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  • Phil Lilley
    I apologize.  It's been too long since my last report.  I have started writing fishing reports several times in the past weeks only to pause for a day and then see that details in the report had changed and weren't valid anymore.  But excuses aside, none of us had fished enough to have had a good handle on the latest and our guides had not been booked consistently.   But here goes another effort.
    Generation has been erratic and unpredictable for the most part.  We have had more days with no generation this past week, more than we've had all year.  The anglers who love to wade below the dam rejoice, but those who like to fish from boats have been challenged to locate the bite, especially when the weather's been bright and sunny with very little wind.  It's been an early and late bite when the sun is low on the horizon.
    Dam operators have been running water some afternoons.  Best chance for that is during the week, not weekends.  Weekends, they're leaving the water off.  If they do run water, the amount has varied from one to four  units.  Yes, they've ran as much as 200 megawatts, which is a lot of water for this time of year.  The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers has to pump a lot of liquid oxygen into the turbines to run that much.
    On the subject of dissolved oxygen, our tailwater, every fall, has issues with low D.O. level in the water flowing from Table Rock Lake.  It's not new.  I've written about it extensively.  But what I have to report is good news for our fishery this fall season.  At 130 foot deep on Table Rock at the dam, there is water there with D.O. readings at two parts per million (ppm) which is great for this time of year!  The water temperature is 51-52 degrees which is also very good.  The colder the water stays, the better is holds O2  and keeps our trout healthy and strong.  Our lake condition is nothing like last year which was the worse year on record.
    As mentioned before in this report, during days when there's no generation, fishing is best early and late.  Our guides are reporting the bite gets really tough after 9 a.m. and picks back up after 6 p.m..  Now this changes if we have one of two conditions -- wind and/or clouds.  Wind breaks up the surface of the water, and the fish don't feel exposed and will feed.  Clouds do basically the same thing.  But if they run any water at all, that changes everything.  Moving water stimulates good feeding patterns for fish because there's food in the water moving down lake.  Holding trout won't usually turn down an easy meal.
    First, bait fishing.  Our water is pretty clear, so light line is a must.  We've seen people throwing some pretty heavy line off the dock lately and bottom line -- they're just fishing, not catching.  Even freshly stocked trout can see swivels attached to hooks and 10-pound line running from a glob of Powerbait.  You might catch a couple, but if you want to catch more trout, you have to use light line.  Two-pound is best.  Four-pound is okay.  Green line or clear line best.
    Air-injected night crawlers are catching more browns than Powerbaits.  But rainbows are taking floating Gulp and Powerbait dough and eggs fairly well.  The best colors have been pink and chartreuse and sunrise egg, too.  Dock fishing has been fair early and late.  Some mornings have really been good though with some nice rainbows being caught off the upper end of the dock.
    Out in boats, just below Fall Creek has been a good area for catching some rainbows that  seemed to have traveled out of the trophy area.  One 21-inch rainbow came in today caught just below the boundary on bait.  The Short Creek area to Trout Hollow has been good and then down at the Landing.  One angler reported seeing dozens and dozens of rainbows surfacing this morning at the Landing, signifying a load of trout have been stocked there in the last couple of days.
    Leaves are starting to fall on the lake's surface and that always attracts trout.  That also creates problems for boaters.  When we check out our boats in the fall, we advise the operator that floating leaves will gather on the front side of a motor as the boat is underway, creating cavitation.  Air gets sucked down to the prop making the motor  rev up as if the prop had spun or the motor had jumped out of gear.  The remedy is to stop the boat dead in the water, then put the motor in reverse and blow the leaves out.
    We'll start to see trout hang around groups of leaves in the lake, picking off small insects that come off the leaves.  We target these fish using small Zebra Midges under a small indicator, either fishing with a fly rod or spin rod.  It's fun!  Black has been a good color for us either with a black or copper head, size #14, #16 or #18, 6x or 7x tippet.  Fish a couple of midges 12 inches apart, with the first fly only 12 inches deep.
    Anglers are reporting that most of the time the "bite" is very, very slight.  The trout are coming up and "tasting" the fly, taking it in their mouth without moving with it.  This only vibrates the indicator.  You have to watch the indicator closely, and if it moves, be quick to set the hook because the trout will spit the fly as soon as he realizes it's thread and metal, not organic.
    Zebras can be used anywhere and everywhere on the lake, not just in the trophy area.

    Fly fishing below the dam has been so limited all year because of constant generation, so the only areas people have had to fish are around the outlets and a few other small spots.  But that's changing, and anglers are responding in big numbers reportedly packing in from the cable past Trophy Run.  But I'm hearing glowing reports of nice quality rainbows and browns being caught on a variety of flies.
    My friend Brian and his wife waded in below outlet #2 and fished a Harvester Midge and caught a few big browns.  Brian said his wife landed her best brown trout to date, about 19 inches.  Brian landed one about six pounds.  Those are some nice trout and a good indicator of what fishing might be through September and October.
    Brown trout are definitely starting to move up in the lake.  Anglers up around the outlets are seeing more and more show up plus people fishing the lower trophy area are catching a few good ones.  We'll see browns move up and out for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
    Since I couldn't sleep past 3:30 this morning, I walked down to the dock office to get some work done.  There was a slight fog on the lake which tempted me to go out.  After a few tasks, I headed up lake in the Grizzly with no trouble seeing where I was headed.
    Some guys who fished with guides yesterday told me they'd seen a couple big browns in the Narrows, so that's where I wanted to at least start.  I figured I had two hours all to myself, and I was close --  the first boat came through at 7:30 a.m. which gave me three hours.
    The full moon was hidden by clouds, but I could see pretty well.  Thinking brown trout, I tied on a tan sculpin, then a big articulated streamer.  I had two hits on the streamer, but they were small fish.  Not until I tied on a purple, beaded Mo Hair Leech did the action start.
    I caught a dozen rainbows up to 16 inches on the leech, casting it at a 45-degree angle downstream.  There was a slight current most of the time I fished there.  The strikes were fast and solid -- I didn't miss many bites.  But no browns.
    The streamer bite subsided as it got light, so I switched to a Zebra Midge under a small indicator.  The best one was a #16 red with a dark head fished about two-feet deep in the channel.  I tried to cast to some feeding trout in shallow water, but they were too spooky.
    Next was a #16 tan scud, but nothing was interested.  I had to try a jig, so I tied on a 1/16th-ounce sculpin/burnt orange with a brown head, two-pound line and caught rainbows pretty consistently for about 30 minutes.
    I worked on down towards Fall Creek fishing the scud, then back to the midge, but couldn't scrounge a nibble.  I pulled out the jig again and caught four rainbows before heading in.
    Yes, I filmed this morning after it grew light enough for the camera, and I planned to edit a compilation for this report.  However, when I returned to the dock, a young man was fishing with his family and wanted to see us do One Cast.  I even videoed him catching a trout off the dock using a pink worm under a float.
    I was setting everything up, adjusting the camera on the mount when the GoPro came unscrewed and dropped into the lake.  Straight down.
    We thought we could retrieve it with a net, but there's a lot of sticks and leaves down on the lake bottom.  Matt, from our office, repeatedly dove down and tried to retrieve it, too -- even without a wet suit at first, but . . . as of publish time, no camera.

  • Phil Lilley
    This is all leading up to my fishing report for late August and a forecast for the coming weeks of fishing on our lake. August has been nothing less than excellent fishing and continues to improve! There are several unique factors I can point to that have helped.Our water temperature coming from Table Rock is still below 50 degrees. That's pretty unusual for this time of year. Oxygen levels are also high for August which we can also partly attribute to low water temperatures. Cooler water holds O2 better than warm temperatures. This is, in part, due to the lack of heavy generation during this spring and summer at Table Rock Dam. Table Rock simply has been able to hold cold water, deep within its main body, through the summer.
    In years past, even in 2015, heavy generation in the spring and summer pulled cold water out of Table Rock at 130 feet deep, which was replaced by warmer, surface water. Oxygen was quickly depleted by decaying debris on the bottom of the lake (things rot faster in warm conditions versus cold conditions.) We haven't seen this happen in 2016, so we are in much better shape going into the fall season.
    Now that we have our science class out of the way, we can talk about fishing. First, there seems to be an abundance of rainbows in the lake right now. In earlier reports, we directed anglers down lake from our resort to find schools of rainbows from Monkey Island clear down to Rockaway Beach. There are fish still being caught in those areas, but we have seen a good number of trout up in our area of the lake now and even further up lake to Fall Creek.
    Second, as I've mentioned before, our midge hatches are absolutely huge in the mornings and evenings, (making a mess on our dock) but giving our trout lots to eat.
    We have seen a change in the way rainbows act, where they hold in the water, since these huge hatches started back in late July. We have to look at the life cycle of a midge to understand why.
    Most people are familiar with the life cycle of mosquitoes. You leave a can of rainwater outside more than a week and you'll find tiny worm-like larvae swimming around in your can. The midge is exactly the same. Eggs lie at the bottom of the lake in silt, mud or gravel and hatch into a larva "worm" which makes (swims) its way to the surface. Once there, it attaches itself to the surface film and begins another change. In this stage, its called a pupa. The midge then crawls out of its shell and emerges onto the surface of the water. It starts to move its wings, drying them to enable flight.

    Trout target all three stages of larva, pupa and adult dry but in different ways. The larvae are easy to pick up off the bottom, but trout seem to have an easier time taking the pupa once it starts making its way to the surface.  Common sense says it's brighter up top, and they can see them better. I also assume the pupa tend to slow down their ascent as they approach the surface, bunching up to make it even easier for the trout to gulp in greater quantities.
    That's what we're seeing on our lake right now. We are finding rainbows, and some browns, closer to the surface rather down deep on the bottom. Duane Doty threw a 1/16th-ounce jig off our dock a few weeks ago and immediately caught a trout -- then another, and another. It was a revelation, at least for us, that these trout wanted a small profile lure, moved quickly and close to the surface of the water. We've been fishing this way ever since and doing better than we've done all summer.
    This theory was highlighted by yesterday's trout tournament results. The winners caught their trout on 1/16th-ounce jigs working the inside bank from the mouth of Fall Creek to Short Creek, the shallow side of the lake.
    This doesn't mean you can't fish deeper or on the bottom to catch trout. Right now, as I type this report, I'm watching one of our guides slowly drift down in front of our dock; his clients are using a jig-and-float rig using a pink trout worm and fishing it seven-feet deep -- and consistently catching fish.
    Speaking of Berkley pink trout worms, if you're coming to Taneycomo and want to use these worms, buy them before you get here, either at your local tackle store or online because they are all sold out within 60 miles of Branson, and even our wholesalers are out. They're a HOT item.
    Our water is very, very clear right now which isn't unusual for this time of year. So think about either spooling your reels with two-pound line or adding a tippet section to the end of your line to help hide your line. Simply put, you'll catch more fish on two-pound line versus four-pound. If you want to throw small 1/16th-ounce jig, you'll need small diameter line.

