Air in Motion
There is something that is always around that can effect our casting that we cannot control. We have to resign ourselves to the fact that we will have to deal with it and make the best of the situation. No, it’s not your fishing buddy that was stuck with a phonograph needle, I’m dating myself here, whose umpteenth replay of the one that got away cannot be turned off. It’s the movement of that gaseous compound that surrounds us constantly, air, and we know it as wind. There are not many days that are windless and we most often cannot pick those days to go fishing. The wind will affect any cast whether it is with conventional, spinning or fly. It just has a greater effect on fly casting. In conventional or spin casting you are more or less tossing a bullet with significant mass and little air resistance. It really moves through the air! In fly casting, you are unrolling a loop, wide or narrow, and a length of line with little mass and greater air resistance. If we want to fish on those windy days, we need to know how and be able to effectively make a cast in those conditions.
Wind can be coming from any direction or it may seem like every direction. Let’s begin with a head wind. A head wind blowing into you will decrease your distance and accuracy. If you have been down to the Texas coast you know what I mean. With a strong headwind you are not going to be able to cast as far and with as much accuracy as you normally would. To get the most distance and accuracy possible you will need three things in your cast, narrow loops, good line speed and a lower front cast trajectory. Narrow loops are more aerodynamic and will punch into the wind. Narrow loops are the result of a nearly straight-line path of the rod tip and that means keeping that bendy wrist under control.
Good or increased line speed above and beyond your normal casting can be achieved by hauling. Hauling not only increases line speed but it can take some of the work off of your casting arm and help reduce fatigue.
Lowering your forward cast trajectory, while maintaining the 180-degree rule, will help with your accuracy. If you make a cast with the leader straightening 5, 6 or 7 feet above the water and allow the fly to float to the surface the wind has time to blow it back and off target. Aim your cast to have the loop unroll and straighten a foot or two above the surface of the water so the wind will have little or no time to affect the distance and accuracy.
Now what about the opposite, a back wind? This can be handled much the same, as a headwind on the forward cast but in reverse on your back cast. Narrow loops, good line speed and a horizontal back cast trajectory are needed. Your back cast trajectory should not be too low as it could hit the water or allow the wind to knock it down. This is particularly true it when fishing from a kick boat or kayak because you are in a lower position and closer to the surface of the water.
How about a side wind coming into your line hand? Easy Peasy! All you need is to adjust your horizontal trajectory left or right of the target to compensate for the wind strength.
The next is one that many struggle with, the wind coming into your rod hand side. It is important to know how to handle this type of wind direction because it creates, more than the others, a safety issue. A wind coming into your rod hand side will blow the line and the fly into you with the possibility of ruining the cast and worse yet hooking yourself. I have seen this happen several times and it can ruin a day’s fishing in short order. There are several ways to handle this situation. The following remedies address the most important aspect of making a safe cast, get the line and fly downwind of you.
Number One: Make an off shoulder cast, one in which the rod tip is angled over your off shoulder. This cast is good for all wind speeds.
Number Two: Use an oval, elliptical, constant tension or Belgian cast. This cast is begun with a low side arm back cast with no stop and coming around and up to the off shoulder position for the forward cast. This cast can be used in a moderate wind and is excellent for sink tip/sinking lines and heavy flies.
Number Three: Turn your back to the wind and make a back cast presentation. This is a good cast when the wind is stronger and control is difficult.
Number Four: Now this is a good one for any strength of wind, use your other hand or non-dominant hand to make the cast. There are no disadvantages to be able to cast with your non-dominant hand.
Fly casting is all about who or what is controlling the cast. So don’t let the wind control your casting, instead control your casting to deal with the wind.