Casting in the Wind

Tips and Techniques for Overcoming the Effect of Wind on the Cast

It’s funny that you don’t notice the wind until you pick up your fly rod. In the real world of fishing, it seems very rare to encounter a completely windless day. Sometimes beating the wind in a freshwater situation can be achieved simply by finding a section of protected water. However, in the saltwater environment this is not always feasible, and if you want to maximize your fishing time, you should be aware of some techniques, apart from the well known “chuck and duck”  that will assist you to cast in the wind.

The equipment you use is of vital importance. A fast action rod will allow the application of more power than a slow action rod. Speciality weight forward fly lines with a short front taper will aid casting as will shooting head lines that have lower wind resistance.  Shortened leaders with a heavy butt section are a prerequisite to allow the fly to layout straight. Weighted streamlined flies will also help to cut down the effect of the wind.

Your attire becomes critical in the wind since hooking yourself becomes more likely and, because of the more force coupled with higher line speeds used, any “self impalements” will be more memorable. A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and a jacket give added protection for absorbing wayward flies.

Wind Facts
Although a matter of conjecture for a number of years, it has now been proved that wind speed at water level is the same as the water current speed. However, information on how quickly the wind speed increases with distance above the water is limited.

An article by Larry Pratt, published in the Federation of Fly Fishers “The Loop” journal for Certified Casting Instructors in spring 2001, refers to data from studies of the mean wind profile over open water in the Pacific Ocean by Dr John Edson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The graph produced with this data sheds some light on the subject and shows that wind speed increases rapidly as height above the water increases.

In lieu of this information, it appears that casting sidearm into head or tail winds only provides minimal advantage as the wind speed even at knee level has increased markedly.

A line of thought put forward is that, even though the wind speed is still high close to the water, casting side arm does have an advantage because the line has less distance to fall to the water. Consequently, the wind has less time to effect the fly line as the loop unrolls.

This is true if compared to an upright horizontal line plane. If the casting plane is tilted so that the cast into the wind is low, then it doesn’t become such an issue. In addition, when the wind direction is following the casting stroke, a high casting plane makes use of the wind to assist the loop to unroll.

Technique Aspects
Different tactics will be required as the direction of the wind changes or as the casts change direction in relation to the wind.

There are four basic considerations in relation to casting technique that need to be addressed to improve wind casts.

When casting with either a head or tail wind, it is necessary to adjust the trajectory of the casting plane to maximise the “penetration” of the loop into the wind as well as using the wind to assist the loop to unroll.

Wind_2    Wind_1

A tight loop is the best tool to overcome an adverse wind. In summary, in order to throw tight loops, the rod tip must travel in a straight line during the casting stroke. To do this, right to left deviations in the rod tip path need to be eliminated, slack needs to be minimized and the power needs to be applied so that the rod accelerates smoothly ending in an abrupt stop.

Having the ability to alternate between wide and narrow loops for the back cast and the forward cast enables the wind to be used to assist the cast.

Increasing line speed imparts more inertia to the loop to allow it to better punch into the wind.

When casting directly into a strong wind, it is very important to make an adjustment to the length of the pause. If the pause is not shortened for the forward cast made into a strong wind, the wind will blow the fly/leader/line right back at you.  By lengthening the duration of the pause on the back cast, it allows the wind to help the back cast loop unroll.

This equation gets a bit more complicated when you consider that as line speed is increased into a wind in either direction, the pause time needs to be decreased. Every addition or subtraction to the cast will affect the time it takes for the loops to straighten. You need to constantly watch the loops to make the correct adjustments.

Casting into Direct Head Winds
If you must cast into a direct head wind the back cast should be high with the forward cast aimed low with maximum power and a tight loop.

a. Trajectory – high back cast and low forward cast (directly to target.)

b. Loop Size –  tight (small) loop for the forward cast with wider loop for the back cast.

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the forward cast and less line speed for the back cast.

d. Timing – shorter pause on forward cast with longer pause on backcast.

By far the best option is to change position so that you can cast across or with the wind rather than against it. In lighter winds, another alternative is to use a side-arm cast to keep the line close to the water where the wind speed is marginally less.

Casting with Tail Winds
a. Trajectory – low back cast with a high forward cast.

b. Loop Size – wider loop for the forward cast and tight loop for the back cast.

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast with less line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – shorter pause for your back cast, and longer pause for your forward cast.

The back cast needs to be extra powerful, high speed and low into the wind. An effective way to achieve this is to employ an oval cast technique (Belgian Cast). The backcast is thrown low and parallel to the water and while the line is straightening, the rod is lifted vertically ready to make the forward  cast.  A wide loop is thrown high on the forward cast, letting the wind assist to carry the line out.

When the wind is really strong, a high roll cast is also a good technique to present the fly.

Techniques with Wind from Casting Arm Side
This is almost as troublesome as a direct headwind because the wind tends to blow the hook and line into you from the side.

a. Trajectory – high back cast and high forward cast  so that the wind blows the line over you.

b. Loop Size – narrow loops for both forward and backcasts

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast and high line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – no specific adjustment of pause is needed.

Casting across your body so that the line is on the downwind side works well but it is hard to make a powerful cast. Another solution is to turn around and switch the roles of the casts. The forward cast becomes the back cast and the back cast becomes the final delivery. Having the ability to switch casting hands is a distinct advantage when the wind is from this side of your body.

A cross wind will require that the aim be adjusted upwind to allow for the fly to drift sideways in the wind to hit the target.

Casting with Wind on the Line-hand Side
This is one of the easiest directions to handle. You won’t have to worry about hooking yourself because the wind is blowing the fly away from you.

a. Trajectory – no change of trajectory is required

b. Loop Size – narrow loops for both forward and backcasts

c. Line Speed – high line speed for the back cast and high line speed for the forward cast.

d. Timing – no specific adjustment of pause is needed.

The aim needs to be a little upwind to allow for the drift effect of the wind.

Water Haul
This is useful to increase the load on the rod and hence the line speed. It involves allowing the back cast to momentarily touch the water behind you before making the forward cast.

The tension on the line being pulled off the water puts more load on the rod and extra line speed is generated as the loaded rod straightens at the end of the forward cast. It’s important not to let the line sink otherwise you won’t be able to snap the line back off the water.

Because it is a low cast it is a little risky when the wind is blowing from the casting arm side. To lessen the risk of the hook hitting you in the back, angle the rod out at about 45 degrees or switch hands or cast backwards.

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