NANFA-- NC Fish and Fungi - Day 5
Mon, 25 Aug 2003 18:05:59 EDT

Day 5

Sunday morning and 4 hours from home, if i backtracked and grabbed the
freeway. I decided to take a meandering route to Gatlinburg and on to the Little
River that Chris Sharpf and i had visited a few years back. I wanted to return
to the same spot and see if the big Blotchside Logperch was still turning
stones. I checked my route and drove slow over the mountains craining my neck out
the passenger window for more mushrooms. Here and there i would stop and pick
up a few more Milkcaps or bright yellow Chantrells but the awkwardness and
the near miss plunges off the careening gravel road edges motivated me to get on
to the Little River and save mushrooms hunting for quiet walks. Dropping out
of the ridges i came to a bridged crossroad which beckoned me right and
downstream where i came to a dam, park, old mill house and picnicing swimmers. The
water was crystal clear and i thought it to be the Cataloochee. In i went
bareskin. Clear water is so beautiful. i could see 20 maybe 30 feet. Rainbow Trout,
large who raced through the dangling legs of floating teenagers. Parents sat
on the banks while their children sat kicking their legs in the tumbled
bouldered edges. I dove down looking for darters but only coming up with more
Longnose Dace and a single specie of shiners. Again no diversity but again those big
crayfish were here. I went upstream to were some fellas were tumble body
surfing down a torrential shute. Just downstream deep was a big water snake. I was
amazed the cold blooded reptile could endure the chilling water. I watched
him and then asked a couple fellas if they could see it. No was their bewildered
reply and when i stood i could see the glare off the surface that prevented
their view. Back down i went following the 4' long thick snake and tried to get
the mojo to grab its large head. Arising from the water with a writhing snake
would have freaked a lot of folks out and sent most racing to their cars with
their children slung behind. It would not be appropiate to do such on a nice
day and this released my feared commitment to tangle with the beast!

I climbed back to the van and went upstream to see if things were
different. No... so back on the gravel road crossing another 10 miles of ridges. I
dropped down into another community that i reconized from a previous trip to the
Cosby Campground's Annual Ramp Festival. Near this crossroad i had discovered
my first Saffron Shiners and i did a u-turn to relocate the site. It is just a
small mountain brookstream but was cold and clear and had amazed me earlier.
I found the parking spot occupied by a van and a family down fishing along the
bank. I parked and walked downstream so as to not disturb their family
activity day and got in just below a bridge. Immediately i saw red nosed Saffrons
but they lacked the bright yellow finage of my earlier spring viewing, probably
now out of full breeding colors. The water seemed churned up and i looked
upstream to the family who were wading and playing in the water so i decided to
head upstream. So out of the water and with a quick hike up i was back in again
but the water was too shallow and fast to easily observe. I needed a pool, so
back downstream to the familes streamside spot and said my hello and that the
fish were unique in this water and i was after a quick lookabout! Another
quick bareskin dousing with more Saffrons and lots of crawdads. I was content with
seeing them again but eager to get on to the Little River which still was
many miles ahead. As i walked back to the van the mother met me as she was
retrieving her small son's mask. I spoke with her over what i had seen and now wish
i had taken the time to go back and catch a few to show and share with them.
Hopefully the young fella was able to see some of those red nosed rudolphed

I was road burning now and speed passed over a bridge which said Little
Pigeon. I have heard of it and thought i might not get back this way soon so did
another uee and run up the day use only roadway. Lots of folks were swimming,
walking and playing alongside so i grabbed a graveled parking spot and raced
down for a quick look. WOWEE! Here was what i had been after these last 5
days. Crystal clear, fish everywhere, beautiful underwater architecture. I had not
worn my wetsuit prefering the quick jump in lookabouts which helps keep my
van seats dry. Though the water was cold i stuck with it and watched in glory of
great distances the shimmering clouds of WarPaints and staggered Trout.
Massive HogSuckers, big pink hornyheaded River Chubbs. New Darters. Again one of
those stunning Greensides. Black headed Fantails. Big, healthy Greenfins or
Bluebreasts i was not sure which. A new darter... the Swannoona... distinctly
marked and easily remembered. I was cold but stayed in floating up and downstream
with the eddies. I explored and marveled at the rich life and beauty of the
clear water and the midwater hoovering fish stagger ranked with their snouts
pointed forward into the flow. What a site. Why have i not heard of it? Certainly
it merits as an all day location to explore. A big cluster of Goggle Redeyed
Rock Bass watched me from a deep boulder. So many fish. Red Horse suckers,
Stone Rollers, Tennessee Shiners. Maybe some Saffrons. Everywhere were fish, and
probably some new fish to me if i had more time to see. I have got to make a
trek back to this location and in full gear so i can spend a full day immersed.
The time was late and i still had at least 3 more hours of driving to get
home and in bed for a early 6am monday morning rise. Not enough time and the cold
was setting deep into my body well below the fat and skin. I have been like
that before and if i dont get warmed up quickly it can take several hours of
uncontrolled shivering to get my temp back proper. I dried off, changed into my
clothes and fired up the heater though it is a humid overcast summer 90's
outside. Rain and storms were still in the sky and more miles lay ahead. I finally
arrived alongside the Little River and found many more access points for a
future run. The road runs out of the park and along the river for many, many
miles and i realized Chris and i were well downstream of much of the flow. Yet we
had been well pleased with our single location as it yielded many views and
specie diversity. A good place to explore further and a trip should be planned
to take in the two rivers over a long weekend.

I stopped and had an expensive BBQ but served as a styrofoam plated dinner
at Smokey Joes ( i dont like to eat off of styro plates and with plastic
forks... please give me pottery and alloy! ) and headed home down 411 through
lightning and hard rains. Enough time to shower, unpack the essentials and get in
bed cause another school year has begun.

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