“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope,” said John Buchan, a Scottish politician and I suspect, an avid fisherman. Although I had never devoted a day to fishing, I was about to let a chance opportunity become the occasion.
Sure, I’d dropped a line off a dock as a child and helped my own kids do the same, but a dedicated outing on a fishing boat – nope; never happened for me until a trip to Branson, Missouri. Little did I know the Ozark lakes ranked as some of the best fishing grounds in the United States or that Lake Taneycomo was known as the “Trout Capital of America.”
I’m told true fishermen start at sunrise but my group finagled a late start- around 9:30 on a sunny morning. Not the optimal conditions to make things happen, but I was excited about angling.
We arrived lakeside at Lilley’s Landing, a cozy little resort and outfitter that offers lodging as well as a store, docks and restrooms. After obtaining a license, Steve Dickey, a professional guide, took me and another colleague out in his Tracker Grizzly, commonly referred to as a bay boat.
Steve maneuvered downstream to an area near Branson Landing, a $300 million addition of trendy shops and restaurants to Branson’s downtown. Steve felt the fish were hiding near the buildings overhanging the water.
I should add that Lake Taneycomo is stocked with 750,000 trout each year, so the odds run favorable. About 15 minutes later I got a bite and screamed with excitement (perhaps a little too loud) as I began to reel in my catch. Alas, I lost the fish as it neared the boat.
We continued to cast lines for another hour with no luck, and then moved on to an area that was very shallow. I said “we” although must admit Steve did the casting which is a thing of beauty the way he performs. He flexes the rod and the line releases, gently arcing through the air before entering the water. Evan, the other fisherman on my boat put me to shame. Evan cast on his own and caught and released three, but I got no nibbles. Our boat returned to Lilley’s for lunch with my sorrowful negative score.
Steve assured me all his guests catch at least one fish and promised I would be successful and have a photo to prove it. In fact, Steve is sure so he will guide his clients to the fish, he offers a money back guarantee. So far…he has never had to return a customer’s money. Pretty impressive, I’d say.
We employed a different tactic after lunch- bumping along the bottom near Table Rock Dam. Steve said that trout are five times more likely to die if caught and released on natural bait, so we used his artificial flies. The massive Table Rock Lake was created in 1958 by construction of a 252 foot high dam. The view from below reminded me of a scene in the movie The Fugitive; the one where Harrison Ford is being chased and makes a reckless leap from a dauntingly tall dam. The water that flows over Table Rock dam into Lake Taneycomo is cold because it comes from the bottom of the 160-foot deep lake. Trout prefer cold water, so this makes Lake Taneycomo fertile grounds.
Within a minute (no kidding) I had my first catch- an approximate two and a half pound rainbow trout. Steve unhooked the lure and took my picture. Then, he placed the fish back in the water and got my line ready again. Soon — I had another!
How fun was this? Number two rainbow trout turned up to be about the same size as the first. Over and over again the scenario repeated itself. I let the line hit the bottom and bounce along briefly and then nabbed another. I began to feel the difference between a bite and a line snag. However, I regret the loss of two flies to those snags.
By quitting time I had caught 13 rainbow trout and that’s no fishy tale. The elusive had been attained.
For information on fishing with a guide:contact
Disclosure: Thanks to the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing my trip and fishing experience.
El Galeón, (The Galleon) replicates a massive 170-foot long wooden 16th-century ship from Spain’s West Indies fleet. Pedro Menendez, founder of St. Augustine sailed the San Pelayo, a ship similar to El Galeón, however, Juan Ponce de Leon and Magellan used smaller vessels (called caravels) to explore. Spanish galleons were used to transport troops of men, animals, munitions and supplies between the Caribbean, Spain and the New World. As many of 300 men might have been onboard.
As part of the yearlong Viva Florida 500 celebration, El Galeón and her crew retraced the route of La Florida discoverer Ponce de Leon across the Atlantic to Puerto Rico then up along the Florida coast. The voyage took 22 days using technology of the past era and covered more than 900 nautical miles.
I went out to greet the ship as she arrived in the Matanzas’s Inlet from the Black Raven, a pirate ship that operates daily cruises from the St. Augustine marina. The Black Raven fired welcoming canon blasts.
El Galeón is one huge boat; I questioned whether the masts would fit between the openings of the Bridge of Lions. She entered the harbor with onboard power because the replica operates under majestic full sail only when out at sea – or in Captain Morgan rum commercials.
I boarded her the next morning by climbing up a steep gangplank. Polished wood gleamed from every surface and smelled of varnish. I discovered the ship’s wheel, the only way to steer the craft directly below the poop (uppermost) deck. Because this vessel was built just three years ago, modern navigational equipment is required, but hidden from view.
Three masts support seven sails with 10,010 square feet of sail area. Raising the sails takes a crew of at least 20 over an hour. Currently crew consists of 18 men and two women, one who is the chef.
I took in the view of St. Augustine imagining a voyage that was likely quite unpleasant. You can also go below deck and see numerous canons and further below to watch a video. There’s 3,444 square feet of visiting area on six decks.
Information and tickets for El Galeón are available at www.vivaflorida.org or at ticket booths at Ripley’s Red Train Tours and the St. Augustine Visitors Information Center. Tickets are $8 for children age 12 to 6 years and $15 for adults. Children age 5 and under are free. The ship will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the St. Augustine City Marina. Hurry, El Galeón is only in town until June 3rd.
Fact: Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew first sighted and named the land La Florida on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, and sailed north. They came ashore on Florida’s east coast in 1513. The exact spot was not documented causing a few municipalities in Northeast Florida to vie for the honor.
Fact: Historical documents show that on April 2, 1513, Ponce de León’s navigator logged the ship’s position at 30 degrees 8 minutes — just south of Ponte Vedra Beach and just north of St. Augustine – my hometown.
Fact: Florida was then the first place Europeans arrived in what is now the continental United States and therefore, may claim the longest recorded history of any state in America.
With the 1565 founding of St. Augustine by Spaniard Pedro Menendez, Florida settlements predate Jamestown Virginia (1607) and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts (1620) by a significant margin.
The above historical facts are the core behind the celebration of Viva Florida 500; a statewide initiative to showcase 500 years of Florida’s history and diverse heritage. Viva Florida 500 hopes to reintroduce Florida as the Gateway to the America’s and the first place in the nation where old and new world cultures first came together.
Who was Ponce de León?
Ponce was born in the village of San Tervás de Campos in the province of Valladolid, Spain in 1474. He became a page to the prince of Castile who later became King Ferdinand of Castile. Ponce was a soldier, a sailor and explorer who lived from 1474 to 1521.
What did Ponce de Leon do?
In 1493, as a young man, Ponce de León was aboard one of the fleets of Spanish ships in what became known as Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. The expedition established a permanent Spanish colonial presence in the New World.
As a prominent Spaniard, Ponce eventually was named Governor of Puerto Rico by King Ferdinand in 1511. Then on March 13, 1513, under a license the King granted him to explore and discover lands reputed to lie to the north of Hispaniola and the Island of Bimini. Ponce set sail with a crew of 200-including women and free blacks on two caravels, Santiago and Santa María de la Consolación; and a galley like craft, the San Cristóbal. They sailed up the eastern coast of Florida before doubling back and exploring some of the western side. They also discovered the Gulf Stream.
Ponce returned to Spain, was knighted and given a coat of arms – the first conquistador to receive these honors.. He made a second trip to Florida in 1521. It was on this latter expedition that he was wounded by natives and died shortly thereafter in Cuba. He is associated with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, although it is likely that he was not actively looking for it.