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Late Night on Lake Taneycomo
Strategies and thoughts regarding targeting trophy fish below Table Rock Dam in total darkness
It seems as though the popularity of night fishing on Lake Taneycomo has waned slightly over the last decade, but for a hardcore group of anglers, fishing by the “lights of the dam” is still a major part of their fishing lives. I will admit that there were a few years where I hardly made it out there after dark, but lately, my fire for this type of fishing has been rekindled. There is nothing quite like the feeling of when a nice trout about rips the rod out of my hands, and because so many of Taneycomo’s bigger fish feed almost exclusively at night, it always seems like there is the possibility of hooking up with anything when stripping a streamer through a deep hole where behemoths are known to reside.
The most important aspect of night fishing on all of the White River Basin tailwater trout fisheries is safety. It is imperative that anglers gain a feel of the layout of the river during daylight hours while paying close attention to areas that look like they would be likely spots for nocturnal fish to cruise. The upper sections of Taneycomo are comprised primarily of slow, deep water, so it’s easy to think that every spot is the same, but this is definitely not the case. Big trout will move into different lies at night to feed, but they will still usually be found near where they hang out during the day. Every night fishing experience is going to be different, so I like to fish several different depths of water before committing to a specific area. When the trout are aggressive and hungry, shallow runs can hold surprising numbers of fish, but if these same fish are feeling content [and lazy], it often pays to fish deep water holes. A slow retrieve often works best, but it never hurts to change things up if you are not getting the results that you are looking for.
Fly selection and overall techniques for night fishing are somewhat simple, and I normally stick with floating lines, five to eight-foot leaders and basic patterns. Although huge streamers attract big fish – especially on the White in Arkansas – a more subtle approach is often necessary when night fishing on Taneycomo. I stick with size #6 and #8 weighted wooly buggers for the most part, and the best colors schemes often have some black either as the hackle, the body or both. There are also times when I will use “fancier” flies, but I always seem to revert to the old standards for the sake of confidence. Because the water is so slow and open below Table Rock Dam, casting accuracy is not at a premium; but casting distance does make a big difference because long casts inevitably cover more water and present to more fish. I will usually let the fly sink for five to ten seconds before I start stripping in, and a lot of bites seem to come when my pattern starts to swing downstream of where I am standing.
In all honesty, there really aren’t any ‘bad’ spots when it comes to catching numbers of fish on Taneycomo, but when going after trophy trout, it helps to do some research and have access to certain tools. This has been the first year that I have used my drift boat for fishing at night, as it allows me to get into areas where I see the biggest fish during the day. Plus, a non-motorized vessel allows me to cover large expanses of water without spooking nice trout out of their holes. Obviously, this approach requires intimate knowledge of the river, and I am offering guide trips at night that utilize my drifter. It is quite the experience, and it gets my adrenaline pumping to fish spots where I know there are high concentrations of big rainbows and browns. As October’s spawn approaches, there will be more and more browns holding in the deep holes that I like to fish, so September will be an exciting time for the drift boat night fishing experience.
Keep in mind that cloudy conditions tend to offer up the best fishing, but again, every night is different, so it’s an exercise in futility to try and “pick” the perfect evening. On the other side of the coin, the moon shining on the water can make the fish spookier. When confronted with this situation, go to smaller flies and lighter tippet (4x or 5x). Wade cautiously as to avoid stepping into deep water and do not stray too far from your access point just in case the horn blows and the water starts to rise. Night fishing on Taneycomo is relatively safe if anglers take simple precautions and are diligently prepared.
Night fishing in the Ozarks and especially on Lake Taneycomo is as productive as anywhere, and it is not overly difficult to realize success right off the bat. It does take a little bit of time to get used to casting and wading at night, but the learning curve with respect to this type of fishing is not nearly as steep as with other methods because darkness hides a lot of flaws. All of the guides at Taneycomo Trout are experienced when it comes to fishing at night, and never hesitate to drop us a line for more information about this unique opportunity.