    Generation patterns have not changed much all summer. Dam operators continue to run at least 30 megawatts of water (about 1/2 unit) at 704-5 feet with very few periods of down water. They're running this slow water at night, in the mornings and a little into the afternoon, then kicking on up to four units until about 7 p.m. It seems like the amount of high release depends on power demand, or how hot it gets in the afternoon. Weekends, the flow stays at about 30 megawatts day and night.
    Wading below the dam is not impossible during this low flow, but you need some knowledge of how the land lays before getting out and navigating the tailwater. The water isn't too deep or too fast to fish the edges as long as you can get to and fish without brush and trees getting in the way.
    Midges are hot up below the dam, too, but scuds are just as good, along with woolies, pine squirrels, sculpins, soft hackles and even beetles and ants. We're starting to see trout look up and feed on dries especially in slack water and the edge of eddies.
    I was speaking to Kris Nelson, one of our fishing guides, this morning, and he reports seeing a good number of big brown trout already up in the stretch between Big Hole and the boat ramp. He's also catching (and releasing) more 20-inch and bigger rainbows than he has in past years.
    The Missouri Department of Conservation performed its annual survey last week on Taneycomo. Agents man two electro-shocking boats and cover as much water as they can between Rebar and Short Creek. They take trout that are stunned by the electric current, measure and weigh them and return them to the water. Shane Bush, MDC fisheries biologist, told me they were very pleased with the number of quality trout in the lake. He said the trout looked very healthy. He will issue his report shortly and we'll be sure to post it on our websites.
    We're seeing a little bit of dry fly action. Trout are starting to take beetles, ants and hoppers along some bluff banks but only in a few spots. This should get even better as fall approaches.

    Some of our guides are fishing Zebra Midges deep under an indicator, even below Fall Creek, and catching a lot of quality rainbows and a few browns. Especially during the day when the sun is high, Guide Chuck Gries is fishing a double fly rig using a black, olive or brown #16 Zebra as much as eight-feet deep using 6x fluorocarbon tippet.
    I've already mentioned Berkley's pink trout worm. We're fishing them using two-pound line under an indicator four- to eight-feet deep, depending on sunlight. Pinch off about an inch to an inch and a half and run the head up on a 1/100th ounce jig head. Some of the guys are using super glue to hold the worm on the hook. Of course, you can't use these above Fall Creek.
    If you're drifting bait or flies on the bottom, only use as much weight as needed to get to the bottom. It's a common mistake to use too much weight, and easy because most of the drift rigs (at least what we sell) have too heavy of a weight tied on them. Best to make your own rig by taking line (two- or four-pound, 30-36 inches long) and tie a hook on one end and a double overhand knot on the other. Then tie a loop one-third the distance of the total line from the knot and then pinch on a split shot and slide it to the knot. Using a removable shot will allow you to change your weight until you find just the right size.
    Now for what most of you have been waiting for . . . the best colors of Powerbait to use have been (drum roll, please) white/pink Gulp eggs, yellow or rainbow paste or sunrise power eggs. Of course, air inflated night crawlers are working well, too.

    I got out on the lake this afternoon and boated up to Lookout Island, watching the bluff side of the lake for any rising trout.  I spotted 2 schools of rainbows in 2 different eddies close to the island so I tied on a #6 tan hopper and proceeded to drift toward the first eddie.
    I saw about a half dozen rainbows actively taking something off the surface and picking out the biggest, I laid the hopper 3 feet in front of him.  He took it like he meant it.  After a lengthly fight, I netted him, took a couple of pictures and let him go.
    The main reason I wanted to get out was to fish double Zebra Midges under an indicator, like I had written in my report.  So I boated on up above the MDC boat ramp and started drifting, setting my midges 8 feet deep.  They were still running 30 megawatts, lake level at 705 feet.
    Nothing, not a bite, till I got all the way down past the chute, the top of Trophy Run.  I found quite a bit of action off the south bank just under the bill board with the rainbow on it.  Dropping an anchor there, I fished the drop, catching 6 rainbows.  Then I noticed the water wasn't rippling through as fast, then the drop in level.  Yep!  They shut the water off.
    Pulling anchor, I drifted on down, still catching rainbows.  Down past the riprap, the lake shallowed up a bit on the south side and I could see a lot of nice rainbows swimming about.  So I dropped the anchor again and played with that school until they were tired of me.

    Working on down, catching never let up until I felt like it was time to go.  There was just a slight current but enough to keep the float moving and the fish interested.
    I barely made it through the shallow flat at the Island, scraping the gravel several times and having to hold my trolling motor out of the water the whole time.  Once down to Lookout Hole, I met up with a couple of guys from the resort that were having a hard time catching so I had them follow me down to the Narrows.
    Once there, I told them what and how to tie the double midge rig and they started catching a few while I made me way down the Narrows and finally heading home.
    Conditions were pretty tough -- high sun, very little wind and very clear water.  But our trout are in love with the midge, and presented right, they'll eat it almost all the time.  I did say "almost".
    Fish-in-hand pictures are from my afternoon trip.

  • Phil Lilley
    It's interesting to see how these rainbows in our lake move around after being stocked.  Most are stocked down lake from the Landing and tend to move up.  All summer it seems they've stayed down and fishing's been great - down there.  But the last couple of days there's been a bunch of trout up in our area - yeah!!
    They're still liking to chase... and they're hitting our jigs now.  But with this 35 mw of current, the smaller the jig the better.  Two-pound line and 1/16th ounce jigs best and worked not off the bottom but up in the column.  Colors don't seem to matter much - have 6 different colors and keep switching.
    Trout worms under s float 5-6 feet deep is still a killer technique.  Also Micro Jigs.  Again, 2-pound like will catch way more fish than 4-pound.
    Follow this thread for a night bite report up below the dam.


  • Phil Lilley
    With little change in weather patterns, rainfall throughout the month of July, generation patterns on Taneycomo have been fairly consistent.  Most days dam operators are running a half unit, 25-35 megawatts of power, at night through the morning, then kicking on any where from 100 to 150 megawatts, or up to two full units, from mid-afternoon until sunset.  There have been a few days when they've had the dam completely shut down with no water running, but they've been few and far between with no rhyme or reason why.
    Water clarity is pretty much back to normal.  It's very clear -- clear enough that some of us are thinking about using 7x tippet (very small, light line).  Water temperature is still a cool 49 degrees coming from the dam.  We should be in good shape heading into the fall season.
    The midges here on the lake have been out of control!  They start hatching at sunset and continue to come off into the night at huge numbers.  They're hatching in the day time, too, at normal numbers, but in the morning everything is covered with dead bugs.  Now you might think our trout are keying in on them, and they are at times.  Duane Doty witnessed it Saturday morning on a guide trip.  He started at 6 a.m. just above our dock fishing the trout worm under an indicator.  All of a sudden, a school of trout came to the surface and started porpoising, eating midges as fast as they could.  Duane said the midges were so thick above their heads that they almost couldn't see through them.  They followed the school all the way up the lake and around the corner, all the while catching rainbows on their worms.
    Midge larva hatch out of the silt on the bottom of the lake and make their way to the surface.  These are easy morsels for fish to pick off, and I'm sure they do.  We use zebra midges under an indicator to fool trout into biting.  Guide Steve Dickey, reports that a #16 black or olive zebra has been working in the trophy area but notes that it has to be "one-inch" from the bottom.  "They just aren't coming up to eat it, it has to be right in front of their face."
    Steve says the scud bite in the trophy area is good if the water is running.  A #16 or #8 olive or tan scud has been working the best, as long as it is on the bottom for the fish to take it.
    Chuck Gries, fishing guide, keyed in on midge fishing Saturday morning, too.  We saw him finish his trip across the lake from our dock, his clients hooking doubles as we watched.  I asked him what were they using, and he said black or brown zebra midges under an indicator eight-feet deep.  He was using 6x tippet.  I'd imagine he was using a small split shot to get a fly down that far.
    Duane has had other trips, and he's done well drifting a mega worm either on a drift rig or under an indicator.  A mega worm is a big, fluffy white yarn worm fly.
    Throwing jigs has been slow, which is another head-scratcher.  We catching a few fish, especially from the dam down to Lookout, but the rest of the lake is slow.  Back when the lake water was off-color, the trout wanted to chase them.  Now they want it floating with the current - and won't pursue it.  It's very strange, and disappointing, since throwing jigs is our favorite way to fish for trout.
    Drifting bait below Fall Creek is catching fish.  Night crawlers are by far the best.  I've talked to several people this week that have said they've caught more and bigger rainbows on worms than Gulp Eggs or Powerbait.  And there don't seem to be any slow areas right now.  We've had groups that have fished exclusively from Fall to Short Creeks, and others that have gone down to Monkey Island and the Landing and all have done well.  One gentleman told me they went down to the lower dam (Powersite) to let the kids swim and ended up catching a lot of trout down there on Powerbait.  He said the surface temperature was 72 degrees, but they caught their fish in deep water.
    There is a new technique that's catching trout.  Bill Babler, fishing guide, showed me he was taking Berkley's pink Power Worms and pinching them into 1.5- to 2-inch segments and putting them on a small 1/125-ounce jig head.  Using two-pound line, he fishes them under an indicator five- to eight-feet deep.  I've been playing around with it and have done pretty well.

    Friday morning, I took my cousin's grandson out fishing.  His family was here for his sister's World Series fast-pitch softball tournament.  We didn't get out till 8:30 a.m. when the sun was already peaking over the bluff across from the resort, but with 35 megawatts of water running, we started fishing the pink worms and stayed in the shade of the bluff.  Hunter caught his first rainbow trout pretty quickly.  Being from Texas, he doesn't see many trout.  He has fished in the Gulf and caught speckled trout but not coldwater trout.  He ended up with 10 rainbows, all caught on the pink worm.

    Bill says he'll switch to a pink Trout Magnet if the bite is short.   The worm is scented and doesn't have a split tail unlike the Magnet, and you can leave the worm on longer than the Magnet.
    Guide's Secret:  Spin a bead of thread onto the shank of your jig hook and use Super Glue to stick the worm or Magnet to the hook.  This will keep it from sliding down the hook.
    After Report Trip:  It never fails that soon after I write a fishing report I will gain new information that either changes my previous report or adds to it.  This one is an add.
    Saturday evening I fished after my dock shift.  I wanted to try out Chuck's deep midge technique.  I boated up close to Fall Creek with a half-unit running and rigged my fly rod with a small, hard foam indicator and nine feet of 6x tippet with two#14 Zebra Midges tied on.  I had 18 inches of tippet between them, one  black with nickle head and rib and the other a rusty midge.  I drifted and fished the deep channel which varied in water depth from eight to 12 feet.  I was concerned that the weight of the two midges mighty not be heavy enough to take the flies down, but there didn't seem to be any issues.  I caught a dozen rainbows before I got to Short Creek and missed half that many strikes.

