“The Devil is in the Details”
“Browns pull, rainbows shake,” uttered Captain Steve Dickey.
Seconds later, a solid 15-inch Lake Taneycomo brown trout was in the boat. Many a trout have been hooked by these hands, but the perfect description of the fighting nature in the two different species of trout in Taneycomo always eluded me. Heck, after fishing Taneycomo for nearly 20 years, one begins to think he knows the ins and outs of trout fishing Missouri’s cool water haven.
This was one of many examples of simple, previously unrecognized knowledge I gained this past week fishing with longtime Taneycomo guide Steve Dickey. As part of the annual Missouri Outdoor Communicators conference, writers had an array of pre and post trip options. When fishing Lake Taneycomo with a guide was presented as a choice, I jumped on the opportunity. The cool pockets of air sending a chill down your spine during a mid-June boat ride, the smell of the lake, the thick, creeping fog, the feeling of a trout desperately trying to shake my jig – all of these are unique to me and this 22-mile stretch of water.
Lake Taneycomo holds a special place in this fisherman’s heart. It provided me with my first fish, a 10-inch rainbow, and countless memories of summers spent catching hoards of trout with my grandpa. I went into this outing looking to learn as much as I could from someone who spends every day on Taneycomo. I have a lot of knowledge of the lake and its inhabitants, but undoubtedly locations, tricks, and tactics had escaped me all these years. To be quite honest, I proudly did not know what I missed, but I was humbly sure I didn’t know it all.
As we motored up above the White River Fish House on Branson Landing, I couldn’t help but think “I fish this area all the time!” and concealed a reaffirming smile. Steve asked what we would like to fish, and I hastily asked for a marabou jig in sculpin/olive pattern and he tied it on. I went to cast and he told me to wait.
“Boat position wrong?” I questioned.
“Nope, we need to goop it,” Dickey said matter-of-factly.
“What the heck does that mean?” I thought to myself. Steve proceeded to put a few drops of Berkley Power Bait attractant on my jig. He explained the smell of the plastic, human hands, and anything else the jig came in contact with could interfere with the trout’s willingness to commit to the bait. As much as I deer hunt and practice scent management, I’d never thought of utilizing scent control for trout. It made sense, and I stored it in the ol’ memory bank.
Although I was a seasoned veteran of Taneycomo amongst us writers, I was having trouble boating fish. Tyler Mahoney, David Gray, and Kenny Kieser managed to land a few rainbows before we headed up to the trophy area above Fall Creek. Somehow I knew it was my time to shine.
As long as I have plied the waters of Taneycomo, I have never made the venture all the way to Table Rock Dam. Nervousness and uncertainty always prevented me. I simply did not know how the channel shifted as you made the trek up lake. The entire time Steve explained to me the proper way to navigate the low water and gravel bars. Invaluable knowledge from an expert can ease your uncertainties quite well. Flow permitting, I’ll be making my way to the farthest point on Taneycomo in the future.
Upon reaching the cable below the dam, Steve suggested a heavier jig in the much swifter water. He tied on a 1/8 ounce sculpin/orange jig, which was having a bad hair day to say the least. If a jig has an excess of marabou, it is likely the trout will only grab the back end of the jig when it strikes, giving the angler a low chance of hooking it. Normally, I would whip out my pair of scissors and trim the jig down in order to avoid short strikes and increase catches. My trimming always seems to render the jig unnatural and unappealing. Steve had a solution. Instead of trimming the jig with scissors, he simply used his fingers to pluck away the excess feathers and shorten the length. The jig remained natural looking and on my first cast I had a 14-inch rainbow in the boat. I cracked another smile, feeling as if I attained some forbidden knowledge to take home with me.
We drifted slowly down river, thanks to Steve’s master trolling motor control, and constantly had strikes, with multiple fish landed by yours truly. A few trophies were stuck or turned, which left me wondering what could have been. The mysteries of Taneycomo are most wonderful.
“Throw over in that eddie, they like to hold there,” Steve would say. A quick toss and a few upward movements of my rod tip and another beautiful rainbow was netted.
As the fog settled and light faded on upper Lake Taneycomo, Steve and I talked about the lake. We shared fish stories, locations and tactics. I felt like I was talking to an old friend, and I realized I knew quite a bit about my favorite lake. However, there are always things you can learn, and I found myself listening more than talking. As dusk was settling over us, with a sunset only outdoorsmen can see, hundreds of thousands of midges started to emerge from the tree tops along the bank. It appeared as if the trees were smoldering and plumes of black smoke were rising far above their tops. In all my life, I’ve never seen anything so remarkable. I turned to Steve and said, “As long as I’ve been fishing here, I’ve seen and learned things today I never would’ve imagined.”
He paused, smiled, and calmly said, “The devil is in the details.”