not permitted and special fishing regulations apply. After the river leaves Yellowstone National Park, it flows predominantly through public lands for the next forty-miles. Since a highway closely follows the river this entire distance, access is excellent. All an angler has to do to fish in the upper section of the Gallatin (above Spanish Creek) is to pull over to the side of the road and go.

Once the Gallatin River leaves Yellowstone National Park, the river flows through very mountainous country, with steep mountains towering above the river. Extensive whitewater stretches are found on the Gallatin River, particularly downstream from the town of Big Sky. The Gallatin River for much of its length is not a very large river. As a result, float fishing on the Gallatin River from Yellowstone National Park downstream to the confluence with the East Gallatin River is not allowed, a distance of more than seventy-miles.

Gallatin River near its end
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Since the bulk of the Gallatin River is closed to float fishing (but not recreational floating), the Gallatin is a dream come true for wade anglers who are frustrated by having to share the water with lines of rafts. Coupled with the excellent access found in the upper half, the Gallatin ranks as one of the finest wade fishing rivers in Montana, perhaps second only to Rock Creek.

After traveling for more than forty miles through mountainous terrain, the Gallatin River leaves the mountains behind as it spills out into a broad, scenic valley, which also contains the town of Bozeman. Once the Gallatin River leaves the mountains, it begins to flow primarily through private land. While a number of access sites do exist, access is significantly more difficult on this section.

The flows of the river also slow significantly once the Gallatin River leaves the mountains. Due to slower flows and heavy irrigation use, the water in the Gallatin River on its lower stretches frequently become quite warm, hampering trout reproduction and putting a lid on feeding activity.

Thirty miles after leaving the mountains, the Gallatin River meets up with the East Fork Gallatin River, which adds significantly to its flows. From this point downstream to the beginning of the Missouri River, the Gallatin is open to float fishing. Access is spotty along this stretch, as the river flows almost exclusively through private land and access sites are quite scattered.

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