North Chickamauga Creek July 1st, 2021
I entered the creek a bit further upstream as Rob had told me how much he had enjoyed it a couple months earlier.
But now the water was lower, and only a couple snorkelable spots looked inviting. 80 degrees in the air and 63 in the spring fed waters. I had been looking for an opportunity to return for several weeks now.
Crossing the creek, climbing the far bank and walking through the woods i came across a flush of Green Dragons. I thought they were typically a rare plant but i could have counted 100. Sometimes i see them soon after the morels fade away.
Getting to an overlook i saw this mass of vibrant American Val, such a lush and beautiful aquatic plant. I can be hypnotized by their oscillation. It is surprising how much plant diversity is here in North Chick.
Not being lured further upstream, i cut across the TWRA property and waded in directly across from my typical access point. An arced rock marks the spot with a precarious descent and ascent. A nervy endeavor for a 64 year old. With my mask on i started picking up glass shards, rusted cans and piling them into submerged tires for bagging at a later date. It's now a habit here i cannot reject. Drifting slowly downstream was generally uneventful. A thin silty film covered the substrate and visibility was only about 3 feet with reasonable clarity. Past 5 feet any visibility blurred to green shadows. The water had a milky quality, glaring in the bright light. Drifting into a jam i spied this young Musk Turtle in need of a haircut.
Working through the log jams i came across this open eyed face. Every year floods expose lost objects and the log jams get reconfigured into new structures. I found a couple River Chub mounds, dusted with silt, still mounded from the Spring spawnings. A few Spotfin Shiners flashed around me, a high male trimmed in white. Last year i found a group spawning in the tree limbs, but today i seemed to be their object of interest. When i followed them to the left, they were soon on my right. When i went to the right, they went to my left. Last year they were in my facemask. Looking at my records they should be hot in a couple more weeks, motivating a return.
I continued free drifting to the pooled bend where the lower mill bridge appears to the left downstream. Chin deep i lifted my eyes out of the water only to see a bundle of bright green vegetation approaching me. I eased out my camera just as the muskrat, or perhaps a young beaver, dive down with his lunch.
As one approaches the bridge the substrate changes to sharp boulders cushioned with a dense lush moss. Fish started appearing in abundance as a school of Striped Shiners, various Sunfish and a single Yellow Perch swirled around me. Following the pool's perimeter you can find uprisings of cold spring water in the dancing sandy patches.
I drifted on to the bridge where the sharp stones had been cobbled together making a pool which cascaded into a run directly beneath the bridge. I circumvented the flow and came up from downstream at the mill site. The day's experience became instantly enhanced, as the shallow flowing water was clear, oxygenated and full of life. A swirling of fish welcomed me as i tried to orient myself in the narrow run.
Here were several River Chubs, this male retaining the pits from his horny headed days.
Stonerollers, Logperch, Redlines, Snubs and a hefty Greenside Darter. A few Warpaints, a solitary Smallmouth Bass and one quick glanced Rainbow Darter. Striped Shiners, Hogsuckers... what am i missing?
Greenside Darter with his WWW's down his side. They are generally a nervous Darter, difficult to approach and photograph.
An abundance of grazing Stonerollers. Stone nibblers, scrapping off bits of algae.
A Tennessee Snubnose Darter, a male out and about, proud of himself.
Any movement unleashed a flurry of sand which made for a storm in my early photos. It took awhile to get myself properly oriented in the flow and minimize the sand particles.
Snub perched high. Very common species in a variety of waters of our region.
Logperch had been the most abundant species while drifting down the creek. At one point i floated into a pod of well over a dozen, maybe even 20. Here in the cobbled run these Loggies were busy flipping stones with their noses, looking for tiny edibles.
Several Sculpins made an appearance, color morphing into the surrounding cobbled substrate.
Crayfish were in abundance hiding under the stones or out crawling freely. This one was holed up, claws at the ready.
Out and about.
The biggest crayfish encountered this day, and of many days.
Underside. Male or female some can tell. There is a thing...
The most beautiful critters encountered were the Redline Darter males. Several were staking out their sites and a few offered good photo opportunities. This photo is how you often see them, always on the move, darting from spot to spot, peeking from between the stones and crevasses.
This male offered a nice broadside view on a clean stone. Likely my best photo for the day.
After about 5 hours i had enough and climbed out to see a fisherman casting upstream of me. We talked a bit and he caught this Bass on a plastic crawfish as we chatted. The fisherman, Ted thought it might be a Spotted Bass. I'm generally unsure when it comes to identifying between Spotted, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass... except for those beautiful Coosa Bass in the Conasauga.
Walking through the woods i checked on some Paw Paw trees and sure enough spotted a few up high. Last year i found none here. I got some dry clothes on and headed for a Chinese sitdown dinner just as the forecast rains arrived.