NANFA-L-- continued... Tuesday Snorkeling

Subject: NANFA-L-- continued... Tuesday Snorkeling
Date: Mon Jul 26 2004 - 20:09:30 CDT

Several hours and a more rain had me passing Furman University to the north.
I was only a few more miles south of my goal and with a bit more wandering i
found myself standing by the Middle Saluda just as dusk was falling. A couple
fishermen and fisherwoman welcomed me on the sandy banks of the somewhat murky
stream. I took a look-in-their catch and inquired of the water and a place to
stay. Things did not look promising and my hopes were in that it would clear
by morning if no more rain fell. I found the motel they spoke of in a little
town called Traveler's Rest and got a cheeseburger-in-the Carolina diner before

The next morning the Middle Sadula was nearly opaque. I had missed a couple
snorkeling opportunities by hours over the previous days and disappointment was
aiming for me. I studied the maps and decided to work up to any headwaters of
this flow. A free day can be burned up trying to find snorkelable sites and i
was not desiring any experience such as that. I followed the churning stream
up and studied every trib i passed or could locate on my meager map. I
regreted not purchasing a SC gazateer from Mark and was forced to decipher some black
and white copies i had made back-in-the Holiday Inn. All the waters were
churning and muddied. I finally turned down one crossing called Oil Camp Creek.
Not a promising name but lo and behold it was relatively clear. I found a rustic
planked bridge crossing with a good pulloff and doned my suit. A couple
ladies on bikes stopped by and we peered over the edge and they spoke of colored
fish just days before. I could make out several clean pebbled mounds below and
inquired of what they had seen and told them of my experiences in other places.
We waved goodbye and i walked downstream along the steep bank. Into the
shallow water i lay and was quickly greeted by many Yellow Fin Shiners varyingly
colored and small non descript Chubbs. Not in high color the Yellow Fins were,
but still beautiful and elegant. I worked my up to and around several of the
nests and noticed a couple other species along with several riffle type minnows
or chubbs. I have never snorkeled on the Atlantic slope so all these fish were
unique to me. However i could sense they were distant cousins of the critters
on the other side of these ancient mountains. An unusual Darter crossed my
path, a bit too quick to detail in the lower visibility. A bland Sunfish and a
highly marked Hogsucker stopped by. Someone had recently chopped up and thrown
off several fish carcasses and butchered a Snapping Turtle leaving his clawed
appendages littering the substrate. Still the water offered comfort and with
an acceptable 3 to 5' visibility. I found several more clean mounds some
looking like they had been stepped in dead center. In a 2' or 3' deep pool i
reoriented myself to look back downstream. 3 Fiery Black Shiners sparred in the flow
displaying to one another and me. Beautiful, my first time to see these neat
fish. They reminded me in activity and habitat and even somewhat in appearance
as lost cousins of the Alabama Shiners i see so often below Chattanooga. Very
cool. I enjoyed them for awhile and began to work myself back upstream,
avoiding the mounds and laying in various offered pools. I figured the mounds to be
Blue Head Chubb nests from my books and had been told the Blueheads hid on
any approach and did most of their mound building-in-night. Wonderfully and
presented just ahead was a Bluehead Chubb, tuberculed, battered, blinded and
scarred. Blue is right and an unusual color to see. Not a bright blue but a
continuous dull blue over the whole head. I was able to put a hand net over him and
lift him from the water for a better viewing. He was heavily marred and worn
ragged. I dont suspect much more life was available to him. He had been resting
in a flowing eddy and i wondered if he could recover.

Having enough after a couple hours i returned to the van. A young fellow of
about 18 approached me and inquired of my activity. He told me that the two
women biker riders were his grandmother and aunt and that he himself had
snorkeled in the creek i was just in. I had captured 3 of the Yellow Fins, 1 Fiery
Black, 2 of the small Chubbs(?) and 1 of the riffle type minnow/chubbs to observe
and identify back-in-home. I showed him these and urged him to watch for the
colored breeding frenzies over the mounds during the spring and to get in with
them on those occassions. It was fun sharing experiences with him and i
remembered Chris had given me a few copies of AC. I found the one where i wrote of
my middle Tennessee wander after last year's Huntsville gathering and gave it
to him. Perhaps he will become as fascinated as us. He certainly is well on a
start since he has been snorkeling in his own front yard's creek!

I headed back to the main road in hopes of visiting another site Fritz had
suggested but more churning water and rains lay in the day ahead. The ride home
was depressing after i crossed the contenantal divide into NC. I had hoped to
carefully study and observe the small head waters of each side of the divide.
Greeting me on the NC side were an ever sequencing passing of golf courses,
gated communities, no trespassing signs and tourism hogging the narrow winding
mountain road. Any hopes of snorkeling-in-sites such as the French Broad or
Valley river continued to deminish with the continuing rain so i decided to burn
a path home arriving late Tuesday evening with a few, new, interesting fish
in tow.

Tho ending with constant rains and turbid visibility it had been a fine week
and i did get to finally witness the Fiery Blacks in their native habitat. I'm
grateful that Chip and Dustin did a wonderful job planning and presenting an
excellent NANFA convention for all of us fishheads, and i personally
experienced their southern hospitality. I'm also grateful for experiencing a new
region, renewing friendships, meeting new folks and dreaming of ongoing adventures.
Hats off to South Carolina and Chip & Dustin!


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: Wed Sep 29 2004 - 12:21:35 CDT