Big Sky, Montana is home to the largest skiing area in the United States. The outstanding winter sports combined with numerous summer activities like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and rafting have made Big Sky a popular year round destination for vacationers craving outdoor recreation. Big Sky also happens to be close to some of North America’s best fly fishing.
If you close your eyes and envision a perfect trout river, the Gallatin River would surely remind you of the river in your dreams. This gorgeous fishery begins in Yellowstone National Park a short jaunt from Big Sky. The scenery along the Gallatin was made famous by Robert Redford’s classic “A River Runs Through It” where all of the fishing scenes were filmed. After tumbling out of the park it flows past Big Sky junction and enters the Gallatin Canyon of the next 30 miles. Upon leaving the canyon the Gallatin becomes a beautiful meadow river lined with cottonwoods on its journey to form the Missouri near Three Forks. The river offers great trout fishing throughout its course. The highest trout numbers occur below the Big Sky junction after numerous underground springs improve the productivity of the river. The canyon boasts thousands of trout per mile and fishing can often be fast and furious. Rainbow trout in the 10-17″ range dominate the fishery here, but the occasional brown trout provides some diversity. The trout in the canyon are not terribly picky and a well presented attractor dry fly or small bead head nymph is all that is needed to provide steady action. Once the Gallatin leaves the canyon trout numbers begin to drop but trout size increases. The Lower Gallatin produces fish in the 20-28″ range each year and is a favorite destination in the fall for those searching for trophy fish.
The Madison River is frequently rated as North America’s number one trout stream. This legendary fishery originates in Yellowstone National Park and flows through one of Montana’s most picturesque valleys on its journey to form the Missouri river. The Madison river has it all: great hatches, spectacular scenery, huge trout and great water. A day float fishing the Madison from a drift boat is prerequisite for any Montana fishing trip. The upper portion of the River is designated for wade fishing only and is an ideal location to target large, strong and healthy browns and rainbows in swift rocky pocket water. The large rocks and swift current are not for the faint of heart, but those that are willing to do some aggressive wading are always rewarded. Throughout most of the Upper Madison Valley, the river flows through what is fondly referred to as the 50 mile riffle. This swift, shallow stretch of water offers ideal trout habitat from bank to bank. This amazingly productive stretch holds lots of browns and rainbows of all year classes with fish up to 30″ caught each season. Below Ennis Lake, the river changes character dramatically as it enters the tumultuous Bear Trap Canyon. Big Sky Angler guides Brian and Miles McGeehan are two of a very small handful of guides qualified to offer fishing trips through the class V whitewater run. Bear Trap is safely the premier one day float fishing trip in North America. After exiting Bear Trap canyon, the Lower Madison slows in gradient as its currents wash over large weed beds filled with sculpins, mayflies and crayfish. Some of the largest trout in the Madison reside in its lower waters and it is a prime destination in the spring and fall when water temperatures are ideal for trout fishing.
Yellowstone River Fishing
The Yellowstone is the longest undammed river in the lower 48. After carving its way throughout the length of Yellowstone National Park, it travels through Paradise Valley and eventually across the state of Montana to join the Missouri River in North Dakota. This large river is ideal for float fishing and offers some of the best dry fly fishing in Montana. Most Big Sky Angler trips take place on the 100 miles of water from Gardiner at the park boundary to just beyond Big Timber. Impressive hatches of caddis flies, stoneflies and mayflies bring fish to the surface from April through July and again in the fall. In the late summer months, the Yellowstone is home to some of the best terrestrial fishing in Montana, including some awesome grasshopper fishing. Numerous alfalfa fields near the river fill up with the large insects in late July through September and are frequently blown into the river on breezy afternoons. Large trout become reckless when chasing these large tasty morsels and a day of “hopper” fishing ranks high on the list of many international anglers.
Small stream fishing
Big Sky is surrounded by small mountain streams that are filled with eager trout ready to pounce on a well presented dry fly. Speciman creek, Fan creek, Portal Creek, Moose Creek, Storm Castle Creek, Swan Creek, Hell Roaring Creek and the Taylor Fork all offer secluded fly fishing to small trout. A short three or four weight rod and a box of attractor dry flies is all that is needed to have an action packed day on these small creeks.