Every fly fisher wakes up on the morning of the trip, and the first thing they check is the wind outside. Nobody likes the sound or sight of wind when out on the water, especially when fly fishing. With most other formats of fishing, the angler has added weight to cast out with, so the wind doesn’t have that much of an impact.
In fly fishing, there is no added weight to the end of your line, so any breeze will affect the outcome of the cast.
Most of the top fly fishing destinations worldwide have major wind factors, and most often than not, the wind will be blowing.
As a fly angler, it’s essential to learn to use the wind to your advantage. Mastering a few tips and techniques will only up to your chances and improve your skills as a fly angler.
Think of sailing; skilled sailors can use the wind in any direction to their advantage, and they can harness its power and use it.
The same can be said for casting in the wind and even more saltwater fly casting in the wind.
Why is wind good sometimes?
Often seen as a negative, wind can help better your chances as a fly angler.
A constant light wind creates a ripple on the water’s surface, which helps to keep the angler more disguised. The fish can’t see out too well with the chop on the water on a windy day.
A wind that comes from behind is also great for casting as you can get a little more distance if you use it correctly.
Wind also brings food into the bay and surface of the water. Predators hang in the depths or just behind the surf zone, waiting to move in and feed.
Using the wind to drift your fly out over the selected area is also a great tip. Follow your fly with the rod tip and keep retrieving fly line slack to maintain contact with the fly. When the fly gets into the strict zone, you quickly retrieve and hopefully get an eat or interest.
Southwest Florida is an example of which area is great for the above method. The coastal winds are a certainty there, and newbies to the area find it intimidating at first, but once they have learned and mastered the above, the wind will be hardly noticed.
Types of Winds and How to Fish Them
Fly Fishing a Headwind
‘In your face’ wind and often the most hated wind for fly anglers. Imagine standing on the reef, and you have a wind flat in your face that is almost toppling you over.
There is nothing more devastating than when you see your fly get turned around backward only to plop 3 meters in front of you.
As much as a headwind can be soul-destroying to fish in, don’t let the stiff breeze get your hopes down.
With a few casting techniques and changes, your casting accuracy and distance will be at its best in the wind.
The trick is to stick to the standard overhead casting technique to make an effective cast in a headwind. Allow more time on your backcast and stop the backcast slightly higher in the casting ark. This allows the fly line to track a higher route while getting more line out.
The fly rod and tip should end slightly lower in the forward casting ark on the forward stroke. Essentially the line weight and momentum will be pushed down and through the wind.
A tailing loop forms if the forward cast ends too high in the heavy wind, and momentum is lost.
On the forward cast, it’s important to stop the cast with a solid stop and almost jerk-like motion. This is needed to shoot the fly line forward and through the windy conditions.
The leader should unwind just above the water surface; by changing the fly line trajectory to a more vertical line, the fly can’t get blown offline track.
A sidearm cast action can also work when a stiff wind blows in your face. This method works great off a higher platformed skiff or high sandbank, as the angler keeps the line lower and out of the wind.
The cast needs to be faster so the line speed will prevent the fly from touching the water. The sidearm cast can be more difficult the closer the angler is to the water level.
False casting too many times with this method will end in spending energy. Make as many casts as needed to get the tight loop and shoot it forward. Your casting arm will have to be up for the task to fly fish with a heavy setup. Make sure you practice with the bigger setups to be ready to cast in the wind.
Casting a Fly Rod With a Tailwind
A tailwind is the best wind to have when fly fishing, but it is also the worst wind to have when using heavier, larger flies and fly lines.
The one thing to remember is when the wind is coming from behind, the fly follows the rod and line in a lower path and often gets blown into the back of your head and shoulders.
Most anglers prevent this head-hitting cast by stopping the forward cast a little higher in the casting stroke and letting the wind carry the line and flies up and over.
The double haul cast is also a great stoke to have with a tailwind. Again watch the forward stroke and fly path, but you can put some serious distance in with the double haul.
You can see our post here on how to cast a fly rod if you still want to know the basics.
The Belgian cast is a great casting stroke to master to take full advantage of a tailwind, and it makes casting in high winds from behind super easy. A single cast works great when using larger, heavier flies or a multiple fly rig.
This cast makes full use of the strong wind. The angler makes a lower side backcast to lift the rod tip to a vertical on the forward stroke to catch the wind. Then, the cast is stopped midway on the forward motion to allow the line to loop up and over the rod tip.
