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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


Early Fall Report...

I'm not sure you can consider August early Fall but since I'm feeling optimistic and haven't posted for a while I'm gonna call it that! Yesterday morning on the way to the Upper Clinch I actually had to put on a light fleece pullover..felt awesome after the June and July heat. On with the fishing report.. 

All the tailwaters have been running a good bit of water lately..seems TVA has begun the drawdown after getting an unusual amount of rainfall lately. Running water is the ticket for streamer fishing the South Holston so we made the trip up last Friday and despite dire predictions on how the river was fishing, and an almost total lack of other boats, we did quite well! Good action most of the way down on some gorgeous browns who chased the fly aggressively. The fish were fat and healthy and no one must have informed the river gods we were coming because we even missed the obligatory afternoon thunderstorms! Good day..

 Then it was off to the upper Clinch for some surface action on the smallmouth. Fishing with me were Mike Tenbus, a surface smallmouth enthusiast, and local fly tyer and cane rod guru, Walter Babb. Walter is a dedicated creek crawler but we managed to talk him into a litlle drift fishing for smallies and he wound up scoring a couple of the big fish of the day! After having to reschedule this trip a couple of times due to high water we were happy to arrive and see the river clear and running a good fishable level. This was also a first for me as both these guys used cane rods built by Walter. Now fishing for smallmouth involves a lot of casting, and most folks are ready to see the takeout by the time we get there, and that's casting graphite! I'm sure both these guys are feeling it today, but both the anglers, and the rods, were well up to the task.

If the fish were on a pattern we couldn't tell what it was. We caught bass in almost every kind of water and on most every fly we threw as long as it wasn't chartreuse! The action was steady if not wide open and we all agreed, pretty darn good for late August. The bass fishing should only improve over the next couple of months and I'm looking forward to some great Fall color smallmouth fishing.

I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather and gets a chance to get out and chase the fish this Fall. It's my favorite time of year to be on the water!...Mike.


What Slot Limit?

No, this is not the latest addition to the fish heads gallery..this pic was sent to me today by a friend who happened to be running the songbird trail on the Clinch river and came upon this fish head hanging out of the TVA trash can at the weir dam access. Clearly an seventeen or eighteen inch trout well inside the 14-20 inch slot limit, cleaned in plain sight of the ramp and the road which begs the question..did this guy have a bigger sack than Santa Clause or did he just not know? Who can tell. I personally witnessed a few days ago an angler walking out of the river at this very same access carrying a stringer of fish of which three or four were clearly inside the slot. I mentioned to him it looked like several of his fish were in the slot and he just stared away blankly. Did he know? hmmm...

If one obtains a copy of the rules and regulations you can clearly read about the Clinch river slot limit but I defy anyone to show me a sign anywhere on the river that states such a slot limit even exists..go ahead..I'll wait. Nope..ain't there folks..nowhere to be found. In fairness I did witness TWRA on the river earlier this year checking licenses and fish, and I also witnessed them write several tickets and take possession of two full stringers of fish because they were in the slot..Kudos! We need more enforcement like that. I realize like a lot of folks, their budget is stretched thin and there are not enough officers to go around, but I doubt TWRA is so strapped for cash they can't afford about six signs to place at boat ramps and access areas..surely a sign or two would not cost anyone their pension.

My long time friend and guide Bob Durham just returned from a trip to Montana and as we were having this very conversation, said you can't go anywhere on any trout river in Montana without seeing signs posting exactly what the regulations are. I believe most anglers are law abiding and would follow the rules if they were aware of them, and yes, you should read the reg book, but lets face it, a lot of people don't. So they poach out of ignorance of the rules and a good fish gets removed, and good fish are not easily replaced.

TWRA did a very good thing by adopting the slot limit regulations, it can work, it has worked, but only if people obey the law. A few well placed signs would avoid it becoming an enforcement issue for a lot of good people. A poacher will poach, no question about it. They should be fined, personally I think shot, but that won't bring the wildlife or resources back they took from all of us. You are required to post private land if you don't want poachers..shouldn't TWRA do the same?

