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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


Gear Review...Chota Hippies.

This morning it was cool here in East Tennessee and the wind was blowing pretty good as I backed down the ramp to launch the boat for a days fishing. I was wearing my customary shorts and sandals but the thought of stepping into the frigid water was not getting me overly excited. I open the back of the truck..grab my Chota hippies and wading boots..kick off my sandals and in less time than it took my clients to get their rod cases out of the car, I had them on and into the water..nice and dry! A couple of hours into the float the sun came out and things really started to warm up, so while I was waiting for a very nice rainbow trout on the end of my clients line to accept defeat, I slipped out of the boots and hippies and into the river sandals, and then it occurred to me "these may be the most useful piece of fly fishing equipment I have ever owned!"
I've known Frank Bryant, owner of Chota for quite a while and am fortunate that his company is located here in Knoxville just a short drive from me. Frank is an innovative guy..he's one of those people who looks at something good and can come up with ten ways to make it better! I've owned a lot of his gear and if anything it just keeps getting better but this time he's really outdone himself! A set of waders you can be in and out of in seconds and in a pinch..could fit into your back pockets!
I'm not going to go into explicit detail about all the features but they can be worn as hip waders, knee high waders, or as gaiters just above the ankles. What I can say is they are comfortable, durable, and maybe the best darn idea I've seen come along in years. They're probably not made for wading deep, big rivers but I don't think Frank ever intended for them to be used that way. They're made for small streams, jumping in and out of boats , or anytime you don't need bulky, heavy chest waders. I've had mine for going on two seasons and when they do finally wear out you can bet I'll be standing in front of Chota, waiting to get a new pair. If you don't have them, get a pair. I guarantee you won't regret it!


Spilling ..again!'s in the news..for the third time in as many years Norris dam is spilling over the top. The parking lot is full as happy onlookers get to experience once again the thrill of an East Tennessee waterfall courtesy of TVA. What used to be a once in a lifetime occurrence has now become an every year thing. Maybe we've had record rainfalls this year, or maybe the new TVA model for lake levels on Norris is not really working out, either way hopefully it won't last long. We fished the lower end today and the sulphur hatch is getting underway nicely. With a little less flow things should be looking good in the next few weeks. So if you have some spare time this weekend and happen to be near Norris dam you should check it out..I'll be the guy in the corner with a raft trailer..setting up a hot dog stand! ;)


Mountain fishing..

Like many a budding fly fisherman I caught my first trout in a small stream. The Little Bottoms section of Abram's Creek to be exact. The wild rainbow took a size 14 hare's ear nymph after it had swung below me and I was about to pick it up to make another awkward cast. I couldn't believe I had actually caught a trout..the details of that day have been replayed countless times in my brain over the years, even when seemingly more important events fade to obscurity. Another three trips to the park later and I had not caught another fish! Whether that first trout was an act of providence on behalf of the fish gods or sheer beginners luck, I knew I still had much to learn about catching trout in mountain streams.
Then one afternoon I wandered into the newly opened fly shop in Gatlinburg and met a Cosby native named Bobby Shults. Bobby was as unlikely a fly shop denizen as one could imagine, cowboy boots, black denim jeans, and tattoos on the fingers of each hand spelling out the words..LOVE..and..HATE. But despite his appearance Bobby had an engaging grin and warm demeanor as he began spinning tales of 100 fish days in a thick mountain accent. We hit it off instantly. Bobby was the shop's guide and offered to take me on a guided trip into the park and show me how to catch mountain trout. Although the price was reasonable, I still could not afford it. Luckily as we talked further and I explained I was beginning the process of building bamboo fly rods we struck a deal for a yet to be completed rod, and gas money, and off to the park we went!
Some people reading this have met Bobby, some may have even hired him as a guide, but one thing was for certain, love him or hate him, Bobby Shults knew how to catch fish in the mountains! I later became a guide at this very shop, and a good friend with Bobby and we fished together countless times over the years. I also had the opportunity to fish many other outstanding anglers who had fished the mountains all their lives, like Pat Profitt, and Russell Reagan, and my soon to be guide partner, Bob Durham, but Bobby has always stuck out, partly because of his flamboyant nature, and partly because of the unique way he fished. And that is the real purpose of this article.
Bobby had grown up fishing with a telescoping 10 foot long crappie pole called a Little Jewel. He would hang two heavy nymphs off the end and just enough monofilament when swung up, would reach the handle of the pole to facilitate removing a fish. Sounds a little like the latest craze, Tenkara, doesn't it? That's because it was, but that's another story. :). Anyway, as Bobby became accustomed to nice fly fishing gear like Sage rods he adapted a way to still fish with feel, rather than sight, to the new more modern equipment. He would buy a spool or two of Cortland 30 pound test fly reel backing and soak it for several hours in a hot bath of olive RIT dye. After rinsing and drying he would fill up a small fly reel with the dyed backing and attach about a six or eight foot piece of 8 pound monofilament with a nail knot and super glue, add two heavy nymphs, and cast or lob the whole rig like a fly line. Although this sounds a bit strange at first and takes a little finesse to learn to cast, the backing lands on the water with barely a whisper, is largely unaffected by drag, and by keeping a tight line, allows the user to actually feel the trout hit the fly. A major advantage when casting into roaring pools where strike indicators or dry flies and droppers are almost instantly sucked under out of sight. It also allowed the flies to sink far more rapidly than a floating fly line and unlike the all monofilament technique known as the "Cosby Sling" could actually be cast on a light fly rod rather than just lobbed. With a little practice it could even be used to cast a dry fly onto a pool with almost no disturbance at all.
It has been many years since I have spent much time on mountain creeks, I became a big water float fishing specialist, but lately, mostly due to my daughter's growing interest in mountain streams, I have been feeling the pull of small waters and wild fish. I think tonight I am going to break out my two weights, dye up some backing, and tip my hat to Bobby. If you like small creeks, give this rig a try, you may like it, you may not, but in the right hands I can attest, it is awesomely effective!


