Everyone has a river they call their own. We develop a bond to waters that are always there for us in time of need. For some it may be a pond in the middle of town. Regardless of the quality of the fishery, it is always great to have a spot that you can go to on 5 minutes notice. You learn the intimate details about the water and it becomes your campanion.
The East Gallatin River near Bozeman is my river. Often referred to as the "locals" river, it is wonderful fishery that wanderes through the Gallatin Valley from its head waters near Bozeman to its conflunce with the West Gallatin near Manhattan. The stream is filled with fish and on average produces larger fish than it more popular sister river. Much of the river is fed by spring creeks. This helps the river maintain its flows through most of the winter. Stories of a 13 lb brown being surveyed by FWP linger in the back of your mind everytime you swing a streamer through a deep dark hole.
I like to explore the river as much as I can, but more often than not I ended up at the bridge crossing 5 minutes from my house. I then usually head down stream and start working the runs, riffles and undercuts that have become as familiar to me as a good friend. Some times I show up at dusk to fish the evening rise for an hour. Other times I am there at dawn. Many trips are just quick trips, and serve more or less as a means to "get it out of my system" so i can focus on other things. I often lay in bed at night and think about the deep undercut outside corner bends, mangled with roots and fallen trees. I imagine a goliath that in my mind inevitability stalks these waters. I have already named this fish actually, even though I have no evidence of its existence. I refer to this obsession as my quest to catch "The Beast of the East."
Now don't get me wrong. I am not exclusively a big fish person and the East Gallatin is not the river for anyone who is. It has its share of over-eager under-sized trout and on a slow freezing day in January you are very thankful for them. The fish you catch consistently are on average about 14 inches, with a few larger ones on good days.
Noah and my two daughters accompany me to the river at times. I think its great that instead of watching a bobber at the Bozeman Pond, my kids stalk wild trout on wild rivers. Noah catches 18 inch browns out of freestone streams, why go worm fishing for 6 inch blue gills.(We do do that sometimes when we have to).
Noah and I had a great day yesterday. We hiked about a mile down river and started fishing a good run at about 3:30 p.m. On my 3rd drift a good fish hammered my pheasant tail nymph. This fish hit so hard I would not have needed an indicator, I felt it big time. The fish gave me a pretty good fight. He took some line and had my rod tip bent hard. It turned out to be a healthy 16 inch rainbow, but he fought bigger than his size. So I released the fish and let Noah have a go. He had just bought a brand new gold Thomas Cyclone with his own money that day. He pitched the spoon across the head of the run and slowly began reeling across the current. About mid way his rod bent and he landed a beautiful healthy brown. We spent a few hours at this one spot and pulled several more fish out of it. The rise was on and I switched to an elk hair caddis. I couldn't get much action but I missed a good fish. I saw the brown role and miss the fly. I would guess this fish was 18-20". I never got him to rise again. The fish were more keyed on small PMD's and a size 16 parachute adams did the trick nicely.
So why do I deserve to call the East Gallatin "my spot?" Why do I deserve to get pist and cuss a little when I see cars parked by "my" section of river. Well I don't probably. But I guarantee the majority of the people fishing in "my river" have not payed their dues. I fished the east gallatin all but one weekend through the winter (completely frozen over) I have spent hours in 10 degree weather trying to dead drift miniscule nymphs through a 3 foot opening in the ice. I have lost countless streamers and crayfish patterns trying to lure "The Beast" from his fortress. I have skated mouse patterns along deep undercuts at midnight. I was skunked the first 5 times I fished the river and I kept coming back. I have dove into a deep pool to retrieve my stupid cell phone! Yes, I would like to say that I have at least earned a share in the wonderful stream named the East Gallatin.