  • Phil Lilley
    It's the last day of June . . . my how the weeks of summer fly by.  I remember as a kid that summer breaks just didn't seem to last but a week or two, and then it was back to school.  I think it's still the same.
    Generation here has been pretty consistent with no generation except for three to five hours late in the afternoon and into the evening.  Dam operators are running up to four units, building to the maximum, then shutting them off.  Duane Doty and I were up fishing last evening when four units were running, but it didn't stay there very long.  And when they do shut it down, the level drops out pretty fast because there's not a whole lot of water downstream holding it up.  The generation has kept the lake pretty clean and cold, which is a good thing.
    While the water's off, bait fishing has been tough.  Very little wind and no water movement makes a slow day on the lake.  A few clouds and a breeze will help the bites to pick up.  We're getting some intermittent weather with scattered storms and a little rain, which is good for fishing.
    If you're a fly fisher, the dead-still conditions make it tough but not impossible.  I boated up close to Lookout Island today at noon and fly fished with the water off for the first time this year.  And I hit the shallow, skinny water with midges and scuds -- some of my favorite kind of fishing.  The bites were fairly common but not the hookups.  Chuck Gries, one of our guides, said the bites are quick and short.  He was right.  My indicator would take off like a shot, but when I tightened and set the hook. . . nothing.  It was tough for even me.  May be I'm too much out of practice!
    I started with 6x tippet and a #18 red Zebra Midge under a half palsa indicator six inches deep, fishing the shallow side of the lake and targeting midging rainbows in 12 inches of water or less.  They were real skittish and most ran when I cast to them.  I had a few takers, but most of them spit the fly before I could set the hook.  I did catch a few small rainbows, all good fighters and really pretty.
    There was no wind for the most part.  Then clouds moved in and there was a breeze from the south.  The water got choppy so I tied on a #18 black soft hackle and stripped it back with short and quick strokes.  Had several chasers and a couple of swipes before getting the hook into one, then two -- both small rainbows.
    I had worked my way about half way down to the Narrows when I switched to a #16 gray scud, weighted and tied with Hareline's UV gray dubbing.  I like to use UV dubbing (flashy) when it's sunny out since it seems to attract more bites.  I started fishing it shallow, about 18 inches under a small indicator and still fishing over in the skinny water.  I found schools of rainbows in the slightly deeper pockets, and all were roaming around looking for bugs.  I got bit when I threw into most of the schools but only managed to hook and land a couple.
    As I got closer to the Narrows, I moved out into deeper water and lengthened my depth to three, then four feet.  I wanted the scud dragging the bottom.  I kept the boat in very shallow water, using the motor as an anchor when I wanted to stop and fish a pocket.
    I have to tell you, the Narrows is a special place to wade and fly fish -- or even spin fish -- since the last high water event.  The current carved out so many ditches and pockets all up and down this area that it's amazing.  And fish are all over the place -- on the flats, on the edges and in the channel.  There's almost always a current through there because it's such a small, narrow area.
    At one point, when my black lab Jackson was hot, I knew he wouldn't  jump out of the boat into the water so I stepped off and called him in.  He dove in and had a great time cooling off.  I was wet wading (no waders, only sandals) to my knees, walking out below the boat and kept fishing.  I wasn't out five minutes when I felt a little push of water against my left leg and a slight rise in the lake.  The water wasn't moving any faster. . . but 10 seconds later is was!  I was 25 feet from the boat and when I got to it, the current was really picking up.  It gained speed quickly, which surprised me.  I didn't hear the horn but knew it was supposed to come on about 3 p.m..
    I jumped in the boat and pinched a split shot on the line.  I knew the quicker current meant I needed something to get my fly down faster.  I saw several nice rainbows holding just off a flat in a deep pocket, feeding frantically on bugs as the water washed them off the gravel.  I made my presentation and whack!  He nailed it!   Turn camera on. . .

    Nicest trout of the afternoon.
    Duane and I threw jigs from Fall to Short Creek with two units running Wednesday evening.  Zero.  A couple of bites.  We boated to the dam when there were four units running, but operators had already starting shutting them down.  We had no bites until we floated below Big Hole.  Then we both caught a few rainbows, a couple longer than 17 inches, enticed by an 1/8th-ounce sculpin/ginger, orange head jig on four-pound line.
    We worked on down through Trophy Run -- nothing.  At the end of  that run and the top of Lookout Island, we noticed a pretty good hole and slack water on the south side where we started catching a few.  I had tied on a #14 red Zebra midge under a float, with two-pound line on a spinning rod, because fish were starting to midge with the dropping water.  I caught a couple of rainbows and one small brown in that eddie.  Duane caught a couple real nice rainbows there on a jig.
    The Missouri Department on Conservation continues to stock rainbows below the Branson Landing on a regular basis.  The stocking boat was seen earlier this week stocking below Blue Haven Resort.  These trout stay schooled up for several days and tend to move up lake.  We're still sending most of our guests down in this area to fish, and they're doing pretty well.  These rainbows will chase and take lures like spoons and spinners fairly close to the surface, especially if there's a breeze or choppy surface.  Trolling is easy for novices, but you just have to keep the lines straight if there are a bunch fishing at once.
    Our guides are going down lake and using a Trout Magnet under an indicator four- to six-feet deep and catching these rainbows.  You can also use one PowerBait Gulp Egg on a small jig hook under an indicator just as well.

  • Ryan Walker
    Fished the James Thursday, parking at the confluence of the Finley and walking as far down as I could before it was over my head. Fished streamer patterns all morning, mostly a fly I have grown to love called the Mohawk Sculpin (pics below). Fish are in fine shape, and the river has good water as well. Hooked plenty of fish and saw several deer, plus one really confused Tom turkey that didn't get the memo that Turkey season was over!  
    Like I said in an earlier post; the river has changed, as it always does, but is in great shape. I found fish in "new" spots, and some in the old reliable spots as well. Didn't see any beds, so I'd say the spawn is officially done or the floods washed the beds out. 
    I'm going to kayak this stretch, to Hootentown, Tuesday and will post a report after. Now that Memorial Day has kicked summer off, my fishing days will be during the week, either in the evenings or when I'm not traveling. I like people, but in small doses, and not on the river unless they are with me...
    Mohawk Sculpin, size 4

    Here is some footage from a previous trip:

