“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.