Tag Archives: Branson

A Fishing Tale from Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri

Lake Taneycomo fishing boat
Lake Taneycomo fishing boat


“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.”


Fishing on Lake Taneycomo
Fishing on Lake Taneycomo

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.


Evan's catch near Branson Landing
Evan’s catch near Branson Landing

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.


Steve displays my catch
Steve displays my catch

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!


Debi catches rainbow trout in Lake Taneycomo.
Debi catches rainbow trout in Lake Taneycomo.

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.

Table Rock dam
Table Rock dam

For information on fishing with a guide:contact

Captain Steve Dickey

Disclosure:  Thanks to the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing my trip and fishing experience.


Explore Marvel Cave, Branson’s First Tourist Attraction

Sun rays enter Marvel Cave
Sun rays enter Marvel Cave

Fishing and a hole in the ground gave start to Branson‘s fame more than 100 years ago. Today, Branson, Missouri reigns as a highly popular Middle American tourist destination in the Ozark Mountains.  In fact, some seven to eight million folks visit the city of 10,000 residents each year.

The Osage Indians first discovered the cave they called Devil’s Den around 1500, but it wasn’t until the 1860’s that geologists began to explore. By the 1880’s adventurers would lower themselves on ropes 200 feet into the main chamber. One of those daring visitors was a newspaper publisher who began to spread the word about the cave’s natural beauty.

After the Civil War, a group of Union veterans formed a mining company hoping to profit from the rich bat guano that filled the cave. They also hoped to find marble, but the cave turned out to be limestone.

In 1894, William Henry Lynch, a Canadian mining expert, purchased the cave sight unseen. He opened it for public tours employing his two daughters as guides.

By the 1920’s the cave was a well-established attraction with newly built roads for tourists arriving by car or by hiking from a nearby train stop.

However, in 1946, the cave became the backbone of a new tourist attraction, a theme park. Chicagoans Hugo and Mary Herschend moved to the Ozark area and worked out a 99-year lease on Marvel Cave- as it had become known. Around the mid 1950’s they recreated an old mining town around the cave entrance to entertain guests and the structures grew into Silver Dollar City theme park.

While Silver Dollar City continues to boom and now encompasses 100 acres (showcasing a demonstrating colony of resident craftsmen and numerous rides) I wanted to explore Marvel Cave. A tour takes about an hour and involves some 750 steps up and down fifteen stories through some narrow, slippery passageways. I entered the massive main chamber where shafts of light penetrate the walls from a sinkhole opening in the ground. The sun’s illumination glowed with what many photographers call “God rays”.

Formations within Marvel Cave,    Branson, MO
Formations within Marvel Cave, Branson, MO



I proceeded down stairs into an immense Cathedral Room that belittles you with its staggering proportions: 204 feet high, 225 feet wide, and 411 feet long. The chamber is so large that five hot air balloons once flew inside as a stunt.

My tour continued past some stalactites and stalagmites but the cavern is not as beautiful as some I have toured. The delight is walking through the huge open airy underground world and seeing a lovely waterfall- 505 feet below ground level. This sight is worthy of the cave’s name and is truly marvelous.

Marvel Cave visitors in the main chamber.
Marvel Cave visitors in the main chamber.

However, you must then climb up numerous flights and by the time you reach the end, you are happy a cable train waits to assist the final ascent back to the woodsy hills of the theme park.
I regret I did not have time to ride Silver Dollar City’s newest roller coaster ride. The Outlaw Run features the first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster that twists upside down with three inversions. On second thought, maybe I don’t regret it.

Be sure to explore Marvel Cave.

Marvel Cave Waterfall
Marvel Cave Waterfall

Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I got there, I was amazed: more theatre seats than Broadway and all of them reasonably priced, free parking, clean mountain air, and a bit of corny humor.

Branson is a small city in Missouri (resident population about 10,000) with a big heart; they aim to please and often do—but it’s not for everyone.  Cosmopolitan, sophisticated or diversified it is not.  But handicapped accessible, family friendly and affordable it reigns.

Recently returned from Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas where the city wide festival (which began November first) runs through mid-December. Look carefully at show schedules from December 15-31st.  Many of the performers take time off for their personal holidays.

Branson is not afraid to flaunt its Christian philosophy, patriotism or hillbilly roots. Tourism began to develop in the 1940’s when the book The Shepherd of the Hills was made into a movie starring John Wayne. Visitors flocked to the area wanting to see the Ozarks for themselves. Over the years, more and more families were attracted and the city boomed by adding country music performances. The shows expanded and Branson now hosts eight million visitors each year.

Main Street bustles with a variety of retailers like Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10, craft shops, boutique fashions and restaurants. Route 76  passes most of the 50 plus theatres- ranging from small one-man shows to the over-powering Sight and Sound stage.  To accommodate customer needs, some shows start as early as 10 am and give multiple performances throughout the day.

Beyond live entertainment, the activity options change with the season, as does the crowd.  College students arrive on Spring break, families descend in the summer, and mature visitors come by the busload favoring the fall and holiday season.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

In summer, the lakes provide excellent fishing grounds, water sports, boating (including a double wheeled paddleboat) and relaxation. Golfers choose among half a dozen courses while hikers and bikers find paved walking paths in Dogwood Canyon to woodsy nature trails. Horseback and ATV trails are also popular.

Thrill seekers venture up the 200 foot Shepherd of the Hills Tower for the Vigilante Ziprider. The riders zoom half a mile down at speeds reaching 50 miles per hour. (I tried this attraction and found it to be a blast!)

Vigalante Ziprider

Fall foliage rightfully brings out shutterbugs and those who enjoy the beautiful mountains in full color. The town slows down only in January and February when most of the venues work behind the scenes to  produce new shows.

For entertainment value and Christmas spirit, head to Branson. It’s not too late to revel in some holiday magic.


Explore Branson: www.explorebranson.com.