  • Phil Lilley
    Rain is in the forecast!  It has been a very interesting winter and spring, starting with a flooding rain event the first few days of 2016, then changing to a relatively dry and warm season from January through April.  Now it looks like the rains have returned, but how much is yet to be seen.  So far storms have split and gone both north and south of us with little effect to lake levels.  Table Rock is hovering at 916 feet, which is normal for May.  Generation on Lake Taneycomo has been consistent most days, running 30 to 50 megawatts, 22,00 to 36,00 cubic feet per second.  One full unit is 55 megawatts with a lake level of 705.4 feet, about four feet high.  Water temperature is 47.5 degrees when the water is running.
    Trout fishing has also been pretty consistent.  We're seeing people cleaning rainbows every day, most catching their limits.  There have been two "hot spots" for boat fishermen.  One is starting at Fall Creek and drifting down to Short Creek, and the other is starting at the high lines above Monkey Island and drifting down through the bridges.  Granted, the drift is very slow down there with what water is running, but that's where most of the rainbows are holding after being stocked.
    The size of rainbows stocked are very nice, averaging 12 to 13 inches in length from what I've seen.  I believe most anglers are very happy with their catches lately.
    Night crawlers are by far the best live bait, with various colors and styles of Power Bait right behind.  Minnows are doing pretty well.  You have a much better chance of catching a brown trout using minnows or night crawlers.
    The main key to fish this slow current is the weight.  You don't want to use so much weight that it hangs up on the bottom.  Start with a 1/8th-ounce bell weight; if that's too big, pinch on a split shot instead.  You want it just tick the bottom, not drag.  And, oh yes, inject your night crawler with air using a needle -- or run a Gulp Egg up the line, hook your half crawler on the hook and slide the egg back on top of the worm.  If you're doing this, use a larger hook like a #6.  Actually, I use #6 all the time when fishing a night crawler but a #8 or #10 is fine as long as you're not adding the egg.
    Trout magnets have been pretty successful from Fall Creek to Short Creek.  White is the best color with pink, pink/white and chartreuse/white close behind.  Four-pound line is fine.  Set your float about four to six feet above your magnet and change the depth if you're not getting bit.  Stay closer to the inside of the bend to the middle of the lake and stay off the bluff side.
    Above Fall Creek in the Trophy Area, catching has been good but, for me, only in certain areas.  Up below the dam is almost always good, but I've been hitting the stretch from Lookout down through the Narrows pretty hard with success only up close to the island and down at the Narrows.  This is mainly with that 30 megawatts of generation mainly.  I think it's because the current is pretty fast flowing through both these areas and trout are staying closer to the faster water.  The stretch below the island and above the Narrows is slow and I'm not doing as well there.  The area below the dam to Trophy Run and even down to Lookout is fishing excellent regardless of the flow.
    I've been throwing jigs mainly, but I have tried a hopper every other time I've been out with no success.  I'll keep trying the hopper until they hit it, and believe me, they will.  I think this summer will be excellent dry fly fishing because of the clouded water; it just a matter of time.
    White is still the best color by far, but we've had good success throwing other colors too.  Been trying some new color combinations like yellow, yellow/white, chartreuse/white, light olive/peach/golden brown and ginger/golden brown.  We've also been trying some new jig head colors like pumpkin and watermelon.  Our trout seem to like all of them.
    Depending on the current and wind conditions, I been using four-pound line with an 1/8-ounce jig, and two-pound line throwing small jigs like 3/32nd-ounce and 1/16th-ounce.  I shot an hour long video that shows some of the thought put in on when to use both rigs.
    Monday night the generation was bumped at 5 p.m. to two units with the lake level getting up as high as 708 feet.  Duane and I boated up to the cable, despite a little rain, and fished the north bank down to Lookout.  We had that best two-hour outing so far this year on big, quality trout.  The numbers weren't bad either.
    We held the boat in the current most of the way down so we could work each area, each pocket really well.  I used an 1/8th-ounce white jig and Duane an 1/8th-ounce mottled brown/orange head jig.
    Just below the cable, we both caught quality fish.  Duane's first three trout were browns, and within the first 100 feet, I caught two spotted bass.  We were hoping for a walleye since people are still catching one every once in a while up there.  We kept them and showed them off on One Cast before releasing them.

    The quality of the fish we caught were impressive.  Almost every rainbow or brown topped 15 inches -- some up to 19 inches -- plus fat and colorful.  We took pictures of a few, but after awhile it was hard to stop fishing long enough to pose!  I don't know why the bigger fish were biting so well, except that more water was running than had been in weeks.  Running that much water was great for the upper lake because it cleared out a lot of the algae that had been growing on the bottom of the lake.

    The Kerr family are avid fly fishers.  Dr. Albert Kerr, his wife Dawn and son James, make the trip up from Monroe, Louisiana, to fish Taneycomo many times.  When the water is running, they take our J-12 up to the dam and fly fish.  When they arrived Saturday morning about 10 a.m. to fish, I gave them a hard time about "sleeping in," teasing them that they had missed the best time of the day to fish, especially with the conditions of the day -- high, bright sun and very little wind.  No matter, they just love to get out and fish regardless of the outcome.
    When they returned, they told me they had one of the best "catching" trips ever on our lake.  They'd caught "multiple 20-plus-inch rainbows," mainly on a white grub, drifting it under a float and fishing from the cable down to Trophy Run.  I know they also fish with San Juan worms, midges (Ruby Red is a favorite) and scuds.  And James loves to throw big streamers and has done well when they're running more water.

    Returning Sunday, Dr. Kerr hooked and landed this 24-inch, 8.5-pound rainbow using a cerise-colored San Juan worm.

