When it comes to casting in the wind, many anglers tend to shy away. The common reaction I receive when mentioning a blustery day of fly fishing is, “In this wind?” often followed by a skeptical glance.
Damn right in this wind! Fishing in windy conditions offers several advantages that are frequently overlooked and underestimated. When I lived in the Seychelles, there was a particular section of the Grand Anse flats that, only when the wind was up, would play to big single bonefish. It was tough fishing but most of the biggest fish I caught were on windy days. On freshwater, a windy day means terrestrial – big busy dry fly bugs: there’s nothing like wind to help big insects become dislodged and crash land into the water.
Over the years I’ve learnt a few things with regards to fishing in the wind…
- Utilize Wind as Cover
Wind can serve as effective cover for anglers. The turbulent surface of the water makes it as challenging for fish to spot you as it is for you to spot them. The broken surface refracts light, rendering you a fragmented image that blends into the sky and background. Granted, it does the same to a fisherman’s vision but if you have an idea of the channels are, what feeding patterns your quarry is following and you know what you are looking for, it’s suddenly no longer total guess work and you’ll find you have an advantage.
- Conceal Line and Fly Slap
A choppy water surface conceals your fly line and fly slap and splash. While it’s best to avoid fly slap altogether, there are instances when a heavy or big fly is necessary or the better option. In such cases, the noise of the fly hitting the water is less noticeable when the surface is tumultuous and fragmented.
- Bolder Fish in Strong Winds
Interestingly, fish often become more daring during strong winds. As mentioned, I had remarkable success catching big Bonefish in extremely shallow water (6 – 10 inches) during windy conditions. The turbulent water stirs up more sand and food in the shallows, and the fish appear to be less cautious than in calm waters.
However, I must note that this success has typically been under sunny skies. Sight fishing can be challenging with overcast skies and strong winds.
- Overcoming Casting Challenges in the Wind
Casting in the wind can be a significant challenge. Here are some tips to make it more manageable:
- Belgium Cast: This technique is effective when the wind is blowing into your casting shoulder. Keep your backcast out to the side at about a 45-degree angle, close to the water. Keep the line moving smoothly and maintain a fluid, fast cast. Raise your elbow in the forward cast to create a new flight plane for your line and prevent it from being blown back.
- Cast ‘Under’ the Wind: Casting in the wind can be tricky. Some suggest casting “under” the wind by keeping the rod tip in low arch or using extra power in a “triple haul” motion. However, these approaches can be imprecise and lead to accuracy issues. Wind patterns are rarely uniform, so it’s essential to adapt your casting technique to the specific wind conditions you encounter.
- Roll it out: A well angled roll cast can save you false casting or the wind can ‘bend’ your leader to place a fly without a fish spooking from your line.
- Embrace the Wind
Rather than fighting the wind, consider it a companion. The wind appreciates tight, neat loops in your casting. Fighting the wind inevitably leads to tangled leaders and frustrating fishing. Remember:
- Slow down your front cast to tighten your loop, allowing it to cut through the wind. The tighter loop will also transfer more energy to your leader, turning your fly over more effectively.
- Keep your cast lower to maintain accuracy in strong headwinds. Beautiful sweeping arm movements may look pretty, but it all adds to the wind resistance. Bring your reel as close to your body as position and drop the angle of your rod.
- When casting into the wind, avoid shooting line on your front cast, as the wind can tangle your leader. Use your back cast to lengthen your line.
- Use the wind by moving you feet: Sometimes you can use the wind to help turn over your cast or get some extra distance. If possible, move into a position that allows you use the wind to help manipulate your fyline.
The wind really can be your ally. Not only does it keep a lot of people off the water, you can use it to your advantage by maintaining a soft front cast with tight loops, and you’ll find yourself making accurate casts even in challenging conditions.