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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


Late Winter 2013..

Hello everybody!! It's been a pretty good while since I posted  anything here, mainly because there hasn't been a whole lot to tell! Our rivers have been running in the trees due to almost double the amount of normal rainfall we received in January. TVA has been forced to open the sluice gates on most, if not all, the major tail waters in East Tennessee to try and maintain the lake levels, and as much as I like to give them a hard time you really just can't! There is some good news however, as I looked at the predicted output for the Clinch it seems as if they will stop spilling in the next couple of days. The other good news is the trout will be fat and healthy going into Spring. I've never seen a high water Winter that wasn't followed by really good fishing!

We have been able to get out a bit this Winter. Even though the South Holston has also been sluicing, they are limited by the number of generators and the close proximity of houses to the water, so although it has been high, it has been fishable. We managed to grab this one on a streamer not long ago, along with some really nice rainbows. I can't say the fishing is red hot but it is good. We didn't try nymph fishing but did see several fish rising to a small blue wing hatch, and had we not been dedicated to the big uglies, probably could have caught a few of them also. I plan to be heading back up with some folks this weekend,  and the first of next week,  unless the Clinch runs a more favorable schedule, and I should have some new info then.

Spring is just around the corner! While you can never really be sure what March will bring to East Tennessee we can't be very far off, and believe me I am READY!! I'm excited about the fishing this year and the high water this Winter should really help to produce some quality fish. With the Clinch backing down to a normal 2 generator flow, we should be hitting it soon,  so check back often. Here we go..Spring 2013!

In closing here's a picture of a really nice brown we landed on the Clinch at the end of last season I forgot to post..sorry Danny! But here he is... 

I also have some new entries for the fish heads gallery I'll be posting  soon. Until then..hope for dry weather and a warm March!



Holiday Report..

Greetings everyone and welcome to the Holidays! It's hard to believe another Spring-Fall season has gotten behind 20th in the guide business. It seems the days just start getting warmer and suddenly we're dodging black Friday shoppers speeding to Wally World on our way to the river! Such is the way of things I suppose, and time moves faster than $150 big screens!

It's been a great season! The Clinch and Holston rivers both fished great for us this year and steady rainfall kept the small mouth streams floatable for much longer than normal. So what can we expect for Winter and especially the Spring 2013 season? Based on what we've been seeing lately we can expect very good things to come. Here's a quick run down..

When we started the season back in March the Clinch was running around 16000 cfs and spilling over the top of the dam. I won't go into the reasons why this was necessary but if you search the archives you'll find my opinion on that subject, for what it's worth. After draining all the water out TVA found itself unable to fill the lake back to Summer pool and began leaving the water off for 11 or 12 hours at a time, drying out much of the lower river and stressing the fish, especially the larger ones, causing many of us who fish the Clinch, a great deal of hand wringing, complaining, and concern. Thankfully Summer rains kicked in just in time, saving TVA and the Clinch river trout from any more stress. Judging from what we have been seeing this Fall the fish have rebounded nicely and are now they're normal fat, healthy, strong selves we have come to expect from the Clinch. The river is also full of healthy 9-12 inch fish that we consider next years crop and should make for some outstanding fishing this Winter and Spring. Although we lost many of the better brook trout to high water (they don't seem to be able to tolerate it as well as rainbows) some of the ones that were stocked this season are beginning to push the 12 and even 13 inch mark, so barring any more 100 year spilling events we should see some really nice brook trout for next season.  The brown trout have also done well though to be honest I haven't been seeing as many in the 14-16 inch range as some years past. There seems to be a really good population below that mark and above it, but as is the way of brown trout, just because we haven't been turning up a lot of them lately doesn't mean they're not there, especially in a river the size of the Clinch! Since we are getting into the time of year( Jan-Feb) when the streamer pursuit for big browns reaches it's peak, I should have a better idea of their status in upcoming reports. All in all the Clinch looks outstanding! The slot limit regulations will remain in effect and while not everyone agrees, they do seem to be achieving the desired results. I expect a very good Spring on the Clinch!

 The Holston river below Cherokee also fished great this year. We had some really good caddis hatches through early Summer and even picked up a few on dries a couple of weeks ago. While pressure, especially from boat traffic was definitely up this year, mainly due to extreme low flows from TVA over the Spring and early Summer, the fishing remained steady well into late August. As many of you reading this know the biggest concern on the Holston is water temps and oxygen levels through the hot months and the effect it has on the hold over population of mature trout. Some years are better than others, but by all indications, hold over was good this year, the survivors seem to be healthy and in really good condition, and showing very little sign of heat induced stress. That should be really good news for the Spring as growth rates on this river are phenomenal! Winter fishing on the Holston can be a little spotty mainly due to water release schedules but if we're able to get on it, fishing should be very good. I expect really good things from this river in 2013!