  • Bill Babler

    If you're currently fishing either Table Rock or Bull Shoals the two words in the title are just about as important as putting gas and oil in your boat.
    For that past two and perhaps 3 weeks we have seen some very good top water activity on both lakes.  Most of these are single strike fish or at the most perhaps 2 or 3 chasers.  Most times they are singles within a group.  By this I mean if you see a chase it is probably a single fish pushing the shad.  At one time there may be several pushers, but they may be separated by 10 to 50 feet.
    They are running lightning fast and will usually grab their goodie in either a single push or maybe a triple push.  This means urgency, getting the bait weather it be a top water bait or a swim bait, or even perhaps a Dixie Jet, to the fish as quickly as possible is of the upmost importance.  Not only is urgency very important, accuracy goes hand in hand with trying to be proficient at capturing these top water Rocket  Ships.
    They are up and down and down and up right now, depending on the day from 5:30 till 8 AM and if there is a breeze and some clouds they may stay up most of the morning.
    Here are a couple of tips, when down fishing and waiting for surfacing fish, keep your chaser rod and bait within easy reach.  Keep it with about 12 inches of line extended past the tip of the rod to the bait and just let the line and bait hang over the edge of the boat with the rod laying as it would on the deck when you are traveling.  Don't lay it across the deck, it is a great way to hook it on your back cast and to also trip over it.   "Experience speaking here."
    As soon as you see a chase reel in the bait you are fishing as quickly as possible.  ie Burn that Sucker in.  It you leave it in the water unattended some sneaky fish will take your junk.  Put yourself in a proper casting stance and launch your bait in the direction the chase or chasing is taking place.  Ie use Kentucky windage to throw ahead or to the nose of the fish.  If you throw behind him you missed.  If you make a poor cast, don't fish it in, burn in that throw and try and make a more accurate one.  When you throw to a swirl, throw a long high cast, don't try and bullet cast to the circle.  If you do, this is almost an immediate backlash.  Take a high arch and it will land past your location and reel or swim the bait thru or ahead of the circle.
    When the fish takes either the top water, the swim bait or the  flutter spoon the number one rule is " DON'T JERK--DON'T JERK---DON'T JERK---DON'T JERK.  get the point?  If you jerk the fish won't.  Simply increase your tempo on the reel handle and lean back on the rod.  A snap or a foot setting jerk will not only lose the fish but can do yourself or your companion very serious hard with all those deadly hooks traveling back at you at light speed.  If you don't hook yourself or your buddy, most often the bait will slam into the side of the boat and shatter costing major bucks, as these top water baits are pricy.
    If your lucky enough to get that stinker to the boat be very careful about bringing him or her aboard.  They can be a very mean passenger.  If you swing them look for either hooks in the seats or your leg.  Be careful with all those sharps.
    Take a little time and practice casting for distance, as they are always at maximum throw.  Make sure your reel is set as well as it can be.  Every morning take a practice toss or two just to see that the spool is flowing smooth and not to slow or fast.  Don't need a backlash during the heat of the battle.
    If your accurate and be quick but don't hurry, you will more than double your top water day just by being ready and acting with accuracy and speed.
    Get out there and catch them, fishing is as good as it will be for a spell.

  • Phil Lilley
    We've seen very little generation the past two weeks.  If the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers run it at all it's midday for a couple of hours, enough to move algae out of the upper end of the lake.  A slimy algae has been growing in both Table Rock and Taneycomo during daylight hours, which is normal for this time of year.  The fish don't mind it, but it's tough on us anglers.
    With little generation, our water temperature inches up on warm, sunny days.  Surface temperature may reach into the 60's, but the lower water levels are staying a safe and cool 50-something.  This is actually beneficial for both trout and other aquatic life like midges and scuds.  Plus, it makes the trout more active -- they like water in the upper 50's.
    We've had some rain the last few days but not enough to change generation patterns.  Table Rock has only come up about nine inches, still under 916 feet which seems to be manageable. I see no big change in this pattern, unless we get a substantial rain, and then all bets are off.
    Fly fishing has been very good with the water off.  I should say, small jigs and flies are drawing bites whether on a spin or fly rod.  Zebra midges under a float and/or micro and small marabou jigs under a float are all working very well.
    We had a gentleman come in the shop today showing a jig that he couldn't keep the trout off of -- an 1/16th-ounce black and yellow marabou jig with a gold head.  We quickly stocked some in our store.  He said he was using it under a float.
    Duane Doty and I chased a crappie story on our lunch break today.  We heard crappie were stacked along the wall at the Branson Landing, right in front of Joe's Crab Shack!  We worked the lower half of the wall at the Landing using jigs and caught two rainbows -- but no crappie!!
    Guide Steve Dickey says the first two hours of the day have been the best for catching a lot of trout up in the trophy area on a variety of small jigs under a float.  He's using a small ginger or light olive jig (marabou) or a half-micro in olive or brown.  The best depth has been 39.5 inches deep.  You'll have to ask him why 39.5 inches...
    Wayne and Rob Dickerson of northeast Kansas come to  spend a week with us every May,  renting a G-3 bass boat from us and fishing exclusively jigs all week.  Well, Monday Rob scored a trophy brown, weighing 7.2 pounds, 23.25 inches long.

    They were drifting and throwing white 1/8th-ounce jigs along the bluff bank across from Cooper Creek. Sound familiar?  Quite a few big browns have come off that bank.  The fish was released at the dock after a few pictures and measurements.
    Spoons are still catching fish, especially down lake from Monkey Island, the mouths of Roark and Turkey Creeks and even up in those creeks a few hundred yards.  Cleos, Kastmasters and Sin-a-Lures in varied colors thrown and retrieved are catching mainly rainbows and even a big one occasionally.  Steve Stiehr of House Springs, MO, caught this 7.6-pound rainbow down lake yesterday on a green Spin-a-Lure.  It was released at our dock.

    The best live bait by far has been air-inflated night crawlers.  Set the weight 18 inches from the hook and that's how high off the bottom the worm will float.  Trout will see and bite it a thousand times faster than non-inflated.  Minnows under a float are working, too, especially up closer to the Fall Creek line.  Set them about 36 inches deep.

