Last week, I was able to sneak out one afternoon
for some trout fishing in the Table Rock dam
tailwater of Lake Taneycomo, located in my
hometown of Branson, Missouri. Now, it would
probably be a good idea for me to describe a
typical Spring-time day of wade fishing in the
Trophy Trout Management Zone of Taneycomo before
A typical afternoon of fishing this
water will yield me two to four fish per hour
that average out to about fourteen inches each.
Generally, they'll all be Rainbows. I may catch
one Brown. In spring, there's quite a bit of
sporadic generation from the dam, so water levels
and flow rates can vary widely. These rapidly
changing habitat conditions cause the fish to
become somewhat difficult to pattern. The fish
feed well on a variety of nymphs including scuds,
midges, egg patterns, and pheasant tails. In the
afternoons, they take soft hackle emergers and
even the occasional dry fly, with the Mosquito
Midge being my personal favorite. Generally
speaking, when the water is running I fish with
beadhead or flashback pheasant tail nymphs.
Such was the case on this afternoon's outing.
The dam had been generating pretty much all day
every day for about a week and the water level
was running about 707 feet above sea level. At
this level and with two generators running, there
are still some good holes accessible by careful
wading and wader-clad anglers become pretty scarce.
That's a combination I like, and one I know to
often yield larger fish. So off I went.
I entered the stream at one of my favorite haunts
in such conditions and began presenting my best
rendition of a drag-free drift with a size sixteen
beadhead pheasant tail, certain I would hook up in
short order. But there was nothing doing. I could
see the fish where there, but they seemed to not be
feeding at all. After about twenty or thirty minutes
of my best efforts with the pheasant tail nymph and
the total absence of other anglers, I decided to try
some "new water" just downstream.
There was a stretch of slow water over some grass
beds and gravel bars within easy walking distance
of my current spot. This stretch of several hundred
yards of water rarely gets fished on high water.
But I had wanted to try it for a while, and today
was as good a day as any for the experiment. So I
rolled up my line and waded out of the stream and
onto the trail.
Coming to a little feeder stream flowing down into
the main channel, I decided to leave the trail and
give it a try. I could see a few respectable twelve
to fifteen inch Rainbows loafing in the gin-clear
water in the feeder creek bed out of the current.
Why not? I waded carefully into the water upstream
and adjacent to the loafing fish, adjusted the depth
of my indicator, and carefully made my first cast in
such a way as to drift across the little creek bed at
a forty-five degree angle in front of two Rainbows
hiding next to a clump of grass. I had miscalculated
my drift a bit, and the indicator and the fly below
it drifted down the far side of the grass clump where
the Rainbows I was targeting would not see it. And
the indicator disappeared with the suddenness that
generally means a take! I set the hook a bit
tentatively, thinking I might be hung in the grass.
But the line came out from behind the grass heading
upstream with the tension and motion that could only
mean one thing. There was a trout on the end of that
line! And, yes, I was a bit surprised...pleasantly
Adding to my growing satisfaction was the fact
that line began stripping off of my reel against
the drag. It was a good fish! Fifteen seconds
into the fight, I still had not gotten a glimpse
of this guy, but I could feel his head shaking
violently through the rod as he darted upstream
and away from where I stood in the stream. I took
a deep breath and cleared my head for the task of
landing what I now suspected to be a pretty darned
Roughly ten minutes later, I hauled a twenty-three
and one-half inch Brown trout into my net. This
was the largest Brown I had ever caught! I heard
myself saying, "Yes! Yes!" out loud and laughing.
The fish in my net easily weighed in excess of four
pounds and probably would tip the scales at five.
A very respectable trout for any fishery.
It is legal to keep Brown trout twenty inches or
longer from Taneycomo, but the thought never even
entered my mind. I quickly removed the hook and
hefted the fish gently to feel his weight. Then
I released him back into the waters from whence
After wading downstream to yet another hole I
discovered along my journey into new territory,
I landed my only other fish of the day...a
nineteen-inch Rainbow fully-adorned in his best
courting clothes. His red stripe was so bold
it almost glowed beneath the surface of the water.
Heading home that evening in my old Jeep, I
silently congratulated myself for daring to
try something new…for exploring the previously
unproven stretch of water that I had rarely
seen another angler venture into. And I made
a mental note to myself that when the proven
methods and tactics aren't producing results,
it's often a good idea to try something new
and different…whether in regard to fishing,
or not. And I was reminded of the motto of
the British Secret Air Service: "Who Dares, Wins."
Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University
in 1988, and spent the next several years serving
in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst
and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran
of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the
nation's service in 1993.
Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian,
having penned articles and stories that have appeared
in several national hunting publications like North
American Hunter magazine, on GunMuse.com, in regional
and local newspapers, and historical and literary
journals. He also provides hunting and dog training
seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods
retailers nationwide and works with other outdoors
businesses and conservation organizations in the
fields of public relations, promotional marketing,
fund-raising, and advertising. He also is a partner
in Silver Mallard Properties, LLC. He currently
resides with his wife, Wilma, their Weimaraner,
Smoky Joe, and their Labrador Retriever, Jake, in
Branson, Missouri, where he founded the
Branson/Tri-Lakes Chapter of Ducks Unlimited in 1998.