That’s the rule we follow in our lead-up to official runoff on the Gallatin. We’re still experiencing some freezing late night temps in the mountains and even occasional snow at higher elevations. This weather fluctuation tends to halt or at least suspend low-level-runoff this time of year.
Local angler stripping streamers under a cut bank on Gallatin 5/1/2014
While a week ago we had a muddy brown river to contend with due to warm temps and rains, presently the Gallatin has that light green tint to it with about 10”-12” of visibility along the seams, shoreline, and side-channels. That’s where a lot of the fish are too; so this is the perfect scenario for success by hitting those sections following an afternoon BWO hatch and of course midges are everywhere.
Nymphing a favorite size 18 – 20 BWO emerger or Purple Lightning Bug is a safe bet and combining this with a brown or olive Pat’s Rubber Leg or Girdle Bug is effective too. Though keep in mind you will likely get a few rigs snagged and lost since visibility hides those obvious hazards you would otherwise see and avoid if the river was clearer.
Going above Taylor’s Fork has its advantages as things will likely be clearer, but you’ll have company and occasionally the wind can be a factor you’ll have to contend with; versus more sheltered areas that can be found inside the canyon.
On cloudy and overcast days Midge clusters like Buzz Balls and Griffith’s Gnats are great dry flies to use right now. They’re the perfect dry fly pattern for fishing within that 2 to 4’ rocky section near shore; as that is precisely where midges tend to cluster up in slower water and trout key-in on them.
A careful drag free drifted midge cluster in the foam-line and high sticking using a 7.5’ tapered 4X leader and about 2’ of 5X tippet seems to be the trick. Don’t be shy however on the Aquel or Gink though; as the higher your pattern floats and longer the drift the better.
Another dry fly option that’s worked great lately is a Purple Para Wulff in sizes 14, 16, and 18.
If you’re strictly targeting bigger trout on the Gallatin stripping streamers is a good early season tactic, but more success can be found downriver where there’s more structure and deeper holes towards Bozeman than up near Big Sky. While the takes are few and far between, with some patience and a wide selection of articulated junk like assorted Galloup’s Dungeons (sculpin patterns) at your disposal; things could get interesting if you place it in front of the right fish.
Any day now the Gallatin will get brown and stay brown, plus be rocking around a Class IV; so the window of opportunity is closing fast.
“Get out there while the gettin’ is good!”