  • Phil Lilley
    Generation from Table Rock Dam has finally slowed to the point that we can actually predict with certainty that we'll be seeing quite a bit of down water in the coming days, that's until the next big rain.  Mild temperatures and normal lake levels mean less power demand and running water.  That's good for those who like no generation on Taneycomo for fly fishing as well as anchoring and tight line bait fishing.
    This week was split between the water being down completely to running 40 megawatts, or just less than one unit, for most of the day.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason for either so check the SPA schedule.
    I reported the last time they shut the water off on our lake about how the gravel bars had changed, mainly above Fall Creek.  I said that knowing exactly what the bottom looked like water hard because of the turbid water conditions.  Usually our lake water is very clear but heavy rain water inflows into Table Rock clouded it's water and we're still getting that "dirty" water.  Visibility is about 24 inches.  But we can see the humps and bars along the banks and on the channel edges above Fall Creek, through the Narrows and up past Lookout Island.

    Boating up through the Narrows is tricky.  I've damaged 2 props so far this year, along with 2 more on other shallow spots.  But with these boating hazards comes neat fishing habitat!  Trout are holding near these bars, which in some cases drop off quickly into 2-4 feet of water.
    With 40 mw of water running, the Narrows is still shallow and you can hit the high spots just off the channel if you're not careful.  Getting above Lookout Island is also tricky but not impossible.  The real tricky part is the fact that you have to get on plane and stay there over the shallow areas at Lookout, the chute above Trophy Run and on up to Big Hole.  I wouldn't venture past Big Hole unless you're very acquainted with that area.

    With all the changes above Fall Creek, fly fishers should be excited.  Boating up and getting out wading these areas should be a challenge unlike fishing some of Missouri's trout streams.
    With the water off, there's some current at Lookout and at the Narrows most of the time which makes the opportunity of drifting flies very attractive.  They're taking Zebra Midges (#14, 16 red, green), scuds (#12, 14, 16 gray, brown, orange, tan) and San Juan Worms (pink, red) using 6x tippet and a small indicator.  Also drift 1/125-ounce jigs (white, pink, brown/orange head) under a float 24-30 inches deep.
    I got out with friends this week and fished between Lookout and the Narrows, throwing a 1/32-ounce brown/orange head or sculpin-ginger/orange head jig using 2-pound line.  I set the boat on the shallow side of the lake (trolling motor and big motor dragging the bottom) and threw to deeper water (by still very shallow, less than 2 feet) and worked the jig fairly slow.  We caught a lot of rainbows, most were small but got some big ones too.  They were aggressively taking the jigs.
    With 40 megawatts of water running, I'd throw either a 3/32- or 1/16-ounce jigs in the same fashion.  Plus I would word the deeper  water too using a white jig.  Steve Dickey, one of our fishing guides, has been using white jigs under a float since the first of the year and still is catching trout consistently.  He's using a 1/16-ounce white jig under a float from 4-8 feet deep, depending on the depth of water he's fishing.
    Our trout are hitting the surface of the water quite a bit but I haven't figured out exactly what they're taking or how to catch those fish.  It isn't a subtle take like they're taking a midge--it's an aggressive slash like they may be chasing a minnow or shad.  And we've seen some big fish come up in front of the dock for the last couple of months.

    Below Fall Creek, there are changes but not like those in the Trophy Area.  Below Fall Creek on the inside bend, gravel has stacked up so that side is shallower than it was last year.  But if you remember, I pushed fishing that side because is was less fished and trout were holding and using that shallow side.  There are plenty of bugs in the gravel to hold good numbers of trout and imitating those bugs is the trick to catching them.  They also will eat night crawlers and other live baits as well.  Don't let the shallow water keep you from fishing that area.
    Air injected night crawlers is going to be a hot bait while the water is off.  Put the weight at least 18 inches from the hook so that the worm floats off the bottom.  You can inject it with air or add a Gulp floating egg at the head of the hook (added before the worm) to make it float.  Same with a minnow.  There are floating jig heads but I haven't had much luck with them.  Four-pound line is fine.  Using a drift rig is fine but use the smallest bell weight--1/8th ounce.
    Trolling is still catching some good trout.  Try a Flicker Shad and troll it from Monkey Island down through the Branson Landing.  You'll catch rainbows and browns with a good possibility of hooking a big, trophy brown trout.
    Trip Report, 4/17
    We boated to the dam this evening.  They were only running 24 megawatts of water which is about 1/2 unit, lake level 703.7 feet.  This is pretty nominal water to be running to Rebar Hole but we made it no problem.
    We started throwing a 1/50-ounce marabout white jig using 2-pound line but the east wind was too tough to work the jig so I tied on floats.  We also switched to 1/125-ounce white jigs and get the float anywhere from 24 to 40 inches deep, depending on the depth of water we drifted over.
    The rainbows liked our white jigs, and nice ones!  Jordan caught on pretty well as you can see in this video and dad (Greg) wasn't too far behind.  We fished till about 7:30 and headed back as soon as we noticed they had shut the water off.  It got real shallow fast!

  • Phil Lilley
    Vic Eldrid and his friends were drifting just above Short Creek about noon today when something struck his minnow/Gulp white egg combo. It was big. The 3 guys in one of our jon boats had a time trying to get the big fish secure, tossing the one and only net from one end of the boat to the other. But they got it in somehow. Getting into the small livewell was a chore too... and I had a harder time getting it out! It's a 23.5 x 34.5 inch brown weighing 20.56 pounds. They said it would have weighed more if it hadn't coughed up a half digested rainbows just before they netted it.
    It's in a live tank reviving. If it makes it, it will be released.



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