Western style drift boats provide unique Lake Taneycomo Branson fly fishing experience

Looking upstream on Lake Taneycomo to Table Rock Lake Dam from boat launching ramp.

BRANSON, MO, May 21, 2013 – The words of Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center came to mind last week as I stood on the banks of Lake Taneycomo within sight of Table Rock Dam. She had said, “Branson’s shows, attractions, shopping, lakes and other activities provide a broad choice of things for its visitors to do, but what’s really great is the different specific options visitors have within those general choices.”

Take fishing for example, Branson’s two warm water lakes Table Rock and Bull Shoals Lakes are world class bass fisheries and the cold waters of Lake Taneycomo offer some of the finest Brown and Rainbow Trout fishing anywhere. Within the general category of trout fishing, Lake Taneycomo offers a variety of ways to fish from fishing off one of the fishing docks in downtown Branson, wading at Table Rock Dam or fishing from a boat to guided trout fishing trips of every kind.

I was brought out of my reverie as Carolyn Parker, who, in my opinion is one of the best fly fishers around, male or female, and the co-owner of River Run Outfitters with her husband Stan, who is no mean shake of a fly fisher himself, walked up. She had been kind enough to offer to take me fishing as she went out on her day off to continue the eternal quest of exploring for new “layups.” No, not the basketball shot, but a place where their guides can position their boats, either with oars or an anchor so that their clients can fly fish efficiently.

And that brings us to one of the most unique fishing opportunities available in Branson and one of the most peaceful and serene ways to view the beauty of upper Lake Taneycomo. It’s hard to imagine a better way to do that than by taking a guided River Run Outfitters fly fishing trip in one of their McKenzie western style drift boats that have no motors and are powered by, as Parker says, “‘people power’ rowing them.”

That’s right, shades of the trout fisheries of Montana and Wyoming, visitors to Branson can actually enjoy a “western style” drift trip within ten minutes of the shows, shopping, attractions and everything else Branson has to offer. And it’s the “real deal, River Run Outfitters has been an Orvis Endorsed Outfitter since 2000, won the prestigious “Orvis Outfitter of the Year award for 2006 and has been finalists for a number of years including the last three years.

River Run OUtfitters' Carolyn Parker ready for another fly fishing trip on Lake Taneycomo.

Some might ask, “They won over some of the big outfitters from out west?” Absolutely, the combination of the beauty of Lake Taneycomo, the service provided by River Run Outfitters and the quality of the fishery are simply amazing. Parker is a member of the International Women Fly Fishers (IWFF), has completed the “Fly Casting Instructors Course” given by Joan Wulff and, when she’s not managing River Run Outfitters full service Orvis fly shop or guiding clients, is probably fly fishing Lake Taneycomo.

She has had the opportunity to fly fish around the country in fisheries such as Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, Utah and others. When asked how she would rate Lake Taneycomo as a trout fishery she said that both in terms of the quantity of fish caught and the total fly fishing experience, it is one of the best fisheries she has every fished particularly so in the “Trophy” or “Special Regulations of the lake in the upper three miles of the Lake starting at Table Rock Dam.

She did point out however, that if they are running water through Table Rock Dam for the generation of power, that wade fly fishing near the dam becomes increasingly more difficult, in terms of the space available to fish, water depth and the speed of the current as they increase the amount of generation and becomes just about impossible if they are generating more than 3,000 cfs. “Our drift boats are specifically designed for those conditions and provide fly fishers a way to have a great fly fishing experience regardless of whether or not power is being generated and in the vast majority of cases catch trout.”

They were generating about 6,000 cfs when Parker launched the boat and rowed us to our first layup which was actually upstream a bit from where we launched. Because of the unique style of the boat and its limited draft, the guides have extreme flexibility and can maneuver the boats, drop their anchor and position them on a current break, the edge of an eddy or just about anywhere else they want to position the boat and can even row against the current for short distances.

During our five hour trip we caught and released over 30 Rainbow Trout with the largest being 16 inches, had about 12 “rodeo fish,” on for less than 8 seconds, and missed easily twice that many, but that’s what makes it fishing. Our primary setup was a tandem rig consisting of a size 12 Big Ruby and a size 16 Red Ribbed Midge tied about 12 inches below the Big Ruby and fished under an indicator. We also got to do some stripping with intermediate sink tip line using the CQ Streamer. What a great time fishing, just being outdoors and spending time with and getting to watch one of the best fly fishers on Lake Taneycomo do her magic.

Another neat thing about a fly fishing trip on Lake Taneycomo with River Run Outfitters it that you can have a great time whether you are an expert fly fisherman or have never fly fished before. Their guides will tailor the trip to fit your level of expertise or desires and everything, except the fishing license and trout permit, is furnished including top of the line Orvis fly fishing equipment.

River Run Outfitters is open from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM daily and is located at 2626 Missouri 165, Branson, MO, just north of the Shepherd of the Hill Trout Hatchery. For further information please call 417-332-0460 or visit their website www.RiverRunOutfitters.com.

We hope you enjoyed our article! If so, just sign up below for our Free Monthly Branson News and Information Newsletter: