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Welcome to the River Journal!  My name is Mike Bone and although I've made my living as a full time fly fishing guide here in East Tennessee for over twenty years,  it's not my intention for this to be a guide site. If you are interested in our current rates, or how to contact me about a float,  please click on the guide information section to the right.  For 2017 the rest of this site will be dedicated to the idea of a journal. For many years people I've had the pleasure of sharing a boat with have told me I should write down some of the stories I've collected over the years,  before I forget them. I'm not sure what that says about their faith in my memory,  but either way I think it might be a good idea.  So here goes..If you have questions, comments,  suggestions, or something you would like to contribute to these pages email me at, or by signing the guestbook at the top of this page. I'd be happy to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the read..Mike Bone


The tourist and the trout..

It was a quiet afternoon in early Summer and I was working as a manager and guide at a fly shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Since the release of the movie A River Runs Through It, earlier that year, traffic had nearly doubled in the store,  and people new to the sport of fly fishing were a welcome daily occurrence.

 I was in the back room getting some fly tying materials that had just arrived ,  when I heard the bell on the front door ring,  signaling that someone had come into the shop.  I came out and spotted a rather slight,  dark haired man, probably in his mid thirties, hovering around the fly case with the look of unease that comes with not being sure of exactly what you’re looking for.  So,  I greeted him with the universal fly shop opening line , “ Been doing any fishing?”  He seemed  glad that I had broken the silence,  and said that he had been fishing most of that morning without much success,  and was wondering what fly  might be the best to use. I did a quick rundown of the most popular flies in the Smoky Mountain National Park and we finally settled on a few Thunderheads, a bushy dry fly I had been using on a guide trip the day before,  with good results. I pulled out a map, showed him the area we had been fishing, and since he was unfamiliar with the park, tried to give him a few tips on technique and  presentation. He left the store excited about tthe next morning’s fishing.

 The next day, a little after lunch I looked out the front window to see the same man crossing the parking lot and as he walked through the door I could tell he seemed frazzled. Before I could say a word,  he allowed that he had been fishing all morning, lost all the flies he had bought, fallen in the river, and still not caught a single trout. He said he was only going to be there two more days and asked if I could guide him the next morning. I had the next day open and told him I’d be glad to. We arranged to meet at the shop at 8am, and when I arrived early that morning he was in the parking lot waiting to get going. We chatted a bit on the way to the stream and I learned his name was Paul, he was from  Cincinnati,  Ohio, and he had just recently taken up fly fishing. When we reached the stream we suited up, rigged his rod, walked a little way up the trail,  and eased into the water. It quickly became apparent why Paul had been struggling. He waded up the middle of the stream like a bull moose, staggering, and pushing water in front of him with enough velocity to spook trout on the next drainage over. He then began swinging the fly rod through the air like an Indian woman beating a prayer rug. I called an all stop to the casting. We stepped out of the river, walked a few hundred yards upstream and began again. After about an hour of instruction we were ready to resume fishing , and to both our amazement, Paul began to catch fish. First a little rainbow, then a colorful brown, and after about another hour when we stopped for lunch,  Paul had landed half a dozen small, wild, Smoky Mountain trout! However where I expected to see jubilation, his mood actually seemed to be deteriorating, so I mentioned as we were eating our sandwiches that I couldn’t help but notice his concern,  and if there was something wrong,  or something else he was expecting from the day?  That’s when the truth came out!  Paul, his wife, and her entire family were staying in a nearby campground and he had been promising for the past two days  to bring back a trout dinner for the entire group. Every evening when he returned empty handed he had to endure jokes about his fishing prowess, or lack thereof. And although he was thrilled to have actually caught fish,  he was hoping they would be much bigger and numerous enough to take back to his in laws for supper. After considering our predicament for a moment , I made a suggestion. We were only about twenty minutes from  a trout farm in Cosby that could sell him whole trout, we could then put them on a stringer,  I would show him how to clean them,  and he could return to the campground and finish the job in front of his surprised relatives and admiring wife. He was like a new man! We fished for a couple more hours, caught and released several more beautiful, wild trout, and headed over to the trout farm in Cosby , before returning to the fly shop. I never heard from Paul after that, but I feel certain both he,  and his ravenous relatives were happy. And I learned a valuable lesson that would serve me well for the next twenty years as a guide..everyone comes to the sport with different expectations, make sure you understand what those are before you begin a guide trip, secondly, never take your in laws camping.



River Journal 2014 Video Slide Show..

