Guide Service Information
The River Journal on Facebook
Newsletter Sign Up


Brent Golden Photography



Welcome to the River Journal!  My name is Mike Bone  I've made my living as a full time fly fishing guide here in East Tennessee for over twenty years. 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. 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


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.



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!


Fall Fishing..

Nothing about this year has been normal! If you have been around East Tennessee lately you know this is one of the coolest Augusts anyone can remember! The last couple of days on the river if you didn't have a calendar, you would swear it must be Fall. And in a year plagued by high water and rain, I for one am ready for Fall to begin. It has always been my favorite time to me watching a fly line unroll against a backdrop of changing colors, drifting down an uncrowded river, is the pinnacle of our sport. Now maybe I am a little ahead of myself, and I am sure we still have some more hot weather to go, but Summer is losing it's grip. TVA seems to be gaining control of the rainfall and with a relatively dry Fall, water schedules should be returning to more normal levels. Most of our smallmouth rivers have been running too high to fish the vast majority of the season, leaving the fish basically untouched and that usually makes for good late season angling.
So for my part..bring it on. Fall cannot get here soon enough, there is still plenty of fishing season left to go. For fish, a time to feed and pack on reserves for the Winter, for rain weary anglers, hopefully a chance to get in some of the fishing they have been missing most of the Spring and Summer, and for guides, a chance to possibly redeem a dismal season of cancellations and lost bookings. When it comes to float trips I have always said I would rather end big than start big..same with fishing seasons..lets get after 'em!


Spring 2013..Boom or Bust??

After postponing yet another trip this morning for more times than I care to count, I have to admit the Spring of 2013 may be the worst in many ways, I have seen in my over two decades as a guide. With over a years worth of rain already falling on East Tennessee and TVA's ongoing efforts to repair the weir dam on the Clinch, conditions have created the perfect storm of disastrous conditions for fishing most of our rivers. This is not the first time we've seen high water. As a matter of fact it happens almost every year in March and even into April, but as I sit here typing this I cannot ever remember a season where we are still fighting high water all the way into the first of July! Every year is different and comes with it's own challenges, but this one has had more than it's share. I can only say I am glad it is my twenty first, and not my first year in the guide business, because there probably would not have been a second.
So after all the doom and gloom, there is some pretty good news for East Tennessee anglers..the fish this season are incredible!! Overall average size is as good as I have ever seen. They are healthy, fat, and angry! All the high water has kept angling pressure to a minimum and allowed the fish to grow to truly impressive size. Also in the good news department, TVA lakes are at full pool or beyond as we speak, which means there should be plenty of cool water to release during the hot Summer months to come. And with a reasonable amount of moisture this Summer and Fall that should add up to maybe one of the best late seasons we have seen in many, many years.
So keep your fingers crossed, there is still plenty of fishing season left and with a little luck it might be the best fishing any of us may see for a long time!
As for me..I'm not going anywhere..if there is anything for certain in the guide game it is that things always change, for better or worse, we are due for better..


Our Latest Threat..The Cormorant

cor·mo·rant noun \ˈkȯrm-rənt, ˈkȯr-mə-, ˈkȯr-mə-ˌrant\...Definition; worthless fish eating trash bird that needs eliminated from the planet! maybe that's not Webster's definition word for word but it should be! Cormorants started showing up on the tail waters last year and their numbers have probably tripled this season. They probably began by coming down from the lakes after the shad kill and discovered a waiting buffet supplied by TWRA and your trout stamp dollars! Joining the club as yet another invasive species that love to dine on trout..your trout! Blue herons have been around on these waters forever and although they get a few trout they at least have to stand in the shallows and wait for fish to approach. Not so with Mr. cormorant. He can dive into the holes and swim at speeds up to thirty miles per hour, plenty fast enough to catch even the speediest of trout. Not only that, but they work as a team to corral fish and catch them. They are capable of completely wiping out an area of fish before they move on to the next spot. I saw this first hand last year in a deep slow area below one of the put ins on the Holston..this area always held a bunch of fish as it was just downstream of a stocking area. Nobody fished it, it was too deep to wade and the few boats that put in mainly just passed through, as it is not typical trout looking water, but I repeat, it was full of fish. Then one day I saw a cormorant on one of the stumps in the river..two days later I saw 6.. one week later there were no trout..none..the cormorants were gone but so were all the trout. Nobody kept them, they did not move or die, the cormorants ate them and moved on.
Most of the time when you see them they are flying over or just lounging in the sun, that's because they mainly feed right after dawn and at dusk, they spend the rest of the day digesting trout provided for them by the anglers of the state of Tennessee. So why not just blast them? Well for one it's illegal..they are protected under the waterfowl act. For another they are very wary, usually taking flight before you approach although recently I have noticed them becoming more brazen and flying directly over the boat within..shall we say..easy viewing range.
A quick Internet search will reveal how devastating to fisheries these birds are, even fish too large for them to swallow will be scarred from encounters with them. Some countries even have shoot on sight policies to protect valuable fisheries from their predation.
So what can we do about them? First contact TWRA and make them aware of the problem. They're often spread pretty thin, and may not even be aware of the situation. Getting rid of them is apparently a very big problem as once they find a suitable feeding area they are reluctant to leave until the resource has been depleted. Harassment measures such as air cannons and protective netting have been useful on ponds and small lakes but not practical on large areas of water. Human harassment also works but as they typically feed when angler activity is at its lowest that is also not very effective in larger areas. Since the banning of the pesticide DDT they have been making a huge comeback and if we want to continue to have quality fisheries, that needs to be curbed.
Rumor has it they are very susceptible to lead poisoning and that might be the only answer. So keep your eyes out for them, let TWRA officials know about the problem, and as with most invasive pests the answer will probably lie in sportsmen and women's active participation in controlling their numbers.