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Brent Frazee: Fishing doesn’t slow down in Taneycomo in winter | Sports

You won’t find live bait in Brett Rader’s guide boat on Lake Taneycomo.

Night crawlers, minnows, sculpins – good for some trout anglers, but not for Rader. All he needs is a handful of flies to tie.

“I’ve only fished live bait here once,” said Rader, who guided for 20 years on Taneycomo. “One of my clients heard that the trout were really biting the nocturnal caterpillars, and he insisted that we fish with them.

“There were 10 other guides fishing with bait in the same area, and no one was catching anything. Finally, I said, ‘Why don’t we try a little my way?’ We started fly fishing and we caught some fish.

Fifteen minutes. That’s the extent of Rader’s experience with live bait.

He’s not one to drop anchor, chase a worm, back off and wait for the fish to bite. He must whip a fly into the swirling current of Lake Taneycomo, much like the characters in the hit movie “A River Runs Through It.”

Rader is a fly fishing purist and is very much into the romantic side of trout fishing. He ties his own flies, sometimes the day before a guiding trip to meet the day’s conditions, and he’s tuned in to what it will take for big rainbow and brown trout to hit those small offers.

He and the anglers he guides typically cast his homemade lures on fly rods as long as 10 feet. But it also offers a hybrid technique in which anglers use 8-foot spinning rods and small reels wound with 3-pound test line to cast flies.

We did this on a recent weekday on Taneycomo, the famous trout fishery that runs through Branson. We launch tandem flight rigs under feather-light strike indicators and let them drift along a seam separating current and slack water.

Rader set up rigs with a larger whitefly on top and a smaller gnat as a dropper. The trick was to drift the rig just above the bottom while still moving forward in the current. The trout were in the slack water, waiting for the food to drift in the current.

The plan worked perfectly. We caught and released many rainbow trout during a period when the fishing day had been difficult.

If we had caught all the trout that fell, we would have had an exceptional day. Time and time again, the strike indicator flickered as a trout struck and then continued on its way.

This came as no surprise to Rader. He learned long ago that trout rarely fully pull the strike indicator like some fish do with floats. They taste the fly, then quickly spit it out. If you’re not quick on the draw, the trout is gone.

“You can get an idea of ​​how it works if you look at fish in an aquarium,” said Rader, who runs the Chartered Waters Guide Service. “When you feed them, they come and suck up those flakes. But if there’s something they don’t like, they’ll quickly spit it out.

“It’s the same with flies. But if you are careful and learn to react faster, you can catch these fish.

Rader has learned many ways to trick rainbow trout.

He often ties Scud patterns in gray, tan, or olive. He also likes to use gnat and sculpin patterns to mimic the natural trout forage. He even uses white cloth to make flies that mimic minnows in cold, clear water.

“The key is to find something a little different from what everyone else uses,” Rader said. “These fish are under pressure. They often see the same things.

“When you can come up with something they haven’t seen, it will make a difference.”

Knowing where to find rainbow trout in different current conditions is another key.

Taneycomo is more of a river than a lake, with dams at both ends. When water is released from the Table Rock Dam, the current often activates trout.

“It doesn’t take much to hold the fish,” Rader said. “Maybe a little bump, a pile of rocks, a little drop, a bend in the river, a seam… they’ll all contain rainbows.”

One thing is certain: Taneycomo has plenty of trout to target. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks the cold water fishery with 560,000 rainbow trout and 15,000 brown trout annually, ensuring plenty of fish for number-seeking beginners and seasoned anglers alike. quality research.

Rader guided customers to rainbow trout as big as 14 pounds and brown trout as big as 25 pounds.

“I fish here over 200 days a year,” Rader said. “The great thing about Taneycomo is that you can catch fish all year round.

“The activity of the guides slows down in winter, but not the fishing. You can come here on colder days and still catch fish.