By Kenneth L. Kieser
November 1, 2011
I once made the statement, “You will never see me on a kayak or canoe in Branson’s Lake Taneycomo,” a statement that seemed like common sense.
Kayaks and canoes are scarce on Taneycomo. The water is ice cold throughout the year, great for trout and lousy for swimming humans. Kayaks turn over, especially when the angler is 6’5 and 240 pounds like me, so putting that much weight in a kayak over deep, cold water seemed foolish-a chilling thought.
My father once told me, “Never say never.” I guess he was right. Besides, I had never heard of a Hobie Cat when I made the statement.
Last week my buddy from California, Ingrid Niehaus, convinced me to go fishing on Taneycomo with a group that included several die hard Hobie Cat enthusiasts including Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jackie Smith who was inducted as a tight end from the St. Louis Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, veteran outdoor writer, Chris Holmes from Louisiana and three Hobie experts, Dan Nash, Chris Jennings and Morgan Promnitz.
Little if any water was running through the Table Rock Dam locks into Taneycomo, so the lake seemed smooth enough. I gingerly stepped into the narrow Hobie Cat at Lilly’s Landing, one of Branson’s best trout docks, and settled in. I slipped my feet in the peddle stirrups, grabbed the steering lever and slipped out in the lake. I was surprised how comfortable I felt in this different kind of kayak that smoothly drifted across the lake.
Suddenly a bass boat flashed by and the Hobie and I gently bounced in its large wake-never tilting and rock steady. The realization finally settled in, I probably wasn’t going to drown after all.
Soon I joined the others paddling up the lake against a light current. Holmes almost immediately hooked a nice rainbow trout, his first of several. My love for fishing was overshadowed by this exciting craft that was moving swiftly upriver. I learned how to maneuver the Hobie Cat by stepping down on the peddles, turning paddles under the boat and maneuvering with the rudder steering lever.
I floated around a bend and was shocked to see Jennings standing on his Hobie while fishing with a fly rod. My fear of losing balance and falling in influenced my decision to pass on that particular experience. But there was no denying the stability of this little boat.
“You really have to try to turn a Hobie Cat over,” Smith said. “I have stood on one and rocked back and forth without tipping. This is one of the most stable kayaks made.”
Based on his extensive experience with the craft, I decided to trust his statement. The Hobie Cat certainly seemed stable enough and safe on the lake’s potentially dangerous water. Granted all four locks were not running, but there is little reason to fish Taneycomo in that circumstance. I seldom go out when more than two are shooting cold water downstream.
Jennings hooked a big rainbow later that morning, about four pounds. I watched as he fought the trout. He leaned several directions before landing his prize. That was the moment that I decided that owning a Hobie Cat was in my immediate future.
“I take Hobie Cats out on the ocean in good sized waves,” Jennings said. “I have never had a problem. That is a real test.”
Later in the afternoon Holmes caught a moderate rainbow trout on his floating Rebel in a rainbow trout color pattern. I was taking photos when a first happened. My Rebel floated behind the kayak and line draped over my left shoulder.
A trout suddenly took the lure and I felt the strike on my arm. I laid down my camera and set the hook. I started fighting the trout behind my back before it finally escaped. But I managed to hold the fish for a minute or slightly more. Holmes laughed, but sadly did not get a photo.
We started trolling the lures and hooked a few trout. Holmes landed several. The peddling device actually moved the Hobie fast enough to troll.
So, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks, even after 53 years of fishing. We peddled and fished up and down Taneycomo for about five hours before stopping and everyone was dry and happy at day’s end.
For more information about Hobie Cats, check out: www.hobiecat.com or call 1-(800)-hobie49.