What better way to kick off the 2015 guide season than with a wrap up of the season before. I was asked to do a presentation for the Clinch River chapter of Trout Unlimited recently and even though I had all but quit doing presentations, I readily agreed because of my involvement with these fine folks, and all the good work they do for the river and fly fishing as a whole. Shortly after hanging up the phone however I began to consider what I actually had to show them! Inventory came up with one very outdated slide in, about slide, about next slide, get the picture. So I sat down with my hand me down Macbook from my daughter and began putting pictures and music together and although its obvious I'm no Ron Howard..I think it came out pretty good! Good enough at least to be something I plan to do at the end of each season. I'm  sure there is a way to upload it here,  but until I figure out what that is,  you can view it on YouTube at the following link....

Im pretty excited about the coming 2015 season for a number of reasons which I will be publishing in following posts. In the meantime think Spring!! 



Business as usual on the Clinch..

How can you tell it's Spring on the Clinch? The hills green up, the sulphur hatch begins, and the poachers show up. Now we're not talking about your clandestine, under the cover of darkness type poacher. These guys violate the regulations in wide open areas during the middle of the day, near parking lots in full view of God and TWRA, and apparently have no fear of retribution from either. God is a tricky call, but in the case of TWRA the lack of fear is justified. Now mind you it's tough, for the past month the water has begun generating at 2 PM, everyone wading the river has the choice of either exiting or drowning. Most take exiting. Everyone coming out must walk up the bank to get to their cars just like the guy in this picture we took yesterday. If you wait until 4PM when the water has been running for two hours to swing through the parking lot our good friend the poacher will be at home enjoying an over the size limit trout dinner. However our friend the poacher could justifiably state that he didn't see any signs stating there are regulations..all the paper signs tacked to area trees have been torn down, like every Spring. Wouldn't it be nice if we had some permanent metal signs in place like the ones that abound on the Caney Fork and South Holston rivers. Guess somebody has to be the red headed step child of cold water fisheries, might as well be the best quality holdover river in the state. Welcome to the Clinch, patron river of nobody gives a damn.


Is it Spring yet??

Well no..probably not, but at least we've begun the countdown! January was a rough one for us here in East Tennessee and I guess for most other parts of the country. Record cold temps on at least two occasions, busted water pipes, and not much chance even for the most insane of Winter fly fishers to get on the water. The good news is there hasn't been a whole lot of rain like last January and the lake levels have remained normal if not even a little low. All we needed was a little warm weather. This past Sunday we got it. With temps climbing close to 50 degrees and TVA water schedules looking favorable, we headed out to the Clinch for a preliminary run to check things out in the lower river. I was joined by my old friend, long time fishing buddy, and ex owner of the Creel fly shop in Knoxville, Scott Rodgers. Scott and I don't get the chance to fish together much anymore so we were both looking forward to hitting the river Sunday morning.
Despite the wind howling at times, Scott, I, and another fishing fanatic Sam Lewis all managed to land some fish, with the nicest one being the rainbow in spawning colors you see Scott holding in the photo. Although fishing was relatively slow at times the fish we were picking up were in great shape, not a lot of stocking has occurred yet, at least not in the lower sections of the river so most of the fish we contacted were all holdovers.
I was definitely encouraged by what we saw and with a little help from Mother Nature, we should have a great Spring on the Clinch!



Better late than never! In case you haven't heard the smallmouth bite is on! Water levels are finally down on our rivers and popper fishing has been great! 'Ve been chasing them the last two days and it has been some of the better surface fishing I have seen in a long time. We've been casting smallish (size 4) poppers pretty much all day long and have been catching some really nice fish. Now don't get me wrong, I love to streamer fish, but seeing a smallmouth smash a popper has very few equals in the world of fly casting. The best part about popper fishing is your normal trout gear works just fine. Weight forward floating 5 or 6 weight lines work well and you don't even have to worry about soft presentations. My normal popper routine goes something like this..plop the popper onto the surface, hard enough to make a small splat! Let it sit a few seconds until the ripples subside and then give it a small twitch with the rod tip..let the ripples subside again, and then begin a jerky retrieve for a few feet, pick it up and start over. Most of the time hits come shortly after the popper hits the water. Sometimes in ripples smallmouth with chase and hit it on the retrieve but most of the time bringing the popper all the way back like a streamer is a waste of time. SPLAT..REST..POP..REST..SHORT RETRIEVE..REPEAT!
Give it try..I guarantee you the first time a smallmouth destroys your popper, you'll be hooked for good!