2013-12-26 / Columns

Driftwood Outdoors

Branson Offers Perfect Winter Getaway
by Brandon Butler

In the 1950s and ‘60s, Branson, Missouri emerged as the tourist destination of the Ozarks. The region’s scenic beauty drew visitors from around the country. Stage shows began to really take off in the 1980s when Roy Clark opened his Celebrity Theatre, which brought the biggest names in country music to town. Yet, the real star of Branson has always been and remains today, water.

The White River’s free flowing course ended in 1913 when Powersite Dam was constructed, forming Lake Taneycomo. For 45 years, Taneycomo was a popular warm- water fishery. That changed when Table Rock Dam was built in 1958. The cold water flowing in from the depths of Table Rock Lake transformed Lake Taneycomo into one of the premier cold-water trout fisheries in the country.

Lake Taneycomo is unique. The 22-mile long lake flows and fishes much more like a river than a lake. Since it is sandwiched between the two dams, though, it is officially a lake. The cold-water supports trout, lots of trout. In fact, the Missouri Department of Conservation stocks 750,000 trout in Taneycomo each year.

Phil Lilley admires an average rainbow trout from Lake Taneycomo. (Courtesy Photo) Phil Lilley admires an average rainbow trout from Lake Taneycomo. (Courtesy Photo) Fishing on Taneycomo is dependent on water flow. The water level in Taneycomo, as in all tailwaters, depends on how much water is being released from the dam. The water right below Table Rock Dam is generally shallow enough to wade, and is heavily fly fished. Down the lake, the water is deeper and slower. The deep, slow water allows trout to grow to enormous sizes. Many believe the next world-record brown trout is swimming in Taneycomo.

The water temperature in Lake Taneycomo remains fairly constant, so the fishing is great all year long. Winter is perhaps the best time to fish Taneycomo because the crowds are down and the water conditions remain stable most of the time.

Phil Lilley is a leading expert on catching trout in Lake Taneycomo. He and his family opened Lilleys’ Landing on the lake in the early 1980s and have built it into one of the premiere trout fishing destinations in the Midwest. The convenience of staying at Lilleys’ Landing allows you to be right on the water, but only minutes from the bustling Branson attractions.

“Lake Taneycomo is a great family fishing destination because the lake offers something for everyone. If you are a novice fisherman, you can use worms and power bait, and you’re going to catch fish. If you are an expert fly fisherman, then Taneycomo allows you to test your skills against some of the largest trout in the country. It’s family-friendly and just an all around great place to vacation any time of the year,” Phil Lilley said.

For those who are determined to fill a cooler with trout, Lilleys’ Landing offers guided fishing trips. These expert guides will make sure you catch fish, and will take you on the hunt for a monster trout, if that’s what you desire. The resort offers beautiful cabins and motel rooms, and has a full-service fly shop on site.

Branson is the tourist town of the Ozark Mountains. It’s what Gatlinburg is to the Smoky Mountains and Key West is to the Keys. Branson is easy to reach by car or plane, with daily flights on Southwest Airlines flying into the regional airport. Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake combine to offer just about everything a freshwater fisherman could hope for, while the country music shows and attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and wax museums give visitors plenty to do once they’re off the water. There is excellent dining and plenty of other attractions, both indoors and outdoors, to satisfy visitors. Branson is a perfect destination to interject fishing into a family vacation.

See you down the trail...

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