Casting in the Wind

A friend of mine is fond of saying that if you don’t learn to fish in the wind in Montana, you’ll fish two days a year.  Now, he may be guilty of slight exaggeration, but his point is well taken.  Wind is a fact of life in the West.  If you’re going to fish out here, at some point you’ll find yourself doing it in the wind.  I often field questions from visiting anglers about what adjustments to make when the winds start blowing.

The answer is simple:  increase your line speed.  All else being equal, the faster a line moves, the more energy it carries.  And more energy is exactly what’s necessary to offset the effects of wind.

There are two ways to achieve higher line speed.  One is to speed up your casting stroke.  Moving your hand faster (and therefore your rod) makes your line move faster.  The other way is to haul with your line hand.  Whether single or double, a haul accelerates the line, imparting the extra energy needed to cut through the wind.

Sounds simple enough.  Is that really all there is to it?  Technically, yes.  Practically, well…maybe.  That’s because it all depends on your casting stroke.  If you have a fundamentally sound stroke, then yes, the only adjustments you need consider are speeding up your stroke, hauling, or doing both (if the wind is particularly severe).  Nothing else is necessary.

Unfortunately, very few anglers possess fundamentally sound casting strokes (in my estimation it’s less than 1%).  So here’s the crux of the issue.  If you have flaws in your casting stroke the wind will, at the very least, expose them.  More likely, it will exacerbate them.  Simple casting situations become difficult.  Difficult ones become impossible.

There is but one good way around this.  Improve your fundamentals.  Sure, it’s sometimes possible to jerry-rig your stroke in order to get by, but any solution that fails to address proper fundamentals is destined for long-term failure.  Covering up the problem is not the answer.  Because the basic principles of good fly casting are easy to learn, we should all make an effort to learn them.  But be forewarned: your fishing buddies are not the ones to listen to when it comes to casting (even if they’re good fishermen).  Seek professional help.  Speaking from thirty-plus years of teaching experience, I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Fishing in high winds isn’t fun for anyone.  But on certain days it’s that or nothing.  If you know enough to render the wind irrelevant, as the experts do, then you’re still in the game.  You’ll be able to catch fish and have fun doing it.  And in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?