Lake Taneycomo fishing report, December 30
Another year has passed. Hundreds of thousands of trout have been stocked into Lake Taneycomo, and hundreds of thousands have bent the rods of many happy anglers. Can you imagine that number? How many first-time fishers caught their first fish, let alone trout? How many caught their first fish on a fly rod? On a jig? The smiles, the memories, the stories that will be told for many generations to come. Even the "unpleasant" experiences -- yes, especially those! The cold, the snow, the rain, falling in the lake, getting a hook stuck in the finger, breaking off the big one -- all those stories seem to stand out, never to be forgotten.
I guess that's what is so special about being part of a fishing destination like Lilleys' Landing for almost 32 years . . . we get to share in those experiences, and it warms our heart to hear the stories. That's what fishing does -- brings people together, friends and families, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, grandpas and grandkids, of all shapes, sizes and even fishing skills. You don't have to catch very many trout to make memories. Even the times when a goose egg happens, the skunk saunters around or a trip to the store for frozen fish is made, those stories are told, too. This is a special place.
Anglers this week have experienced a little more water running, mainly in the mornings. The last couple of mornings, four units have been running, and the level has risen as high as 709 feet. Last evening dam officials ran about the same water, but the pattern has been just coming on, build up to 709 feet and then dropping it back down. Hard to say if they'll keep this pattern up, but I can say the weather forecast calls for continued seasonably cooler temps, so they may continue to run heavy water.
This has given anglers an opportunity to drift fish , which has been very good. The key to drift fishing is to get the bait or fly to the bottom using the right amount weight. Too much and you take a bigger risk of getting snagged up; too little weight, and you won't stay in contact with the bottom. That's why you're ahead of the game if you kept changing your weight until you get it right.
One trick is using an 1/8th-ounce bell weight, which is on the small side, and add removable split shot as needed, pinching it to the ring of the bell weight. If the split adds too much or not enough weight, it's easy to take off or add to.
I introduced the drop-shot weights for drifting a few months ago, and they are worth mentioning again. These weights, when used on drift rigs, don't hang up like splits and bells. We don't have them already tied on drift rigs, but they can be used if you tie your own or replace the bell weights. You might give them a try and see whether they make a difference.
The best areas to drift have been Fall Creek down past Cooper Creek. Stay in the middle where there's fewer snags. Gulp Power Eggs as well as Power Bait Eggs in white or pink have been the best baits. Night crawlers are good, too, especially catching bigger trout than the Power Bait.
A Trout Magnet under a float fished 8- to 10-feet deep in moving water has been ridiculously good, according to our guides. Pink, pink/white or just white have been the best colors. Remember, you can't use these above Fall Creek. If the water is off, fish them about four- to six-feet deep. One of our guides, Bill Babler, has been adding a #14 red Zebra Midge to his rig, tying an 18-inch piece of 6x or two-pound line to the Magnet and then the midge. He said this has been his best rig, catching good numbers of rainbows the last week.
The nicer rainbows have been pulled in from Lilleys' Landing up to Fall Creek with smaller rainbows found down close to the Branson Landing. The federal hatchery in Neosho stocks rainbows in December here on Taneycomo, which are generally smaller than the rainbows from Shepherd of the Hills. These trout seem to be holding lower in the lake right now, but they will move up.
Above Fall Creek in the trophy area, fishing has been exceptional. There seems to be an abundance of quality rainbows up there right now, all colored up in their winter attire. We have noticed how strong they're fighting. They must be eating well, too, because they have thick shoulders -- just overall good looking trout!
If the water is running, drift flies on the bottom using either a drift rig or just a fly and split shot. Good flies to try would be a scud (#12 or #14, gray, brown, olive of tan), San Juan Worm (#14 red, cerise, pink), egg fly (Miracle or just an egg, peach, pink, light cream), or a wooly bugger (#14 black, olive, white). Boat to the dam if they're running enough water and drift from the cable clear down to Fall Creek.
Trout are hitting 1/8th or 3/32nd-ounce jigs. The best colors (in order) are sculpin/ginger or peach, sculpin/olive, black, white, ginger or brown/orange. If you're making a long drift from the dam to Fall Creek, don't miss any areas. I tend to skip over areas that have not produced over the years, but lately I've been doing really well fishing them. These areas are the faster, shallower water just above Trophy Run and through the Lookout Island area. I've caught good rainbows in both these areas lately.
Bill Babler has been doing well using the same Trout Magnet rig I mentioned previously but using a Miracle fly instead of the Magnet, using a #14 Zebra Midge as a dropper. He's drifting this from Andy's house to Fall Creek staying in the middle of the lake and fishing it 10-feet deep.
If the water is not running, use a small marabou jig under a float and add a #16 or #18 Zebra Midge dropper. Fish it with a fly or spin rod, four- to five-feet deep. Use a 1/125- or 1/100th-ounce, brown/orange head, sculpin, pink, black, brown/orange or a olive jig.
When fly fishing, use a variety of Zebra Midges in #16 or #18 -- P&P, rusty, red/copper head, black/cooper head, ugly (green) or red primrose. Vary the depth until you find what the trout will take, anywhere from six inches to four-feet deep. Fish a weighted scud under a small float, #14 to #20, 6x or 7x tippet. Try different shades of gray, olive, brown or tan. I have had good luck using a scud tied on a 200R hook. Fish it close to or on the bottom (gravel) and work it. Make it look as if it's swimming across the bottom.