Setting the hook in a river full of big trout is a gamble on a light 4-pound test leader that can easily break. A bigger fish tends to be more aggressive on the strike, but not always. Any light tap could be from a nibbling trophy trout.

Fishing with guide Brett Rader, out of Lilley’s Landing Dock on Lake Taneycomo during the Conservation Federation of Missouri Outdoor Writers outing was a great opportunity to see a fly-fishing specialist at work. Only that day he was using fly-fishing tactics on spinning rods.

The rigging was a fair-sized bobber with a bobber stop that allowed at least four to five feet of line leading down to a drop sinker between a San Juan worm and a skud, two popular types of flies used for trout. Skuds imitate freshwater shrimp while San Juan Worms imitate earth worms that washed out of the soil. I suspect that the red San Juan Worm serves as much as an attractant, even though trout occasionally hit it.

Rader’s rigging was designed to allow the lead tear-shaped sinker to bounce off rocks along the bottom, placing the skud down deep where big trout lurk. Constant thumping through the sensitive graphite rod while the boat drifted downstream was a tell-tale sign the rigging was deep enough and doing its job.

Then came the strike. The rod movement changed from thumping rocks to a good pull that slashed the line into deeper water. A good hook set doubled the medium-action rod into a bow while the strong trout ran deep. Then the fun started.

Hooking a good trout on a lightweight leader is not for the weak-hearted. Just setting the hook is a challenge, especially if you bass fish and tend to set the hook too hard, often breaking the leader. The fight depends on a well-set reel drag that puts just enough tension on the line wit out breaking it.

“Now reel in line when you can and down reel when you hear the reel drag clicking,” Rader said in a gentle voice you would expect from a guide with 20 years of experience. “Just keep a steady pressure on the line and the trout will eventually wear out.”

Fighting a good fish is one of life’s greatest moments. Problem is, you have mixed feeling of getting the fish in quickly as possible before it breaks your light line or cuts the line on a sharp rock. Every moment of hanging onto your fishing rod is precious.

The trout dove deep and then started to give up as line was retrieved. Then a second energy spurt took over and the fish stripped drag off the reel with ease, propelling it farther away and into the sanctuary of deeper water. What started out as a strike within five feet of the boat quickly changed to 20 feet as line continued to strip off the protesting reel.

Finally, all mechanics held and the trout started running out of energy. Rader soon slipped his large net under a 19 -inch rainbow trout that was quickly released after some resuscitation.

The trout was good sized, but several were caught during the week that measured well over 20 inches. John Neoporadny, famed bass and crappie fishing journalist, caught a 13-pound brown trout while fishing a feathered jig with top guide Duane Doty. But that is not surprising in Lake Taneycomo, where catching the biggest trout of your life is always possible

Lake Taneycomo, by Branson, Missouri, is part of the White River chain. Successful stocking from nearby Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in this unique lake that is fed from Table Rock Dam’s cold-water releases has created a world-class trout destination where state and possible world record browns and rainbow trout exist.

The Shepherd of the Hills hatchery was built in 1958 as a 200,000-pound trout production facility. In 1958 the hatchery area was 301 acres and cost $201,581 to construct. This successful program created a trout fishery beyond anyone’s imagination.

“Trout in Taneycomo feed on freshwater shrimp, insects, worms, sculpin minnows, gizzard shad or whatever appeals to them,” Rader said. “Occasionally the Table Rock Dam locks drops clouds of threadfin minnows into Taneycomo, giving the trout a new source to gorge on.”

Threadfin minnows die in water temperatures below 40 degrees and some are injured dropping into the tailwaters. Either way produces easy meals for trout that eat until their bellies are full, a great food source for growing fish.

Smaller rainbow trout are generally taken home for meals. Trophy trout on the White River Chain are often released to fight another day. This is not a written law, but an understanding between anglers. The best trout are often photographed, then measured for girth and length before release. Top taxidermists can make a fiberglass replica that will withstand time better than a real fish mounted.

I plan a trip to Taneycomo at least three times per season and am still trying to catch that monster trophy trout that is presently watching fishing lines float past. She is laying on the bottom awaiting my return – I hope!

BRANSON: Not everyone loves to fish. Branson, Missouri, offers shows and other types of clean entertainment for families. Theme park rides, family friendly shows and excellent restaurants. Nearby Silver Dollar City has all kinds of theme-park rides and different events based on crafts or music.

Nearby Dogwood Canyon is 10,000 acres of absolute beauty and adventures for families. This is an opportunity to try fishing, hiking or go for a ride around the park. Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shop fame turned this property into a must visit vacation destination while paying close attention to the environment, the mark of a true conservationist.

For more information about fishing with fly fishing or spinning tackle specialist Brett Rader, check his website at For Lilley’s Landing Trout Dock, call 417-334-6380. To visit Branson, call 1-800-296-0463. For more information about Dogwood Canyon, call 877-459-5687.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at