BRANSON, Mo. — Nearly all she passes on the shore have a friendly wave or words for Carolyn Parker.
Few seem surprised her visiting anglers enjoyed good fishing on what most considered one of those days on Lake Taneycomo on Tuesday morning.
But as well as one of Taneycomos best-known anglers and successful guides, Parker is also one of the waters longest-running fans.
My dad and I used to come down here to fish for smallmouth and whatever we could catch in about 52 or 53. Ive been fishing for trout down here about as long as its had trout, said Parker, a Kansas City native who can add angling entrepreneur, innovator, barrier breaker and educator to her piscine resume.
Parker is quick to note Taneycomo is more of a river than a lake as it flows from beneath Table Rock Lakes dam, which was closed in the late 1950s to throttle the often-wild White River.
Trout were stocked when the sometimes 40-something degree water was too cold for most Ozark fish. It was in the mid-1960s that she was bitten by the fly-fishing bug.
It was just so beautiful, I knew I had to do it, Parker said of the first time she watched others casting flies at Taneycomo.
The sport has always been about more than catching fish to Parker.
Fly fishing was my sanity savor when I was working, said Parker, who worked in business for 25 years.
In 1997, Parker and her husband, Stan, retired and moved to the Branson area to be closer to the water and trout they loved.
Neither were ready for the rocking chair. In 1999, they opened Rivers Run Outfitters, a fly-fishing shop and guiding operation. Parker became the first female fly-fishing guide in the area.
Theyve done well enough that in 2006, the business received the Outfitter of the Year award from a national retailer.
The Parkers were content to stay behind the counter or just wade the shallows.
Having great days casting from drift boats on Rocky Mountain streams, the Parkers imported a few of the high-sided, ultra-stable craft to the Ozarks in 2000. They were the first of their kind on Taneycomo.
As well as making casting easier for standing clients, it allowed Rivers Run guides to access miles of river, stopping to work the best areas.
Its also just a cool feeling to be floating down that river, Parker said. Its a lot more of an enjoyable experience.
Tuesday morning, Parker gave two visitors a quick tour of where she likes to fish on the 23-mile river.
Just below the dam, she launched the boat and leaned hard into the oars. With every pull, the boat scooted over trout.
Thanks to regular stockings, natural reproduction and a fertile environment, Taneycomo holds some impressive trout sizes and densities.
This spring, the lake yielded a rainbow trout that was about 31 inches long and 17.48 pounds.
Parker said 20-inch trout are considered exceptional in the shallow areas where they guide. Clients catch a lot of trout in the 12-14 inch range.
You can occasionally have 100 fish days here, but I consider 80 fish a really good day, Parker said of when shes guiding two anglers a full day. When you get down around 10 fish thats bad, unless theyre beginners, then its fantastic.
Though shes requested by many experienced male fly fishers, Parker relishes working with women. Shes helped start two fly-fishing organizations, including the Midwest-based River Runners Womens Fly Fishing Club, hoping to draw more females to fly fishing.
Some of her best days have been watching women catch and land their first fly-caught fish.
I really like working with women. They usually have no pre-conceived notions of what fly fishing is supposed to be, she said, and they seem to enjoy it more if theyre learning from me instead of a husband or boyfriend. Its like learning to drive.
No matter the gender, working with rank amateurs often means a steady diet of untangling tippets and leaders for Parker.
Fly fishing has really helped my patience, she said. Im just fortunate to be doing something I love.