Posted by Phil Lilley on June 30th, 2016
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.
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