Top 5 Winter Flies for the East Gallatin
The Winter provides solace on the water, good fishing, and the chance to sleep in. The Bozeman area offers some great close to town, cold-weather angling opportunities. Many of us love to fish the Madison, Gallatin, and Missouri rivers to get our fix until SW Montana thaws in Spring. The East Gallatin can be equally as good as some of the larger rivers during this time as long as it is clear of ice and slush.
1. Royal Stacker Midge
There isn't typically much going on for top-water action during the Winter which causes the typical "Dry Fly Depression" until Springtime for most of us. This heavily underrated hatch can actually provide some of the most fun fishing of the year. Midges become active on an above freezing, sunny day, and hatch in very large numbers, making it impossible for a trout to deny the easy meal. The Royal Midge Stacker, a pattern from Rio is one of my favorites to tie on when I see some noses breaking the surface. I like to fish this pattern with a slightly larger dry in front of it so it is easier to detect eats. Put this fly on and fish the slow, deep moving runs on the East and you won't be disappointed.
2. Pink Squirmy Worm
The Squirmy Worm may not be the most "noble" fly to catch fish on to some people, but you cannot deny the effectiveness of this pattern. The E. Gallatin has a lot of muddy banks that house tons of these little critters and are a staple in a trout's diet on this river. If you ever are having a tough time trying to feed these fish, this should be the next fly you tie on.
3. Clouser Crayfish
The East is loaded with crayfish. Fishing this under an indicator and dead drifting, slow strip, or swinging them through the deep pools can provide some great fishing and often gets some of those larger trout to make a mistake. I've found that the smaller sizes work the best but they will eat a variety of colors and imitations.
I love this fly for Winter fishing. When trout are keyed into this one, it's hard to keep them off your line. The UV bead allows this bug to stand out amongst naturals and really can get fish fired up. The East has millions of these suckers just waiting to be trout food and it really shows.
5. Red Zebra Midge
This is hands down my most effective Wintertime fly. Midges are always available to trout but in the colder months, they become a very reliable food source as other insects become less active. These small bugs need to be consumed in high numbers for a trout to survive and it can sometimes be the only thing they want to eat. Red seems to be the best color on the East, but they will eat a variety of colors. Sz 18-20 are the best.