KW Morrow, White River

April 19th, 2004

Life Lessons from a Trout Stream
By KW Morrow (silvermallard)

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 I proceed.

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 surprised.

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 big trout.

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 he came.

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

About Ken:

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.


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