Breaking News

Plans to tear down old Cole County jail and sheriff's house move forward April 16, 2014

Driftwood Outdoors: Branson offers perfect winter getaway

Lake Taneycomo provides great trout fishing

Trout fishing at Lake Taneycomo can be a full activity any time of the year.

Trout fishing at Lake Taneycomo can be a full activity any time of the year.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Branson 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. But 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 waterway 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.

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 popular spot for fly-fishing. Down the lake, the water is deeper and slower, allowing trout to grow enormous sizes. Many believe the next world-record brown trout is swimming in these parts.

The water temperature remains fairly constant, so the fishing is great all year long. Winter is perhaps the best time to fish Taneycomo because there are fewer anglers 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 also be only minutes from the bustling Branson attractions.

“Lake Taneycomo is a great family fishing destination because the lake offers something for everyone,” Lilley said. “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.”

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 Florida Keys. Branson is easy to reach by car or plane.

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 Museum 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 …


Brandon Butler is an outdoors columnist for the News Tribune. Contact him at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments