Lake Taneycomo Drift Boat Fly Fishing: My Perspective

Reports From The Field - Flys

April 23, 2012

Lake Taneycomo Drift Boat Fly Fishing: My Perspective

The use of non-motorized drift boats has grown in popularity amongst the fly fishing ranks on White River Basin trout fisheries over the last five to ten years. These types of vessels can really be effective at accessing hard to reach water during specific flow conditions, and there is something inherently relaxing about being at the whim of the river’s currents while drifting in virtual silence.

I can productively guide fly fishermen out of a drift boat on Lake Taneycomo during all water conditions, but the number of good spots available decreases exponentially once flows exceed the two-unit level. At this elevation, many once-shallow gravel bars become deep, and the main current starts moving quite fast. From a guiding perspective, higher flows mean less opportunities for my clients, and the few slack water areas that do hold fish will often be congested, as all of the others without a motorized boat will flock to the same likely spots.

Because the only boat launch on upper Taneycomo’s trophy section is located a mile below the dam, those without upstream conveyance – like drift boaters – are already missing out on over half of this section’s best water. The tailwater becomes deep and wide about a quarter-mile below Point Royal, so there are basically three islands that provide breaks in the current from the launch until the end of the best water. Even though each of these spots can offer up good fishing, the bite will rarely last for over two hours. This means that full-day guide trips involve a lot of time spent sitting around while anchored fishing to trout that have seen every fly in the book. I have decided to adjust my guiding strategy on Lake Taneycomo because the high-water drift boat experience is not an all day affair.

If I have a guide trip booked for Lake Taneycomo, and it looks like the water will likely be running below the two-unit level, I will go ahead and do a full-day trip. When the water is running high on the morning of an excursion, I will now recommend four-hour (half-day) drift boat trips. The White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas are also good options, and I am always willing to head south if conditions are better for fly fishing down there.

There is a lot of red tape involved in using motorized boats on Lake Taneycomo, so I am always looking for ways to enhance the Taneycomo drift boat experience. I love the slower pace of this type of fishing, and a drift boat is the perfect way to beat the crowds during dead-low water. When flows are light to moderate, such vessels are perfect for delicately working my way down the river. Unfortunately, a drift boat loses many of its tactical advantages when flows get heavy, but they are still effective if you are able to keep moving. Beating up the same fish is not my idea of a perfect day, so by adjusting my guide strategy, the clients will get a better value and I will have an easier time performing my job during difficult conditions.

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