Whether you are fishing at a dream trip destination or on your local waters, if you want to maximize your fishing time, you should know how to cast in the wind. Though the wind is a fly casting enemy, it can be overcome by force and tact.
While you can't cast directly into ferocious winds, you can cast across them.
While many fly fishermen hesitate to start fishing on a windy day, those who are already on the water usually can find a way to cope and succeed. Sometimes beating the wind just requires finding a section of protected water where the wind is not as strong. And since many fly fishermen don't like to cast in the wind, those who can tackle it, often have the water to themselves.
This is not the time for a soft rod and double-taper fly line. Most modern graphite rods have the backbone to beat the wind, and when they are matched with a weight-forward line, shortened leader and streamlined fly pattern, you can go afield with a greater degree of confidence. In very strong winds a sinking tip line or shooting-taper works even better, as the added weight at the end of the fly line will help you gain distance and get the line to turn over.
Of course, you need to use wet flies or flies with little wind resistance when the wind is very strong. Weighted nymphs are best in terms of low wind resistance. Since the wind ruffles the river's surface, you don't need to worry about the sloppy casts that are associated with wind casting, they likely will not spook the fish.
Your clothing becomes critical in wind, too, since hooking yourself is more likely. And because you will be driving your casts with more force than usual, any impalement will be all the more memorable and dangerous. A hat that will stay on, eye protection and a jacket are great boons in absorbing errant flies.
All of the recommended motions and casts discussed here will require more speed, force and critical timing than usual. Your fly casting strokes will be longer; your "body English" will be more exaggerated; and an extra punch of power will be needed at the end of each casting stroke. Different tactics will be required as wind direction changes or as your casts change direction in relation to the wind. Also, if you can fly cast with either hand, you will have a definite advantage.
The easiest way to make a short- to medium-length fly cast in a tail wind is to use a sort of high roll cast, letting the wind catch your line and carry it out for you. For longer casts, you'll have to make an extra powerful and high-angled back cast. If your back cast is low, the wind will blow it back into you. Your forward cast, being wind propelled, will not require as much force as usual (unless your back cast has collapsed). Keep your arm and fly rod high on the forward cast, throwing your line up and out with a roll-cast-like motion.
If you must fly cast directly into a strong head wind, your timing, power and position will be critical. The back cast should be high. The forward cast, applying a triple-haul, should be aimed low with a maximum load on the fly rod.
The power and timing of the second and third hauls will be critical to achieve the best result. As mentioned previously, when you make short- to medium-range casts, your body and casting arm should be low to the water on your final delivery, and you should make emphatic hauls and an elongated power stroke, topped off with a strong wrist thrust.
Long fly casts must be angled higher, but a head wind will surely limit your maximum distance. The best move is to change your position so that you can fly cast across or with the wind, not against it.
A wind that comes in from your right side, if you're a right-handed fly caster (from your left side if you're a left-handed fly caster), is almost as troublesome as a direct head wind. The wind tends to blow the fly line and hook into you from the side. This situation demands extra-high and fast back casts and forward casts so that when the wind blows the line, it blows it over you, not into you.
Some anglers cast across their body with the fly rod and fly line on their downwind side. This works well, but it is hard to make as powerful a cast in this more awkward position, though it is safer. Having the ability to switch casting arms is beneficial, because you can just change casting arms so that the wind then is blowing in from your line-hand side. Anglers who have mastered the triple-haul can cast across almost any wind if it's blowing in from their line-hand side.
When the wind blows in from your casting-arm side, you can also turn around backward and switch the roles of the cast. Your forward cast then becomes the back cast, and your back cast becomes the final delivery.
A wind from your line-hand side is one of the easiest directions to tackle. You don't have to worry about hooking yourself, since the wind is blowing your line and fly away from you. Extra speed and power are required, and you'll want to keep the forward delivery low to the water to keep your fly line from getting blown off target. Again, the triple-haul is the ideal weapon to increase your fly line speed and force it to turn over at the desired spot. You may also need to aim your fly cast a few feet upwind of your target to allow for wind drift.
Original article written by E. Neale Streeks (adapted for this use). Courtesy of Fly Fisherman Magazine
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