Fly Casting in the Wind

Battling the wind
How to Cast a Fly Rod in the Wind

Fly Casting in the wind is one of the sport’s biggest challenges but late summer in Colorado often means breezy afternoon conditions. Few things in sport can be so humbling as a strong wind to a fly fisherman.  The wind will accentuate your mistakes and make it brutally obvious that you require a casting lesson or at the very least a new base of knowledge to draw upon for better results. But all anglers must learn to cast in the wind to be successful.

Some Thoughts

Many anglers in the Central Colorado Rockies often cast nymph rigs a short distance the majority of the time.  If you never have to cast more than ten feet and you are using weight all the time, it is unlikely you have developed skills necessary when Mother Nature arrives on the water.  Granted, when it comes to tossing a dry fly softly or even a streamer a great distance some experienced fly fisherman can succeed with no wind, but it seems that when it blows, we fall apart and our casts follow suit.

Being lucky enough to have garnered instruction from some of the finest fly casters and anglers in the industry over the last 40 years, I truly feel blessed.  I have been taught by the likes of casting masters Steve Rajeff, Gary Borger, Mel Kreiger, Lefty Kreh, Doug Swisher, Flip Pallot and world champion fly caster Joan Wulff. If you attend regional fly fishing shows you will eventually get to see, hear or have a personal lesson from some of the best casters in the world.  This is a good idea for a novice or expert caster alike.

This is how I learned to combat difficult casting conditions, when guiding our guest’s on rivers and lakes here in Colorado.  Remember, people must have a rod in hand and actually fly fishing or casting at the moment for most of these tips.
These are basic ideas to practice in the wind. A visit your local fly shop to schedule a casting lesson will also be valuable in learning more.

The Tips

Jack Nicklaus always said, “Grip, Posture and Alignment make up 85% of the average golf swing”.  I agree.

Make sure your grip is sound. With the center of your thumb lining up on the cork grip directly behind the spline of the fly rod, opposite the line guides.  Grip firmly but do not squeeze the fly rod grip. Fly rod manufactures usually locate the spline or the place where the graphite fly rod material is overlapped directly behind the rod grip.

Fly casting is a sport, relax and slightly bend your knees. If you back is tightening stop for a second, then try again with better posture. If possible, offset yourself at 45 degrees. This will allow you to  see the apex of your back cast and realize when to come forward.
Learn to slow down. Casting into wind makes anglers go fast, tending to not let the fly rod load or unload. It’s important to keep your rod tip raised up and not drop it on the back cast or forecast until after you have imparted energy to the rod tip.  Energy is stored in the fly rod, drop the tip at either end, and you have lost most of the potential energy stored by the heavy line pulling on the high modulus graphite fly rod. This can cause a tailing loop which will kill accuracy and distance.

More Tips

My preference is to further explain to fly fisherman that fly casting is different than most ways you have learned to get something from point “A” to point “B”.  “Most new casters want to throw, today we learn to cast”. Think of two goals you may have when throwing a softball or any terminally weighted object.  You first begin by rearing back as far as you can, then follow through at the target, right?  “Yes, in softball, no in fly casting”. When fly casting we subscribe to a different approach. If we are to cast with ease and efficiency especially in the wind, we must use the proper timing and remember to use the rod tip, to release our stored energy. Always aim your cast with your rod tip.

Remember during a good cast into a stiff breeze the fly line travels in a tight loop and to achieve a “J” shape or tight loop.  You do not need to use much, if any, back cast with your rod tip.  In the wind, keep your rod tip raised at 12  o’clock until the backcast has completed. Then go with a forward stroke, with your tip on an imaginary ceiling no more than a foot above you. Line hauling or double hauling is one of the best ways to increase your line speed and your distance in the wind.  As you pull your rod back to cast simply preform a quick pull down with your line hand, the single haul.  When your cast continues forward give it another pull down about 18 inches and release.  The timing on this takes practice.

Final Words of Encouragement

Lastly, do not let the wind get you down. Often, fish will not bite until terrestrials get blown into the water.  Still water can be very tough until a breeze puts a chop on the water surface. Then fish can be fooled.  Wave action can be enhanced by a good wind stirring up all types of food for fish.  Fish cannot see you as easily when windy conditions persist allowing for closer presentations and better hook up ratios.

Give these wind casting tips a chance, instead of leaving your favorite waterway when it blows. Next time you are out fly fishing, these ideas should enhance your overall productivity and senility.
Bill Perry – Guide and Content Writer