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Drift Boat Fly Fishing on Lake Taneycomo: A Guiding Perspective

In recent years, the popularity of non-motorized drift boats has surged among fly fishing enthusiasts on the trout fisheries of the White River Basin. These vessels prove highly effective in accessing remote areas during specific flow conditions, offering a serene experience as anglers navigate the river’s currents in virtual silence.

While I can guide fly fishermen successfully in a drift boat on Lake Taneycomo under various water conditions, the abundance of prime spots dwindles significantly when flows exceed the two-unit level. At this point, shallow gravel bars become deep, and the main current accelerates. From a guiding standpoint, elevated flows translate to fewer opportunities for clients, and the limited slack water areas holding fish often get crowded, as those without motorized boats gravitate to the same promising spots.

The primary boat launch for the upper trophy section of Taneycomo lies a mile below the dam. For those without upstream conveyance, such as drift boaters, this translates to missing out on over half of the section’s prime water. Approximately a quarter-mile below Point Royal, the tailwater widens, becoming deep and expansive. Consequently, there are only three islands providing breaks in the current from the launch to the end of the best water. While each of these spots can yield productive fishing, the bite seldom extends beyond two hours. This situation results in considerable downtime during full-day guide trips, with clients anchored and fishing to trout familiar with a multitude of fly patterns. To address this, I’ve adapted my guiding approach on Lake Taneycomo, acknowledging that the high-water drift boat experience is not an all-day affair.

 

When the water levels suggest a likelihood of running below the two-unit mark, I proceed with full-day guide trips on Lake Taneycomo. However, if the water is elevated on the morning of an excursion, I now recommend four-hour (half-day) drift boat trips. Additionally, the White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas serve as excellent alternatives, allowing me to explore southern options when conditions are more favorable for fly fishing.

 

seagulls eating shad bull shoals dam

Navigating the bureaucratic intricacies of motorized boats on Lake Taneycomo, I continuously seek ways to enhance the drift boat experience. Embracing the unhurried pace of this fishing style, a drift boat proves ideal for avoiding crowds during periods of low water. In light to moderate flows, these vessels excel at delicately maneuvering down the river. While a drift boat’s tactical advantages diminish in heavy flows, they remain effective if continuous movement is maintained. To ensure clients receive optimal value and to streamline my guiding responsibilities in challenging conditions, adjusting my guide strategy proves beneficial, steering away from the repetition of targeting the same fish throughout the day.

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