By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – Any weekend in July is a big one for fly fishing on the Gallatin River, but the collective enthusiasm for the sport crescendos July 23 and 24 during the fifth annual Gallatin River Fly Fishing Festival.
This summer, the Gallatin River Task Force added a new component to the event schedule: Hooked on the Gallatin, a multi-day youth camp designed to inspire a lifelong passion for fly fishing and river conservation.
In the days leading up to the festival, local guides taught area youth essential fly-fishing skills such as knot and fly tying, casting, reading water, fish-handling etiquette, and safe wading techniques. Activities focused on entomology, native fish species, catch-and-release principles, leave-no-trace ethics, and trout habitat—all highlighting the importance of river conservation.
“We wanted to add a kids’ element to the fly fishing festival,” said Kristin Gardner, executive director of Gallatin River Task Force. “Connecting with children about the importance of river protection fosters a sense of stewardship at a young age.”
The purpose of the festival is to celebrate fly fishing on the Gallatin and connect the community to the rivers, fish and riparian habitats that are vital to the sport. It also raises funds to support GRTF projects to protect Big Sky’s local waterways.
“The Gallatin is facing increasing pressure from the growth in and around the Big Sky community,” Gardner said. “Threats include excess nutrients and algae from wastewater, fine sediment from construction activities and road sediment, and degraded riparian areas from increased river use.”
All proceeds from this year’s festival will benefit two large-scale stream restoration projects slated to begin this fall. GRTF will be enhancing vegetation and stabilizing stream banks at 15 sites on the Upper West Fork to reduce nutrient and sediment loading to the river and improve water quality. Similar work, in addition to the installation of a boat ramp and trail system, will be conducted at the Moose Creek river access in Gallatin Canyon.
The weekend festivities kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill with the Hooked on the Gallatin banquet. The evening will feature the Riverhouse’s famous barbecue, Natalie’s Estate wine, live acoustic music, a live and silent auction, and a late night show by Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs.
Patrons have a chance to “win a guide” and fish with them Sunday morning in the Great Gallatin Guide-Off competition. Other prizes include a Land of the Giants trip for two on the Missouri River with Gallatin River Guides; a multi-day rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Boundary Expeditions; Nordic ski passes at Lone Mountain Ranch; and many more.
Following a morning on the river, the celebration continues Sunday at noon in Town Center Park with a casting competition, product demonstrations, casting clinics, fly tying, kids’ activities, guided nature trips to the river, and educational booths.
Visit gallatinriverflyfishingfestival.com for a full schedule of events.