Lake Taneycomo

A Christmas fishing report

Posted by Phil Lilley on December 25th, 2013
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December 9 Ice in Guides

Merry Christmas, on this crisp morning.  The water is running and there’s a slight misty fog rolling down the lake this morning.  Not a boat has passed our dock this sunny morning, but there’s trout being caught off the fishing pier as I type.

There’s a father and son readying their fishing gear in one of our units —  their excitement only topped by an anticipation of feeling the first trout on their line.  May be a candy bar will be the prize for such a feat – “first fish in the boat” – but it will have to be a legal catch, not just a long-distance release!

They boated to the mouth of Fall Creek where they found good, fast current running over the gravel bar there.  Cutting the motor, they quickly picked up their rods already baited with PowerBait Gulp eggs (white and yellow if you must know) and cast upstream.  With two units running, they were using 3/8th-ounce bell weights on their drift rigs.  “We want to make sure we’re feeling our weights tick the bottom,” the dad told his son.

They hadn’t drifted 50 yards when the boy hooked the first rainbow.  “Grab the net and get ready to hand over that Snickers bar.”  Grabbing the net, dad had a plan.  His first try was making a motion as if  he were trying to knock the fish off the line, but then he quickly scooped the 12-inch rainbow up in the net.  “Boy, you just about lost that one,” joked dad.

After a while and more trout hauled into the boat, the conversation wondered from sports to current events, then to sensitive subjects like arguments and disagreements of the past.  Unforgiveness festers in so many relationships.  It’s hard for men especially to express their feeling and admit mistakes.  Bringing hurts to light is the first step to healing.  The next is to verbally ask for forgiveness, even when you don’t feel like it’s totally sincere.  Another noble thing to do is to bite the tongue and”bury the hatchet” when you know you weren’t entirely at fault.

Life is so short.  There are no guarantees that there will be another chance to mend fences.  The morning fishing trip was about much more than catching fish — it was a time of healing that extended way beyond Lake Taneycomo.

Another family is gathering up all the warm clothes they can find, to bundle up for a Christmas morning pontoon ride on cold Lake Taneycomo.  They all thought it would be a fun new tradition to go out and see if they could spot a beautiful bald eagle.

Dad’s in a gruff mood because the kids are dragging their feet.  It seems that they want to open gifts before the ride on the lake.  But plans have been made and the schedule “needs” to be kept.  Barreling forward, he barks out orders towards the group, but in doing so, he puts a cold damper on the festivities.  He didn’t mean to sound so mean and wouldn’t have known but for the glares and silence of the family.

On the boat, the quietness was overbearing.  Dad knew something was wrong and asked.  “You’re mean sometimes, Dad,” said little Suzie, “but I don’t think you know it.”

He blew it off and pretended like nothing was said.  But the kids persisted.

“We love you, Dad, you know that . . .  But sometimes you’re not very loveable.”

“Ok, ok . . .  I’m sorry.  I get frustrated with myself because I do talk rough sometimes, but I don’t even realize it.  How can I change?  I really do try!”

Mom chimed in, “Kids, dad does love you, and just talking about this really helps.  Sharing our heart is the best way to see each others intentions and understand when we sound frustrated and say hurtful things, it’s not to be taken personally.

“Taking offense to what people say, even if it is meant to cause harm, is a sure way to live a life of sorrow and even sickness.  What if there were a way to wear some kind of armor so that when arrows shot from someone’s tongue target us, they fall like sticks from a tree.  We really do have a choice to take up an offense or not to.”

After everything was aired, the boat ride was a great success.  They saw a pair of eagles soaring high in the sky as well as another perched in a big sycamore tree looking for trout.

Two seasoned fly anglers readied their vests and packs for the day’s fishing up below the dam.  Ed and Marion have been fishing buddies for only a few years, finding each other on a fishing forum.  Since then they’ve traveled to most of Missouri’s trout waters, fly fishing for trout.

Two turbines that had been running early in the morning were shut down, and the lake had dropped back into Taneycomo’s normal level of 701.3 feet.  There was good current from just above outlet #2 down through the Rebar to Big Hole, and trout were rising to midges hatching.  The winter sun stayed south below the southern bluff along the lake, shadowing the water below the dam most of the day.  A slight breeze was blowing over the dam and down lake causing the surface of the lake to ripple just a bit.

The two walked in just below #2 outlet.  They had decided to fish their way down to the boat ramp and hike back on the road to their truck parked at the hatchery lot.  It would be a full day for sure.

