If you like to fish Lake Taneycomo with no generation, then you’ve been loving the last five months. There have been a handful of days when the water ran all day. Most days, it has been off a majority of the time.
These conditions are a favorite for fly fishers, especially those fishing immediately below the dam. I like it because I can fly fish a lot of places from my boat, in various ways, trying out dry flies, streamers, and stripping film flies as well as midges and scuds under a float.
With the water off, dock fishermen have an easier time, too. They aren’t fighting the current and catching trash floating down the lake on the lines. If you like trolling, I think it’s more effective to do this when the water is off, although it’s not exclusively done during these periods.
Our water temperature is 53 and has remained steady for the past three months. The dissolved oxygen content is also good — with no affects to fish appetites or their ability to fight. I haven’t had any fish struggle to regain strength when released, but I also haven’t caught any really big trout lately.
I have seen a lot of big browns and a few big rainbows caught up close to the dam on social media. They have been caught mainly in the outlets, it appears, although I have seen a few anglers posing down by what I would call the old Rebar Hole riffle. Some have been caught on the Taneycomo Sculpin, designed and tied by Leonard Keeney. He sent me some images the other day that explained what he was fishing and why.
Note the color of the sculpin he photographed in the water. Leonard claims, and I concur, sculpin turn various colors throughout the year depending on their environment and their life cycle. According to Keeney, sculpins just spawned in our lake and that is why they are a gold variant color. I’ve seen them in their dark green colors–almost a black. They also have an incandescent green lining at times. All these are considered when Keeney ties his sculpins as well as when he fishes them.
Sculpins sit on the bottom of the lake, most times motionless. When they move, they dart fast, then come to a quick stop, motionless again. They sit up high on their pectoral fins when resting. We use this knowledge when working a sculpin fly. It’s a stop-and-start retrieve with quick, short strips. In my experience, the trout will take the sculpins when they’re resting, and the strike is very aggressive.
We use sculpin flies in various colors and sizes. These flies are tied with lead eyes which makes them heavy, so I would suggest using at least a 6-weight, 9-foot rod with heavy tippet (8-10 pound fluorocarbon.) Keeney offers the following colors – gray, cream, purple, dark olive, light olive, black, gold variant, olive variant, sculpin, chinchilla, sand variant, ginger, red, white, brown and blue. There are two main sizes– #6’s and #8’s. All are stocked in our fly shop.
I am just now experimenting with throwing a sculpin. From my boat, I find water that’s less then three feet deep and gravel bottom. Below the dam you’ll find many areas that fit this description. The fly is tied with the hook up so that when it is retrieved, it doesn’t tend to catch the bottom.
I believe a jig can be used in the same way, using a spin cast rig. But the jig, at least the way our jigs are designed, will tend to get snagged on the bottom more often, as well as pick up green moss, which lessens the chance of getting bit.
Speaking of jigs, we haven’t been throwing jigs very much, but when we do we’re using dark colors–black, sculpin/black, sculpin and brown. And maybe we should experiment with some new colors like gold (gold variant.)
Jigs under a float are working, especially if there’s a chop on the surface. Use micro to 1/32nd-ounce jigs on two- to four- pound line in the same colors I mentioned. Fish them at least four-feet deep up to eight feet, depending on where you’re fishing.
I’ve been fishing a combo fly rig, using a peppy scud under a zebra midge all under an indicator. I’m using 6x fluorocarbon tippet with a #12-#14 scud and a red or black #14 or #16 midge, fishing it anywhere from three- to seven-feet deep, depending on the depth of water. I am not fishing the scud on the bottom, but about a foot from the bottom in most cases. Most of the time I’m catching them on the scud, but there are some days they hit the midge just as often.
The few guides who are working right now report fishing night crawlers from Fall Creek to Cooper Creek on the bottom using four-pound line. We’ve seen a few big rainbows caught this way, some longer than 20 inches. The Berkley pink worm under a float has also done quite well — again with four-pound line and fished five- to eight-feet deep, depending on the depth of water.