Weir Dam...

Well I guess you can tell by the number of posts recently that Spring has definitely arrived here in East Tennessee and we've gotten busy! A lot of folks have been asking me about the Clinch flows lately, or lack thereof! TVA began work on the weir dam around the first of April to replace a defective pipe and expect to be completed around Memorial Day. While they are working on this project minimum flows will be necessary during the day and the river will mainly run at night. Good news for wading anglers, not so much for floaters. If all goes as scheduled though the project will be complete by the time TVA begins the recreational flows around Memorial Day weekend. The river has been fishing really good for us and as expected the high water this Winter has left the trout fat and healthy. We've even begun to see a few sulphur hatches with fish rising to dries. Nymph fishing has been outstanding on the Clinch and the Holston river. We've floated all three sections of the Holston in recent weeks and the fish are as healthy early season as I've ever seen them on that river. Caddis hatches seem to be getting underway and I expect that to only increase in the coming weeks. Water flows have been a bit erratic and TVA is releasing more water this week especially in the mornings on the Holston so it definitely keeps us guessing which sections will be fishable on any given day but its really hard to go wrong in Spring! 

I'll be posting updates and pictures in the next few weeks on our Facebook page and on this site so check back often. Time to go swamp out the truck, dry wet waders and tie up a few bugs for tomorrow. Here's a couple more pictures from recent trips and I hope to see everyone on the river. 


April Fools...

Changeable..that's the best way I can describe the weather this past week! We definitely ran the gamut. Sun, wind, light rain, heavy rain, warm, and cold. All in a single day's fishing. To those hardy, cabin fever ridden individuals who persevered and shared a boat with me, I salute you! And so did the fish..By and large the Clinch has fished great and coughed up some really nice, fat, healthy rainbow trout. Although water schedules weren't very conducive to wading, floating was very productive. Midge swarms were flying all over the river and around the boat and the fish we caught seem to be gorging themselves on the little buggers. Last week's rains bumped the water releases back up but looking at the predicted data for next week TVA plans to be releasing less flows on the Clinch and that should open up some new areas to be fished, and explored for the Spring 2013 season. We'll keep you posted but from what I've seen so far there is every reason to expect good things on the river this year.

In the interest of brevity I'm going to leave it at that for's a few pictures from last week...

































Looking at the long range forecast (for what that's worth) I see some 70's creeping into the forecast by the end of the week so Spring is just around the corner. April and May are starting to book quickly so give us a shout..grab your gear..and we'll see you out there!