Seeing rising fish, Marion decided to strip a soft hackle.  He tied on a #16 yellow soft hackle, using 6x tippet and a long leader.  Casting straight out across the current, he made long, slow strips with only lookers, no takers.  Next he cast down current at a 45-degree angle and made slight strips, letting it swing and at the end of the drift, a tug and a hook up.  Not setting the hook but just raising the rod tip a bit was the perfect way to hook the trout; otherwise, setting the hook would break off an aggressive fish.

Ed opted to try dead drifting a scud.  Since the current was so slow, he used 7x fluorocarbon tippet and tied on two flies under his indicator.  The first was a #18 rust zebra midge three-feet deep and the second, tied 18 inches down, was a #16 gray peppy scud, slightly weighted.  He managed to catch eight rainbows, half on the scud and half on the zebra, before working his way to the top of Rebar.

At the top of Rebar, they both found actively spawning rainbows in the fast shallow water there, so they tied on egg flies and drifted them through the bedding fish.  Now some anglers would have a problem with fishing for bedding trout, but you have to realize that these trout do not successfully spawn in Lake Taneycomo mainly because of water temperatures.  The varied water flows from the dam do not help spawning activity either, so although trout will go through the motions, their efforts are futile.

After hooking, landing and some picture taking, they decided to take a break from the action.  They were close enough to the parking lot to walk up, grab their coffee thermoses and sit at the table under the pavilion.  There they reminisced about past fishing trips and about several fishing buddies who couldn’t make the trip for health reasons.

Ed, a widower of 10 years, said, “It sure isn’t the same without Guss and Don, is it?”  “No it isn’t,” replied Marion.  “Life deals us all terrible cards towards the end of life, doesn’t it.  I have so many aches and pains, it’s hard to stand in the cold water anymore.  This might be my last fishing trip.”

“Don’t talk that way, Marion.  You still have plenty of trips in you!”

“Maybe.  We’ll see.  Wish I could get my son back down here and fish with me.  We haven’t spoken in years,” added Marion.

“You haven’t spoken much of your son.  What happened to cause such a gap in your relationship?”

Marion then told Ed about how he’d been an abusive dad in his younger years, not physically but verbally.  He was frustrated in his work situation and felt like he wasn’t doing enough to make their lives better, more affluent.  He didn’t see until after the kids were grown and gone that he had missed the important parts of their lives, blinded by his own ambition.  Now it was too late, he thought.

Ed then shared his life, very similar to Marion’s family experience.  How he had ostracized his kids by expecting too much from them in sports and school.  “I pushed them too hard and took the fun out of playing and learning.  I thought I had lost them ’till just before Peggy died, when we all sat down that Christmas day and talked about “old times.” Boy did I get an ear full!”

“Peggy and I started going to a little family church after the kids left home.  We weren’t too hot on church when the kids were growing up.  No time for it.  But the kids liked it and seemed to be better for it.  But I kept my distance — too many hypocrites for me, I thought.”

“But knowing some of the people going to this church, we decided to try it, and we found we didn’t know everything — actually very little about what life is all about.  Relationships are the most important thing we have, and they are worthy of doing everything we can to make them better, whether we feel like it or not.”

“I ended up breaking down that Christmas day and asking forgiveness of all my kids, and my wife, for all the mistakes I had made.  And you know what?  They all forgave me!  It was like starting all over, fresh and new.  Ever since then we’ve had great relationships, although we still have to work through some old hurts but for the most part, we’re all healed.”

Marion sat with a glazed look on his face, as if he wasn’t sitting on the bench but back in time, with his family.  “Do you think it’s too late for me?”

“If you’re still breathing, it not too late!!”

Marion got up and headed towards the truck.  “Where are you headed?” asked Ed.

“Cell phone reception is terrible down here.  I’m driving up the hill where I can call my son and daughter.  I need to take care of a few things today.  Go ahead down to the lake and fish without me.  This might take a while.”

Ed smiled, and prayed a short prayer for his friend.

Ed walked back down to the Rebar area and started fishing.  He didn’t care if he hooked another trout–this day was a very special day for both of them.  But the trout were hungry and aggressive.  He swung a #8 olive wooly bugger across and down to the bottom of the run and hooked rainbow after rainbow, a couple pushing 20 inches.  We worked his way further down the chute, switched to a soft hackle when he saw more trout rising in the deeper water.

Up close to the bank, Ed noticed fish working both the gravel and the surface.  They were rooting around with their heads in the gravel, kicking up bugs and then slurping them down.  He tied on a #20 olive scud, not weighted, and set a half palsa just six inches from the fly.  Casting it gently into the mix, he waited until the indicator shot off to the side and set the hook.  “Man, these are nice rainbows–in such shallow water!” he thought to himself.  “Marion is missing out . . . no, he’s not.  Some things are way more important than fishing.”


Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

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