By Steve Weisman
Vacations are fun. Plain and simple, they give us a time to relax, get away and explore new areas. One of the favorite trip destinations for my wife and me is 10 hours south: Branson, MO.
We meet two couples, Bill and Diane Elling from Estherville and John and Joanne Amick from Oelwein, and spend several days enjoying a “dichotomy of trips,” so to speak. First there is all of the action of the Branson Strip bustling with its fine music (over 100 shows), dining, shopping and sight-seeing. At the same time, go just a few blocks off and Branson becomes a “kick back and relax” resort destination for all ages, the perfect place to unwind and just enjoy the scenery.
Then there is Lake Taneycomo, one of the finest trout fisheries in the country, winding its way through the heart of Branson. Since water flows into Lake Taneycomo from the 160-foot depth of Table Rock Lake, the average water temperature is 48 degrees. That’s perfect for a trout fishery.
Bill, John and I have returned to fish Lake Taneycomo several times, and this November was no different. With average temperatures in the mid to upper 50s, we have found this to be a good time for one more open water fishing trip before returning to the ice fishing of northwest Iowa.
However, if you will remember, the week of November 16-21 was extremely cold in northwest Iowa. The cold front followed us right down to Branson. Daytime highs were in the upper 20s to mid-30s all week until finally on Thursday it warmed into the midi-40s (although the morning started at 22 degrees!).
Our guide was to be a good friend, longtime Branson educator and custom fishing rod builder (www.larzangler.com), Mark DeVore. He spends a lot of time on Lake Taneycomo and knows the best trout spots. We wanted to rent a boat for the day, and I knew just the place.
An assist from Lilleys’ Landing
Lilleys’ Landing Resort and Marina (www.lilleyslanding.com) is the perfect place for trout anglers. Lilleys’ provides anglers with updated news, a complete fly and tackle shop and boat rentals. They also offer guided fishing trips with some of the area’s most accomplished anglers. Only five minutes from the Branson Strip, Lilleys’ Landing also offers great lodging ranging from one to four-bedroom condo-style units both lakefront and off-lake. Guests staying at Lilleys’ Landing catch a lot of trout right from their docks. There are also lake access areas that anglers can also fish from shore.
It’s hard to believe that it can be so quiet and peaceful at Lilleys’ Landing and so busy on the Strip.
Working with Megan Cummings, Marketing Coordinator for Lilley’s Landing, we were able to rent the perfect boat for four of us: a fishing pontoon. That gave us a long and wide platform perfect for both spin casting and fly casting.
The nice thing about Lake Taneycomo is that there are trout located all along miles and miles of river. From the trophy (artificial bait only) area near the dam – all the way down toward downtown Branson, there are trout. With over 700,000 trout stocked each year (11 inches or longer), the catch rate is awesome.
Mark had brought along fly rods for us to use, and we had also brought our own spin casting outfits with 2 and 4 pound mono. Mark likes to use a small cork (strike indicator) about 7-8 feet above a small pink hair jig. He has perfected the roll cast from a boat, and he led the way showing us little cuts, and snags, and bars and drop-offs that would hold fish. We tied tiny ice fishing jigs on the spin casting outfits and put our bobbers at the depth Mark suggested. John had brought a Trout Magnet package with him (dark red plastic threaded on a gold jig) that produced well.
I chose to go with a 1/64-ounce white Clam Drop jig tipped with either a pink or white Maki (Jamei) plastic.
Our day of fishing started at 9 a.m. It was cold (22 degrees) and fishing was slow. The Corp of Engineers was letting out water at a pretty good clip, but then they stopped the flow, causing the current to stop. The lake dropped, and the fish quit biting. After four hours, the four of us had only caught half a dozen fish. As for me, I was a big goose egg at that point! Boy was I getting razzed!
Then about 1:30, the trout came out of their doldrums. All of the tactics that hadn’t worked for four hours began to work (isn’t that the way fishing is). Over the next hour and a half, we boated over 30 rainbows with several ranging from 15-16 inches in length. We could have caught more, but Mark had to teach a late afternoon class, so we needed to leave.
Thanks to Mark and Megan at Lilleys’ Landing, we had a great outing. You can bet we’ll be back in another year!