The Gallatin can be a bit more moody during fall than some anglers expect, and that is partly due to fluctuating water temperatures. The Gallatin is a particularly cold river, especially along its upper reaches from Yellowstone National Park down to Big Sky. If weather conditions aren’t warm enough to moderate the cold water of the river, the fishing can be a bit slow – particularly during non-hatch periods. During such times, nymphing with small midge and baetis patterns will be your best shot at enticing the trout to eat. But being fall, don’t be afraid to swing and strip streamers through the haunts of big brown trout. Yes, the Gallatin harbors its share of larger browns… fish in the 18″ to 20″ range are caught with some regularity by anglers who know the river well and who are dedicated to the streamer. Though few and far between, fish up to 2 feet are around and those cold, nasty fall days are a great time to hunt for them. Keep in mind that it’s still the Gallatin, and on smaller water such as this you don’t need your 8-weight streamer rod, a 200-grain sink tip, and a triple articulated sculpin. Scale it down a bit, be stealthy, and focus on finding good holding water… tailouts, undercut banks, log-jams, and other in-stream structure.
We’ve been seeing good hatches of fall baetis over the past week or so, with the best emergences occurring on calm, overcast afternoons. A size 20 Sparkle Dun is typically all you need to imitate these little mayflies, but having a couple of CDC dun and emerger patterns on hand can make all the difference at times. Spend a day on the water right now and you’re likely to see a few October caddis bouncing around… a size 10 orange Stimulator fished blindly through likely holding water can be productive.
The nymph bite remains steady, with the usual suspects… small baetis and midge patterns are still our top producers. Eggs are back on the menu as well now that the river’s whitefish population is spawning.
Streamers are taking fish consistently now too, with mid-morning and evening being most productive – cloud cover can extend the bite. While we’ve seen some success on big, articulated patterns the best action has been with smaller sculpin and baitfish patterns… think Bow River Bugger, McCune’s Sculpin, Sparkle Minnow, Kreelex, Clouser, and Home Invader.
Give us a call today to book a day with one of our professional guides on the blue-ribbon waters of the upper Gallatin River.