Conservation..especially cold water conservation is a hot issue around here, especially on the Clinch. When we do get some regs to protect the resources, we should do our best to give them a chance. There will always be anglers who kill fish, trendy Knoxville magazines even publish articles encouraging it, but the truth is there are only a handful of rivers in the Southeast that can grow fish the size of the rainbow in that trash can..give 'em a chance.


The Heat Is On...

 Well..looks like the Summer heat is upon us. We've been pretty busy around here getting in the last of the Spring fishing and checking out the prospects for the Summer. All in all it has been a great of the best in a number of years, and I'm really looking forward to the Summer and Fall fishing. Summer usually means more generation from the dams and higher water. Most of the dry fly hatches are gone but the nymph fishing can still be outstanding. Summer also means streamers, for trout and smallmouth bass and we've been doing a little of both lately! So on with some suggestions for Summer trips.

South Holston Streamer Fishing..

When most folks from our area think of the South Holston they usually think of wading when the water is off, casting small nymphs or dry flies to rising browns and rainbows..usually with a good number of your new closest fishing buddies who have the same thing in mind. Or floating with the water on and doing the same thing from a driftboat normally in the upper 5 or 6 miles. While both of those things make for a nice trip, you really are missing some of the best, and most scenic parts of the river. If you like to streamer fish or are interested in learning, this trip offers good action, great scenery, and a chance to escape the masses on one of the South's most popular trout streams. The drive from Knoxville is about two hours so often it makes sense to plan on fishing a couple of days.

                                                                                Clinch River...

The Clinch fishes great in the Summer. Being one of the coldest tailwaters in this area, the water temp changes very little throughout the Summer months. High water often requires a change in tactics and locations but we catch some really nice fish when the heat is on. I've always said, if you're not going to be inside in the air conditioning, the Clinch river is the best place to be. Cold air coming off the water keeps the temps bearable even in the hottest Summer months.

Smallmouth Bass...

 Summer months are a great time to fish for smallmouth. Warmer water temps mean the bass have to feed more and that makes for good action on both popper rigs and streamers. Some of the unregulated streams (no dams) are very low right now due to an unusually dry Spring, but some are dam controlled, and floatable throughout the Summer. Even the unregulated streams can change quickly with a couple of days of rain.

Smallmouth have been gaining in popularity among fly fishers for several years now and for good reason. They fight hard, jump, and eat flies voraciously. The crowds on most of these rivers range from slim to non existent, making them a great Summer escape. It also serves as a great tune up on your streamer skills for the Winter big brown trout hunt.

Don't let the Summer heat get you down. There's still good fishing to be had in our area and the heat won't last forever. Before you know it, Fall will be upon us, my absolute favorite time of year to fish. More on that later. :) Have a great Summer everyone and be safe out there.



Redington Sonic Pro Waders..

The guys down at 3 Rivers fly shop in Knoxville recently put me in a pair of the new Redington Sonic Pro waders and today I got the opportunity to try them out. Now to be fair I don't spend a lot of time in waders, being mostly a driftboat guy I spend the vast majority of the season in shorts and sandals, but on occasion we do get out of the boat and wade and nothing is worse in a freezing cold tailwater like the Clinch that a pair of crappy, cold, wet waders!

I've mostly owned Simms products when it comes to waders, and I've been overall very pleased with them, but when it came time to replace my well worn guide waders I checked the prices on new Simms stuff and WOW! For that price maybe they could throw in dinner and a back massage! No such luck..just waders. Yes they are made in America and yes they make great products but I'd rather not eat cat food all Winter so I can buy a pair. From past experience however I have not had very good luck with value priced waders, I was given a pair of Hodgmans that leaked right out of the box, sent them back, got a new pair, and they leaked too! Cut the feet off and used them for rain pants.

When I unpacked these however the first thing I noticed was the material seemed substantial, not excessively heavy but enough thickness to instill confidence. The seam tape looked good quality and well done and they looked nice to boot. A nice tackle pocket is included with an attachment for tools  and a side and top zipper for storage. Then I came to my favorite feature..a waist belt, and bungee with a cinch so you can pull up the top and tighten it down in deep water without having to put on the suspenders! I was sold right there..I hate suspenders..never wear 'em. I usually wind up wrapping them around my waist until they get too stretched out and then I wind up tying them around me. Eventually I just cut them off and use a waist belt. GREAT feature! The suspenders are velcro attached so you can just remove them, awesome! Now I don't have to sit on the buckles when I get back in the boat. They even have a collar that pulls down over your wading boots to cover the laces, or cinch strap like on my Choatas.

Today on the Clinch I got the chance to test out the other very important they keep water out? The answer, is yes. I drug the boat back up the river through a set of shoals wearing them and they worked great, plenty of room to move, when I got to deep water I just pulled them up a bit and they stayed put, back to shallow I moved them down. Thick enough material to help insulate against the cold water even in shorts, but on the row back to the ramp I didn't get hot in the sun. No I haven't worn them enough to speak to long term durability, but right now I'm very impressed. If your wallet allows, buy a new pair of Simms, you won't be disappointed, but if your budget doesn't allow for that, check these out, at around $280.00 they are in a very good price point, and I believe very well made. Time will tell, but I like them.


Brook Trout..

Brook trout..specks..brookies, call 'em what you will, they are without a doubt one of the most colorful creatures on earth. Not actually a trout but a char these guys are the only species native to Tennessee. Most people who fish for them do so in tiny streams in the mountains and if you want to catch natives, remnants of the end of the ice age, that's still where you go, but in recent years TWRA has been stocking them in several of the tailwater rivers allowing big water anglers the opportunity to catch them as well.

I'm not sure what tailwaters received them, the Clinch did, the Holston didn't. Probably a water temperature issue. But i remember the first one I saw in my boat. I was fishing the Clinch with a dad and his 10 year old son and the kid was doing really well, so much so he had been landing and releasing his own fish for a little while when I hear from the back of the boat "Sir, I think I caught a brook trout" Not looking back I said "It's probably another brown" as we had been catching a bunch of newly released brown trout. He said "No, I think it's a brook trout" As I began smugly turning around to explain the difference between a brook and a brown I see this young man holding about a nine inch, brightly colored, no questions asked..Brook trout! Kid knew his fish!

The question I most often get asked pertaining to the brookies in the Clinch is "How are they doing? Do you catch any big ones?" The short answer is OK..and define big. I've been to Labrador and fished for the brookies there, and I, like a lot of people have been wondering if these guys have the potential in a rich tailwater with good holdover to reach large sizes? So far..not really. The one in this picture caught last week is the best one I've seen this year, maybe some of you have caught bigger, if so I'd love to hear about it. Before last Winter we were picking up some in the 13 to 14 inch range pretty regularly and I was expecting to see some approaching the 16 or 17 inch mark this year, so far I haven't seen any. As a matter of fact before the last stocking this Spring I was seeing very few period. They were certainly there last Fall, sporting some gorgeous spawning colors but it seems the same conditions that helped the rainbows didn't sit to well with the brookies. 16.500 CFS for a month at a time may not be the ticket for brook trout survival. That's a guess..I'm not a biologist by any means, I can only comment from an anglers standpoint, maybe someone reading this knows the answer, and I'd sure be interested to know. I've heard it suggested the big browns ate 'em..maybe. I'm sure they got their share, but I still believe we should be seeing some high teen brook trout by now if overall survival was good.

Let me go on record as saying brookies in the Clinch is very cool! I like catching them, like seeing clients catch them, especially in Fall. They have a mystique all thier own and kudos to TWRA for making the effort to put them in. I'm anxious to see how the new class does.  Maybe if the weather cooperates and with a little better water management from TVA which has been well..pitiful this season, we'll get to see how well brook trout can actually do in the big rivers. Now what about cut-throats? ;)