 I'd like to wish everyone a happy and safe Christmas holiday! I'm personally hoping for a warm Winter like last year but either way I plan to get out and fish as much as possible. If you're one of the fringe element who doesn't put up the fly rods just because it's a little cold outside I salute you! And i hope to see you on the river!




Fall Fishing..

Fall streamer caught brown..last week..results not typical. ;)Warm days and cool mornings can only mean one thing, Fall is upon us. I've said it before but Fall is one of my absolute favorite times of year to be on the river. While you can't generally expect the wide open action of Spring, the weather is usually more stable, pop up thunderstorms are rare, and the sweltering heat of Summer has passed. Some small streams can become choked with leaves but on the big rivers, they aren't often a problem. The crowds have thinned as many people switch to hunting and football season, leaving the rivers to the persistent and the fish.

The Clinch and the Holston rivers have both fished well. Holdover seems to be good. I've had the opportunity to be on the Clinch, Holston, and South Holston rivers in the past couple of weeks and they all have fished well. Holdover fish are the name of the game this time of year, fishing for the survivors. They're a little smarter, and a little bigger, so most of the fish we've been catching have been 12-13 inches and better, occasionally much better! The hatches are mostly gone though we did see a few remnants of the sulphurs on the South Holston and even a few blue wings, but by and large nymph fishing is the order of the day and has been working really well. If you have the arm, and the dogged determination, the next several months will produce some of the biggest browns we will see all season.  Due to some recent rains, as I write this, the water table on the smallmouth streams looks outstanding for this time of year, the rivers have begun to cool a bit, so Fall smallmouth is still a very viable option. if you've had the itch to chuck a popping bug, now's the time!

Hope everybody has the opportunity to get out and enjoy all the fishing resources this amazing area has to offer late season, we get pretty busy October through Thanksgiving, so if a Fall float with us is in your plans, give me a shout soon. See you on the river!!



Tragedy on the Clinch..


Man drowns in Clinch River near Norris Dam

Posted at 8:33 pm September 7, 2012 by Leave a Comment

An elderly man drowned in the Clinch River Friday afternoon after his fishing boat capsized and he fell into the frigid water about a half-mile downstream of the Norris Dam, Anderson County Rescue Squad Chief Terry Allen said.

The victim’s name is being withheld pending family notification, Allen said.

The man’s body was found in the River Road boat launch area, about a half-mile downstream from where he was first reported in the water near a weir dam, Allen said.


The man was unresponsive when medics found him, Allen said. Medics administered advanced life support measures, such as CPR, but were unable to revive him.

Allen said the water depth in the area can vary from four feet to 18 feet, and the water temperature is about 55 degrees where the man fell in.

Allen said the Anderson County Rescue Squad and Anderson County Emergency Medical Services both responded to the 1:33 p.m. drowning


I and another guide were floating this stretch of river Friday when this accident occured. We had launched at the canoe access and were floating downstream when this gentleman passed us headed upstream toward the dam. We exchanged waves and he disappeared around the bend and out of sight. We didn't see him the rest of the day although on occasion we could hear his motor start and go back upstream. We took out and shuttled the cars and trailer back upstream for a second run. About mid way through, we noticed the water had been shut off so we hurried down stream to the takeout before it got too low and were met by TVA, TWRA, and local EMS and law enforcement folks who informed us of what had happened. A couple was also there who had been making the run back and forth between Millers Island and the weir dam and they had been the ones who recovered him from the water.

According to some workers who were pouring rock above the weir the man had fallen out of the boat, a small low sided jon, and was unable to get back in. They tried to assist by throwing extension cords but he was unable to reach shore before both he and the boat were taken over the weir by the fast current.

I've spent a good amount of time thinking about the tragic events that led up to this accident, and all the things that could have happened to prevent it. Over the years we have assisted several people who have overturned boats or gotten caught by high water, some of whom were merely embarrassed and some who were actually in genuine peril. Most of these incidents have occured in the lower parts of the river. It's still hard for me to believe that we were in the same short stretch of river, and that the timing of the events kept us from helping or even seeing this accident occur. I have seen this gentleman many times in this section of river, usually with a companion, but for whatever reason this day, he was fishing alone. He trolled slowly up the river probably pulling plugs and was always pleasant and courteous when we would pass each other. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Friday the Clinch was running two generators, somewhere around 6700 cfs. That is a lot of water and it is cold, fast, and deep. Water temps, especially that close to the dam are frigid, probably around 52 or 53 degrees, hypothermia and loss of motor skills can happened very quickly if you find yourself emersed in it. TVA has done a very good job of making these dangers known to the public, with any number of warning signs, sirens, and flashing lights. Both the website and the phone line, designed to inform you of the water schedules, have strong warnings about those dangers. This particular section of the river also has posts, and large rocks put there by TVA to keep boats of this type from operating above the weir. There is no ramp, except for one that is locked and barricaded , that is used by TVA navigation only. It is a canoe, kayak, and raft access and boats must be picked up and carried to get in. There is also a portage built by TVA on river left to allow paddlers to carry their boats around the weir before heading down stream. I know first hand the efforts that have been made by TVA to try and keep this type of accident from occurring. I haven't always liked it, but I had to agree with the reasoning and we as guides have actually changed the type of boats we use to comply with those regulations. This gentleman used a small dolly he had fashioned to allow him to walk the narrow jon boat around the posts placed there by TVA to block access.

