Midge fishing the tailwaters of Branson, Mo.

Midge fishing the tailwaters of Branson, Mo.

By: Gary J. Groman, Independent Journalist


Fishing in Branson’s tailwaters for rainbow and brown trout using midges is an exciting experience. Tailwaters are a unique type of river where cold-water releases from the bottom of a dam providing an ideal environment for trout. Branson’s tailwater fishery starts at the foot of Table Rock Dam. It forms the upper end of Lake Taneycomo, an impoundment of the White River. Its average 48-degree Fahrenheit temperature, food sources, and clean water provide excellent year-round trout fishing. 


Midges, scuds, and sculpins are a significant part of the diet for Lake Taneycomo’s Rainbow and Brown trout and are abundant in Branson’s Tailwater. Different methods of fishing apply to each. This article focuses on midge fishing in the tailwater.


Midges are tiny aquatic insects that form a significant part of a trout’s diet in the tailwater. It takes a lot of these midges to satisfy the protein needs of trout. It is essential for anglers to understand midges’ life cycle to fish them successfully. 


The midge life cycle has four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Once laid, the midge egg sinks to the bottom and becomes dormant for some time. The larvae stage is the longest period during which it lives, gets its nourishment, and grows in the substrate at the bottom. After the larvae stage, the midges enter the pupae stage, rising to the surface to hatch into adults. The adult stage is the shortest stage lasting only 3-5 days. During that time, they mate and lay their eggs before dying. 


Although you can successfully fish for trout during the larva and adult stages, I prefer the pupae stage. After the larva stage, the pupae rise to the surface through the water column, where they shed their husk and enter the adult stage. Trout will feed on the rising pupae anywhere in the water column.


Zebra Midge flies in sizes 16 through 22 have proven successful when fishing the tailwater. I fish sizes 14 through 18, depending on the flow. I usually use sizes 16 to 18 because I only fish the tailwater when they are not generating or there are less than 20 cfs of current coming through the dam’s turbines.


There are many variations of midge flies. I only use the Zebra Midge in P&P, Black Copperhead, and Ruby 2 patterns. The Copperhead until sunrise, on cloudy days or murky water, P & P in bright sunlight, and the Ruby 2 if they don’t work. Midge flies are available at River Run Outfitters, Anglers Outfitters, and Lilly’s Landing.


I used to fish them with a fly rod and indicator, but because of old age, 82, and arthritis, I now use a spinning rod. I fish the midges in the tailwater using 6-pound Suffix Nanobraid main line. A 4-foot fluorocarbon tippet comes off the swivel in either 6 or 7 x. I adjust the depth with a slotted Fish Master Strike Indicator on the main line above the swivel.


When fishing at Branson’s Tailwater Fishery, please be aware of the special regulations that apply. There is a slot limit on Rainbow Trout. You may keep any Rainbow Trout under 12 inches or over 20 inches. You must immediately release rainbow trout between 12 and 20 inches. Brown Trout must be 20 inches or larger.