American Fly Fishing

Hannah’s First Fish on a Dry Fly
By Nick Carter

Hiwassee River, TN

Although a drift boat is an excellent platform for fly casters, the Hiwassee’s shallow shoals can be difficult to negotiate in low water levels, especially for rowers with limited experience on the river. Photo by Nick Carter

Using oars to fend off tree branches, Bill Stranahan guided us, scraping and dragging, from the launch up Towee Creek and down to the Hiwassee River, where shoals spread before us, shallow and easily as wide as a football field, maybe two.

“This looks perfect,” Stranahan said, eyeing the water level as he swung his drift boat into a chute and anchored below the first shoal. It was early afternoon, and we were on a mission to put his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Hannah James, on her first dry-fly trout. Stranahan was just the man for the job. He’s logged countless hours on the “Hi” as a veteran guide with Southeastern Anglers. It’s his home water—literally. Both Stranahan and Southeastern Anglers’ Dane Law have homes along the river.

And though rowing a traditional drift boat on the Hiwassee in low water can be tricky, reduced flows present the only times wading anglers can safely navigate the shoals. A single generator running upstream at the Apalachia Dam powerhouse provides cold, clear-green water and what Stranahan considers optimal fishing conditions.