By all accounts he was an experienced boatman, but even experienced anglers can become complacent to the dangers of powerful rivers. Accidents can happen quickly and these type of environments are very unforgiving of mistakes. Avoid fishing alone, use boats and equipment designed for the type of water you intend to fish, observe all regulations and warnings, get training in safe operation and self rescue. TWRA officers, rescue personnel and law enforcement are dedicated, conciensous individuals but are often too far away to help in time. You can only make things so safe, outdoor activities and risk more often than not, go hand in hand.  Be careful out there, and good fishing.





Big Pigeon River..

Happy Labor Day everyone! Sitting here looking out the window at the rain this morning I found myself contemplating the Big Pigeon river below Waterville dam and the changes that have been made there since the time I began guiding this area.

I was first introduced to the Big Pigeon by a friend of mine who lived in Newport and fished for  trout and smallmouth bass in local rivers and streams, including the then and now, controversial Big Pigeon river.

Champion paper company in North Carolina was dumping waste from their paper processing into the river and had been for many years and even when the water was off it had a very dark tannin color and the rocks that protruded from the stream were black and slick as glass. When water was released from Waterville dam the river became even darker with large rafts of brown foam and a chemical odor that was disgusting. Tests proved the river contained dioxin and it was strongly suggested there be no water contact and it certainly wasn't safe to eat the fish. Finally the EPA stepped in when lawsuits were filed by the residents along the river and Champion  was required to begin cleaning up the river in phases. Champion of course claimed these changes would bankrupt them and I attended several meeting that were nothing more than shouting matches between Tennessee residents and workers brought in by Champion on busses. Eventually cleanup began and Champion was bought out by the employees and as I understand it, is now known as Blue Ridge paper company. As cleanup progressed rafting companies moved in to the upper end and began offering whitewater trips from the power house to Hartford. If you go there today during the Summer its a bustling tourist attraction.

Fast forward ten years..I still floated the Big Pigeon occasionally but with excellent smallmouth streams closer by, that offered as good if not better fishing, and no crowds, I got out of the loop on the Big Pigeon's progress and fate. But last week, low and behold , I was contacted by the lawyer representing the residents in a lawsuit against Blue Ridge and I recalled that I was named as a witness in the case by a friend of mine who represents Blue Ridge in the same lawsuit. Now I can't comment on the particulars because I don't know them, but as I understand it, some residents are still claiming the river is hazardous and a big issue seems to be the amount of foam still present.  All rivers have foam because of bio mass so it's not unusual to see that, especially when they are below powerhouses where a large amount of water is released. So I thought "what the heck" , called up a couple of willing friends, hooked up the raft, and off we went to the Big Pigeon.

The water was off when we arrived and was to say the least, boney! However it was clear and the bottom was plainly visible almost everywhere. As it turned out a little too plainly visible because the fish were spooky and skittish. We spent most of the trip gliding and sometimes pushing over rocks, caught a variety of fish on streamers and surface flies including smallmouth, largemouth, sun fish, and rock bass.  At the tailout of most pools we observed nice smallies blowing out of the shallow water as we approached, confirming there are nice bass in this river even if the water level made it difficult to catch them. One of the things that really struck me is how much cleaner the river is, not just the water but the banks and the stream bed. Where years ago there were trash piles and old junk cars, back then, a friend even caught a smallmouth out of a car window as we floated by, most of the trash was gone.

By design we hung around long enough for the water to come on and although it got a little dingy, even the Clinch does that, it soon cleared, and as we drove back upstream after we took out we could see the river was clearing rapidly after the initial pulse had passed. None of us observed an excessive amount of foam and the stinch that use to accompany the water release was gone. I'm not a chemist, or an expert on water quality but to a fisherman's eye the river looked good. The fish we caught were healthy and strong, there seemed to be a good diversity in both fish species and food base, and the float was actually quite scenic and pleasant, save for an annoying barking dog or two.

The Big Pigeon is and will likely continue to be a very controversial river but there is little doubt progress has been made. I only saw a small part that day and as I stated, I'm no expert, but it's encouraging. It's a beautiful river, and I hope the good people on both sides find a way to keep making it better.