Montana has many wonderful waters that fishermen fish religiously. The 3 Holiest Waters are the Yellowstone River, Madison River, and Gallatin River. All 3 waters can be fished throughout most of the year depending upon how much cold you can stand. The good news is that Winter and Spring fishing is way less crowded.
Since this river originates in the Park, it stays cold longer. This slows down the bite and ice stays longer. The recent warmer weather is loosening up the ice in the river. Gardiner is mainly open ice. Downstream, floating is not yet a safe option. As the weather warms, larger channels will open but more chunks of ice will begin to flow. Some creates dams that could block your drift. Best to fish from the banks and stay on downstream island edges and protected currents.
Use larger nymphs and fish them slow and deep. As the snow melts, the water gets milky so tie on stuff that is flashy and trashy. On a sunny day, you may find some midge hatches. Use a floater and a dropper midge to get hooked up.
Careful walking. The edge ice is slick and loose. Fish during the warmer time of the day. Boat accesses are also iced in.
This river see’s more pressure due to Big Sky. The waters are clear downstream of Big Sky and clear for the moment. Once the snow and ice melts, it will cloud up fast.
The water is very cold, and fishing is slow. Nymphing is the obvious choice. Typical eggs, worms, stones, and rubber legs will do the trick. Lower down you may have midge hatches in the open sun. Fishing is better out of the canyon.
Upper The water is really cold. Above Quake Lake is frozen and almost unfishable unless you are an Iceman. Hegben Lake offers good ice fishing. Downstream from the Slide Inn can offer better fishing in the sunnier open areas. Walk carefully. Shore ice is slick and breaking up. Fish the warmest part of the day. Midges could be Poppin so a Zebra Midge is money. Fish are sluggish so fish deep and slow.
Lower If you want to drift, this is your best bet. Waters are open until you get past Grey Cliffs access. Try using flashy and trashy nymphs deep, slow, and slower. Strikes are light. Fish the tail outs. If the day is warm and sunny, the fish will chase streamers. A stinger hook will help. Fish Wooly Buggers like a nymph on a dead drift and hang on!
If you are unable to get out to fish, start thinking caddis. It won’t be long. Get your fly boxes and gear organized asap.
For more Montana Grant, catch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.