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CFI Marbled Darter Festival

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#1 Guest_Casper_*

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:13 PM

CFI Marbled Darter Festival

Sunday CFI had another gathering on a small island alongside the Little River, home to the Marbled Darter and a world of near one hundred others. I think i heard 80 plus species. That is fish and also happened to be the attending number of fish minded folk.
Jim and i arrived early after stopping by the Citico to give the guide girls a swim test; tread, swim and save, which they passed with minimal gasps. They are still offering wetsuits, masks and snorkels as an educational outreach experience to campers alongside the creek every Saturday and Sunday at 10 am. Free it be.
The CFI party site was on John's Island near Maryville and downstream of Highway 411. One has to cross a culvert ford to the well kept and rustic structured island. An open air pavilion, stilted bunk house, an observation deck and facilities are on the island. Today's activities were canoes, kayaks, fishing, snorkeling, wading, dancing, drinking crafted beer, enjoying the menu from Savory & Sweet, fresh picked apples, horseshoes and cornhole toss, mountain music, CFI slideshow, long winded fishy tall tales and those that desired could camp overnight.
Pat got his wetsuit on and he soon had a Marbled Darter in his net. Living under flat stones they are only known from this 2 mile stretch of the river. The water was a cool 65 degrees and a bit turbid being so far downstream of Townsend and the Smokys but with patience one could see a flurry of life at their finger tips. Whitetail, Warpaints, Silver and Striped Shiners, pods of Logperch and Stargazing Minnows feeding like Stonerollers worked the inlet leading to the side channel. Blueside, Bluebreast, Greensides, Redlines, Tangerines and Tennessee Snubs made a diverse mix of darters including a couple blurry mysteries to me, perhaps Woundeds and Bluebreasts who peeked from between the stones. Stonerollers, Hogsuckers, River Chubs and Redhorse worked the shallow run while Pat spoke of Sawfins in the reeds. Juvenile Smallmouth Bass waited for any opportunity as the fish began to feed on the disturbance people were creating while wading and snorkeling. We soon had several dozen folks in the water and it was fun pointing out all the different fish of the shallows, some folks having never put their heads into the water. Logperch were flipping stones, the hogsuckers doing their vacuum trick, while herds of Stonerollers grazed like cows. I lasted for a couple hours in my skin before getting chilled and stood warming in the sun while admiring the lush green growth that clung to the island's cobbled edges. Easing back to the grass i stood by a pool and watched a large school of Northern Studfish, several with intense teal caudal fins waving behind. Whirligigs raced on the surface with every movement, calming to a tight whirl when i held steady.

A few pictures to catch a glimpse of the day...


Canoes await and the water beckons. A beautiful day begins.


Marbled Darter. Pat's first catch. I suspect the shiny red net made it easy for him. :)


Trio of Darters. The turbidity and clouded sky made illuminated photos difficult. I suspect a Tennessee Snubnose, Blueside and Redline though odd angled and a bit murky.


Blennioides. Several large W W Ws were feeding downstream of all the activity.


Crayfish. Turning a rock over i could ease the camera right above this hunkered down fella, overcoming the limitations of turbidity for fine detail.


Lush Cobble Growth. Hanging on and shining in the August sun.


Swept Water Willow. I like the way the tree has been swept shaped bonsai style by the seasonal rushing waters.


Charlie trying to catch a smallmouth. Saylori, the Laural Dace has been named for him.


Looking upstream at the channel running back to the Little proper. Step wooded bluffs and rock outcroppings lined the outside edge and a mass of white mushrooms on a fallen tree called to me but the way up was precarious.


An easy seining of Little fish, showing themselves above water for a short while.


Crystal and Meredith offering the new CFI goods. "Let's not lose our Marbleds. Help protect Little River."



This fella was pulling the tap for several kegs of donated beer, a crafted beer i could not pronounce but sampled a half glass.


The chef was offering Cuban Wraps & Tacos, Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwiches, BLTs stacked high, French Toast Casserole, and several other culinary treats from his truck side menu. Savory and Sweet it was.


The young musicians. Check Engine performed sometime after we departed.


The Livid Privies played old time string tunes with foot stomping as the children danced and young ladies fancy stepped.


Happy Pat enjoying the comfortable day.


Sweetwater making another keg run. I wish i could have caught the mighty Food Truck making this narrow crossing. He assured me he had down much more challenging maneuvers.


Earth First!

Jim and i had a 2 hour return drive so we left before dark to retrace our route in the waning light. Next year i hope to bring the family and perhaps pitch a couple tents.

#2 Guest_trygon_*

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 04:32 PM

Very nice write up, I'll be there next year. Probably even sooner.

#3 Guest_IsaacSzabo_*

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Posted 08 August 2013 - 04:50 PM

Looks like it was a fun time.

#4 Guest_blakemarkwell_*

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Posted 19 August 2013 - 01:42 PM

Great stuff, Casper. I always look forward to your reports -- y'all have some cool events going on in that part of the country. Thanks for the link to the CFI merchandise as well (I need to pick me up one of those Marbled Darter tees).

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