As luck would have it, Vickie and I headed out for our Missouri vacation on the hottest day of the year….in fact, it might well have been one of the hottest June days ever recorded; either way it is a long way across Illinois when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees! I spent as much time watching the temperature gauge on my Suburban as I did anything else along the way. All went very well and we ended up spending the night in Sullivan, Missouri at Meramec State Park and woke early to finish our drive on down to Branson where we would spend the next few days.
As we turned off of highway 65 onto 165 and headed towards Table Rock State Park I had a thought…any chance that they wouldn’t be generating at Taneycomo? In the back of my mind I had high hopes but realistically it was over 100 and a weekday and I knew that generation would be keeping up with the many air conditioners that would be running. As we topped the scenic view that overlooks Branson and Taneycomo I snatched a peak and to my shock I could see that the water was down…no generation? How could this be? Immediately I was exhilarated for a chance to fish the hallowed waters of this great stream…or lake…or both; you see Taneycomo is both a stream and a lake. When no or little generation occurs it is a stream, but when they up the generators to more than one turbine…well, let’s just say that there is very little wade fishing that can be done safely.
It was 10am and I knew that if my luck continued I could be in the river in under an hour and that was just the case as I stepped foot into the clear pristine water of Taneycomo at a little after 11am. Now…I have to say that in the past I have fished Taneycomo very well and didn’t expect to do anything less. I took my 3 weight and floating line and tied on an olive wooly bugger and started casting. A few minutes went by and I had had no hits, zero…but I told myself to relax that shortly they will start to feed. Shortly turned into an hour and I had managed only one trout and a few strikes. Now, I began to worry and wonder? I knew it was high noon and trout don’t like light. It was also very hot…but the water temperature stays a cool 48 degrees year round? The more I thought the less I caught and after another hour I had landed a whole two fish. My legs were cold and my upper half was burning up…especially my head and ego, so I turned tail and headed back to the camper.
I have to admit that getting fooled by a fish that has a brain smaller than a thimble doesn’t suit me well…so, I put every fly I owned into my fly vest and waited until 8:30pm when generation for the day ceased and in a matter of minutes I was once again in the middle of the stream. I decided to go small and tied on a size 12 blue crackleback and bang on the first cast I had a hit. Next cast and I had landed my first fish of the night in only a minute or so. One thing led to another and in about 45 minutes I landed 7 more trout, the last one requiring me to use my landing net as it was a healthy 15 incher. The last few fish I caught I had switched to a small, grey wooly tied on a size 10 hook and the fish chased it like I hadn’t seen all day!
Saturday morning found me up early and off to the stream. I checked my watch and it was 5:20am. I looked around and I had the entire place to myself (minus a few herons and a batch of geese). I stripped out several feet of line and made a cross stream cast and had just made two small strips when I felt the hit and tightened up on my first trout of the day. The next hour was magical and I landed 12 nice rainbows and one brown…several of the rainbows were over 15 inches and gave me quite a tussle on 4X tippet. By 8:25am I had netted 25 trout and decided to make my way back to the camper for some breakfast.
As I walked the half mile back up to the parking area I felt a little spring in my step. Ole Mr. Trout had won the first battle but I had stayed the course and in the end I have to say I felt pretty good about my morning and my triumph over the trout of Taneycomo.
Now you may think Branson is for shows…or for lovers…but I am here to tell you it is for fishing; OK there is a lot of other things to do, but if you want to do battle with a truly noble fish then the next time you make it to southern Missouri be sure to pack your fishing gear, a little perseverance and I think you too may find what an awesome experience awaits for us all as we Enjoy the Great Outdoors.