Driving his boat upstream on Lake Taneycomo, Duane Doty reflected on the dramatic changes he has witnessed at the Ozarks reservoir for the last month.
After a period of heavy rain in late December, Taneycomo shot to unprecedented levels. And the aftermath of that flooding is evident even now.
Doty passed mangled docks, some of which were deposited far up the banks, and beautiful homes that were damaged when they took on water.
“You look at some of these houses and you can’t believe the water got that high,” said Doty, a guide and dock manager for Lilleys’ Landing Resort and Marina.
But things are back to normal now. And Taneycomo is back in the news.
The good news.
The flooding flushed huge numbers of shad from Table Rock Lake into Taneycomo, setting off a feeding spree among the trout. Now that the flood gates have been shut and the water has dropped to normal, fishermen are benefiting.
“You use anything white — anything that imitates a shad — and you’re going to get bit,” Doty said as he motored to the Trophy Area, where restrictive regulations result in mostly catch-and-release fishing. “The trout are still keyed in on those shad. The fish we’re catching are just bulging with them.”
Moments later, Doty proved his point. He cast out a white marabou jig on a 2-pound test line and slowly worked it back to the boat, making sure he kept his bait close to the bottom. He immediately got a hit and snapped his wrists to set the hook.
The rainbow pulled hard, but it wasn’t long before Doty had it in a net. Gleaming in the sun, the brilliantly colored rainbow was proof that Taneycomo was indeed back to normal.
Doty tossed the fish back and then cast for more. And there were plenty more. During a media event Monday sponsored by the Conservation Federation of Missouri and Lilleys’ Landing, Ken White of Stockton, Mo., and I enjoyed a memorable day of fishing with Doty.
Working primarily the Trophy Area, we caught and released countless rainbows and a few stocky brown trout. Most of those fish came on white marabou jigs that Doty tied the night before. But some were enticed by white shad flies fished on a drift rig.
“You have to be close to the bottom right now,” Doty said. “If you’re not losing a few jigs, you’re not fishing in the right spot.”
Doty is a master at knowing where the trout will be in varying conditions. He started fishing at Taneycomo in the early 1990s, making weekend trips to the Ozarks lake while he worked for TWA in St. Louis. When the airlines shut down, Doty said, “I could move anywhere in the world that I wanted. And I chose here.”
He’s never regretted that choice. Today, he guides at Taneycomo out of Lilleys’ Landing from Oct. 15 through the end of May, then in Alaska from the first of June until October.
It’s a busy life, but it’s what Doty loves. He has a true passion for chasing trout.
He laughs when he looks back on his younger days when he fished for 39 straight hours at Taneycomo during one stretch. He was wade fishing, using a fly rod, and the trout were biting. He couldn’t bring himself to quit.
Doty also recalls a day two years ago when he caught and released a rainbow that weighed 14.3 pounds. And he didn’t even have to leave the dock at Lilleys’ to catch it.
“It was a dock fish. It was just staying under the docks, feeding on the (remains) that fishermen were throwing into the water after cleaning their fish,” Doty said. “Phil said, ‘I bet you can’t catch that fish.’ And I took him up on that dare.
“I threw a night crawler down there, and we watched it come up and just inhaled it.”
Doty also caught a 31-inch brown trout, fishing with a streamer fly one night below the dam.
Doty and others at Lilleys’ were braced for the worst when the flooding occurred, but the resort and marina escaped virtually unscathed. It affected a few of the lower units, but the docks withstood the torrent of water rushing downstream.
Now, many are benefiting from that memorable moment.
“When they’re running two units (at the dam), like they are now, it’s perfect for boat fishing,” he said.