The water haul is a great casting stroke when using dry flies, dry flies, or strike indicators. It’s excellent for trout anglers and takes little practice to master.
Essentially, the water haul is a simple cast that uses the water flow to hold tension and load the fly rod.
The angler allows the line to drift downstream, lifts the rod and line up to break the surface tension and then makes one casting stroke forward to shoot the rod and floating line head forward and out. Quick cast that uses minimal energy and is a very productive cast when faced with the wind.
Sidewind (Opposite side)
If the wind is coming across the angler from the opposing side, the easiest way to use this is to lower the rod tip and stroke.
The wind will allow the angler to slow the stroke down and time the forward cast perfectly. This can be a little trickier if there isn’t much space to cast. The ideal space needed for this casting method is a rod length or more.
Sidewind (Casting Side)
There are two ways to deal with this type of wind. Firstly cast at a horizontal angle to the ground or water, which ensures the fly and line are at least a full length away for the angler. This method is excellent for short-distance casts.
Secondly and the preferred casting stroke for a heavier rod is to reverse the cast. A backcast is always better and stronger than a forward cast. So the best way to deal with a side breeze like this is to turn around 180 degrees and make a forward cast backward, and your backward cast will go forwards.
Not a complicated change up and it works well. It alleviates any flies hitting or hooking the angler, and on a blustery day, it can be the answer to all wind-related problems.
Tips and Methods to Work With the Wind
With all fly fishing casting a tight loop is very important. With the wind blowing, this is even more important. Fishing in the wind will require a very tight line loop to cut through the wind on the forward cast.
A line loop that is tailing slightly will get blown off track and at the same time not get the distance needed. To get a tighter loop in windy conditions, use the fly rod to its full potential working it to make sure you get enough power into that line.
The backcast is a great casting technique to use when in windy conditions. Use the downwind side to your advantage and turn to cast forward with it, and then a mighty double haul cast backward towards the intended target.
The case and point are that most anglers have a stronger backcast, which makes the technique so versatile.
Take some time to plan how you intend to use the wind for each cast. Work out how best to use the wind direction to better your casting.
Once wind is figured out, focus on each cast. Keep the fly rod tip as low as it can be used without touching the water surface. Casting with the rod to the side will keep the line and flies out as much wind as possible.
Keeping the false casts to a minimum is best. The longer the line is in the air, the more chance it has to be blown all over the place. The water haul technique will work well to reduce the false casts.
Just make sure the area you are loading isn’t the intended area to fish. This would scare the fish away, and the whole process would be a pointless exercise then.
Time the Hauls
The haul or double haul will give the rod and line more power. Focusing on each motion as an individual cast.
In windy conditions, tighten your loop on the forward cast and loosen the loop on the backward cast. By executing the haul later in the forward movement, you tighten the loop even more, and this allows the line to punch the wind.
See our post here for more saltwater fly fishing tips.
In certain casting scenarios below, the breakdown for casting strokes that an angler will use while out in the saltwater is mentioned in the above section. Whether fly fishing from a boat or wading the reefs, these casts will help you get the flies in front of the fish.
The cast that is taight in the beginning, used in all types of fly fishing. The simple forward and backward movement of the rod, loading it with a line each time, gives the distance.
Best used in windy conditions; the angler uses the wind to load the rod on the forward cast. A simple flick to the back, a verticle lift of the rod up and into the forward blowing wind.
This minimal effort cast uses the wind to carry the line out and when a little extra effort is applied, the entire line can be sent out with no problem!
Using the river’s flow to pull the line out for the angler to then load the rod off the water is one of the oldest methods one can learn. It can be used in normal conditions but is very helpful to use when windy.
When fishing, saltwater simply use the currents to load the line and rod.
Slightly trickier to master, the double haul is a great casting stroke to have up your sleeve. It involves a great deal of timing in the cast, so once you have your casts down and well-timed it shouldn’t be challenging to grasp.
The line arm follows the casting arm, and just after each forward or backward stroke, the line arm pulls more line back through the eyes. This generates more line speed and a tighter loop.
As mentioned, this cast is all about timing.
You can check out our full double haul fly casting post here for a more in depth-guide in casting the double haul.
Attitude is everything in fly fishing; the angler has to have a good attitude towards what they are trying to accomplish in the session. Learn as much as you can and view each mistake as a learning curve
Good timing is the key to getting all your casts on point. Practice them on the lawn until they are second nature so that next time you are out on a fishing trip, the wind will pick up only but the fuel you to catch more fish.
Happy casting and tight lines!