Dealing with the wind
Gale Force? Oh Please...
If you find trouble fishing in the wind, then chances are you have had a very frustrating season thus far.
This doesn’t need to be so. With a few simple techniques, and some basic, good form fly casting, we are about to make your life a whole lot easier.
When the wind rears its head, theres nowhere to hide. It's go hard, or go home.
This may sound strange, but when casting into the wind it is important not to apply too much power. Correctly applied power will benefit the cast, but it is rare to find an average Joe who, when faced with a blustery Nor Wester will increase power application correctly; more likely he will punch the cast early, buckling the rod tip, and generate endless tails. Decrease the power, focus on remaining smooth and delaying both rod rotation and the haul and you will handle all better. More later.
When the wind is blowing in from your casting side (i.e. from right to left with a right hander, vice versa for a leftie) it threatens to push the line into the caster. As the combination of fast flying hooks and exposed, personal flesh is not a desirable one, we must now look to avoid this painful collision.
We have a couple of options to avoid this:
1) Tilt the wrist so that the rod tip travels across to the other side of the body. Bringing the rod hand up to ones forehead achieves a similar angle of tilt, and maintains a higher backcast for some.
2) Bring the thumb across to the opposite ear, similar to option 1.
3) Learn to cast with the other arm.
In short, we keep the line on the downwind side of us.
Not many people are fully ambidextrous, and whilst very worthwhile, learning to cast with the other hand is a personal choice, as it can be very time consuming and frustrating to begin. A helpful tip if you choose so; pantomime your cast simultaneously with two rods, the theory being your strong hand teaches the other. (Echo’s Micro Practise Rod is a great aid in learning new casts. Give it a try.)
The option I personally employ is to bring the rod tip across my body to the opposite shoulder. Cast as per normal, bringing your arm back along the same path it would normally travel, but simply canter the wrist towards the opposite shoulder. Practise this with your pick up and lay down cast, and you will soon see how easy this is. I find this movement stricter than the second, with tracking less affected, and easier to retain good casting form.
The second technique is along the same lines as the first, but involves bringing the whole casting arm across the body, and stopping with your rod hand outside of your opposite ear. Be sure on the forward stroke to move your rod hand forward in a straight line to the front of your opposite shoulder, not back across to your natural casting side. Your rod tip should travel directly away from, and back to your target in a 180 degree straight line. Failing this will cause your loop to flip to one side, negating any straight line presentation, robbing your loop of energy, and is known as poor tracking.
Remember, casting technique (lift, rotation, pause, forward flick, and follow through) remain exactly the same as before, we are just altering the path of our casting arm.
Practice both on the lawn and find which method suits your personal style.
When the wind is blowing straight towards us we have a new challenge. Where normally we aim to stop the rod high, for the line to straighten three or four feet above the water, then land gently as one, we now have the problem of the wind picking this hovering line up and blowing it straight back at us. The biggest mistake here is to try for more power. What we need to do is improve, and adapt our technique.
Check out the wind chop on the river, and the angle of the net mesh as the wind howls. Success on a tough day, where only inpeccible technique prevails.
There are three essentials we require to effectively beat the wind;
1) Line speed.
2) Tight loops.
3) A tilted casting plane.
In summary, you need to throw a fast, tight loop aimed close to the water.
With our knowledge of the basic casting stroke, and our good friend, the double haul, we should be capable of achieving adequate line speed. This is essential to deliver our loop to the water in the quickest manner possible, cutting through the wind. Remember, line speed is created by good technique, not more power!
Tight loops are created by tracking a straight-line path of the rod tip during the casting stroke. If we have been using the correct casting arc for the flex in our rods, and are applying power throughout our stroke with a smooth acceleration, then our loops should be looking pretty good by now. We will now combine the two to assist us in dealing with a headwind.
The one other thing we require is a tilted casting plane. This means, throwing a higher back cast, and aiming our forward cast down at the water. We want our loop to straighten just above the water, so the wind cannot lift our straightened line it and push it away.
To throw a higher back cast, we 'tuck up'. Instead of lifting by moving the hand, and elbow forwards, try pulling the elbow backwards into the body and casting from this position. This creates a change in the angle the hand makes during the back cast, and forces the hand (and consequentially, rod tip) to travel more towards the vertical than usual. The overall result is a high back cast, above the horizontal.
We should strive for a tight loop on the forward cast. A wide, open forward loop sports a large surface area, and will get thrown around by any sort of a breeze. Correct form, straight line path of the rod tip, and correct casting arc will ensure a tight loop, and by utilizing the double haul, we further increase line velocity and decrease loop size to a degree. With a high back cast set, we drive our rod tip down towards the water in a straight line path, stopping hard and low, then following through with the rod tip. Remember - technique, not power!
When the wind blows from behind we have the opposite problem. It gets below our back cast and pushes it back at us, making it impossible for a conventional back cast to straighten.
What we do here is reverse the above advice, and throw a low, fast back cast, in conjunction with a high forward cast.
Many beginners have trouble with intentionally throwing a low back cast, so here we will deviate from the norm.
What I want you to do, is throw a side cast as your back cast component, then return to overhead form for your forward cast. This is simple. Instead of bringing your rod up vertically from in front, perform your back cast movement on the horizontal plane. Keep all components the same - lift, rotation, stop and pause, and then bring your forward cast over in the vertical plane. If done correctly, your tight loop, high velocity back cast will straighten and you will throw a high forward cast, which will unfurl well above the water. By aiming the forward cast high, you annul the tailing winds attempt to slam your forward loop heavily upon the water. This cast incidentally, is known as the Belgian cast, and is also helpful when throwing both heavy nymphs and streamers, to ensure they stay far from your fragile rod tip.
The only problem with low back casts, is that matagouri, gorse and tall grass are now invitingly close to your fly. Be wary of such casting impediments, and aim to avoid them.
Simon Chu on a day when most others wouldnt consider fishing the back country.
After spending many guide days on the water I have observed countless styles and attempts to combat the wind. The following are a few tid bits to assist you in windy days on the river.
- Minimise, or better still, eliminate false casting. The more time your line is in the air, the more time you have to fuck things up.
- Keep a short, manageable line. Wind riffle will hide the fish, but it will also conceal your movements. Shorten up and move in closer.
- Keep your rod tip low to the water. Any vertically hanging slack beneath the rod tip will get blown around by the wind, ultimately affecting your drift. Keep your rod tip down low, touching the water to minimise this effect.
- Check your leader often, and use a stiffer tippet. Last thing you want is to finally hook a fish only to have a wind knot give.
- If an indicator is required, make it small. Energy will transfer down the taper of the line, into the leader and end when it hits your indy. The nymph then turns over from momentum alone, so if you cannot get rid of the indicator completely, make it as small and least wind resistant as possible. Shorter, steeper tapering leaders assist greatly in the transfer of energy through to the fly.
- Use a heavy tungsten to push through the wind. If using a dry fly, trailing a small tungsten on point will assist greatly in turnover.
- Maximise every chance. Realistically, windy days can be tough – maintain realistic expectations and do everything you can to convert whatever chances you have at fish. Practising at home, employing the above tactics and working the water well will result in more fish caught. FACT!
The best advice I can give is to practise, practise and practise. And not only in fine weather! Inclement weather expands your casting repertoire. You cannot always be guaranteed fine, still conditions on the river, so why not be prepared. The advantage of windy or rainy conditions is that the trouts vision is often inhibited due to surface disturbance, thus, long casts are not necessary. Practice effective, short casting techniques demonstrating good form.
You will learn more in one day on the water fighting wind and rain than you will over a week of sunshine!
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