Fly-Fishing Bozeman's Big Three

Bozeman's best fishing opportunities.

The Yellowstone, Madison, and Gallatin are open year-round and offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Here’s a rundown of these incredible rivers.

The Yellowstone: Most Unpredictable
The longest free-flowing river in the Lower 48, the Yellowstone originates in Yellowstone Park, with the most famous stretch running between Gardiner and Livingston. The river is big and broad throughout this area, which makes float fishing the most popular way to spend the afternoon.

Hot Spots: Two of the best floats are between Carbella and Emigrant—made easier by the new FWP access site at Point of Rocks on river left—and the celebrated “Bird Float” from Grey Owl to Mallard’s Rest. On the Lower ‘Stone, two of the most popular floats are Pig Farm (off the Mission Creek Road) to Springdale and Springdale to Grey Bear. For wade anglers, the “town stretch” between Carter’s Bridge and Mayor’s Landing provides bountiful opportunities for anglers to pursue big fish within city limits.

The Madison: Most Famous
If you haven’t heard of the Madison River, chances are you don’t fish. The Madison is one of the most famous stretches of water on the planet.

Hot Spots: The stretch from Hebgen Lake to Ennis Lake is one of the busiest in the state, and for good reason: it boasts some of the region’s most prolific brown and rainbow trout populations. The stretch from Warm Springs to Black’s Ford also has ample access to excellent trout water.

The Gallatin: Most Overshadowed
In an area that boasts more famous trout streams than anywhere else in the world, the Gallatin often gets overshadowed by other rivers. But what it lacks in notoriety, this river makes up for in beauty and hungry fish.

Hot Spots: In the canyon, the area around Durnam Meadow is worth investigating, as is the stretch of water just across from Portal Creek. Down in the valley, the fishing around Williams Bridge can be excellent, as can the fishing around Gallatin Gateway where the side channel can allow for easy wading.

For more expert advice, check out Bozeman’s local fishing guide, CAST, available in fly shops around southwest Montana and online here