Cast Better: How to cast a fly in a strong wind

MANY fly anglers are more concerned about a raging wind than the prospect of a day tucked up under a hood in the pouring rain.

But there is much to be enjoyed on a windy day, including the likelihood of more room on the bank made available by those stay at home!

The fishing will be good too, especially when the air temperature is warm and the sky overcast. Highly oxygenated water, caused by the churning of the surface, is a comfortable habitat for fish and adds some additional movement to highly mobile flies such as Dabblers. Pull this popular wake fly through the surface on wild venues such as Colliford, situated high up on Bodmin Moor, and it won’t be long before a feisty brown takes hold!

Undertows caused by wind striking the shoreline cause insects to become trapped in the current. As they struggle to free themselves the fish move in and anglers can capitalise by casting into the wind. With the wind on your back it’s also possible to throw some great distances using the current of air to propel the fly line.

- FLYLINES: Dealing with the wind is about technique; but the effort required to improve casting skills is wasted unless matched with well-balanced tackle. Fly lines should be of the correct weight to deal with the conditions. Casting in a strong wind with light 5wt and 6wt lines can be difficult but can easily be rectified by scaling up to a 7 or 8wt. Weight forwards perform well in many situations, but double tapers, displaying a wide profile throughout most of their length, can penetrate the air, especially in a head-on wind – the extra stiffness of the line helping to turn over the leader (tapered leaders will also help with presentation). 

- ROD: Arod with a fast action aids presentation, but it’s casting technique that determines the outcome. 

- CLOTHING: Hats and sunglasses should always be worn, but especially during windy conditions.

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THE CASTS

Cast 1 – Overhead casting with a crosswind

CROSSWINDS frequently provide some superb fishing, especially with Buzzers. Swinging these imitative patterns on the current can produce some incredible results, but what if the breeze is directed onto your casting shoulder? One possible solution is to choose a bank with the wind blowing on the non-casting shoulder, effectively propelling the line away from fragile parts of your anatomy. Staying safe has to be the most important consideration but, by always looking for areas of water with the breeze directed onto the non-casting shoulder, anglers are missing out on potentially more prolific locations.

The key to success and more water to explore is to turn your back on the wind. Sometimes referred to as the Galway cast, Ilike to think of this as the ‘reverse cast’ because quite literally it is a back-to-front version of a normal overhead cast.

1. This casting technique can be used with all sorts of fishing tactics, but in contrast to the usual method of casting with the wind on the non-casting shoulder, search for a bank fishing location with the wind blowing on to your casting arm.

2. Place the line on the water as usual, with the rod tip low. Turn your back to the wind and adopt an open stance. Use a clock face to help with casting positions (above the head being 12 noon). In the case of right-handed casters smoothly lift the rod tip, peeling line from the water to a 2pm position (10am if left-handed).

3. As soon as the line has been peeled, accelerate into the cast, aiming to stop at around 11am (1pm if left-handed). Due to the stance position this initial movement has created a forward cast, using the water to create line tension that loads the rod.

4. Pause, allowing the line to unroll overland.

5. False cast in the usual manner but shoot line over the water, which in effect is the rearward stroke of a conventional overhead. It is worth remembering that this method is just a standard overhead cast that turns the back stroke into the forward and vice versa.

With practice it is possible to cast considerable distances although the main error that spoils the eventual result is caused by rotating the shoulders during the final presentation. Many potentially great casts are ruined as the angler turns to watch the line, rotating hips, torso and shoulders in the process. It is imperative that the body remains straight while casting and that the line is observed during its flight by rotating the neck only.

Cast 2 – Casting into the wind

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FISHING with a gale blowing into your face is not recommended and not pleasant, so should be avoided. A consistently strong wind will also begin to colour the water as waves lash the shoreline. This turbid water discourages the fish from feeding and causes them to relocate, although they may well be found near the edge of the coloured water. Fishing the edge of coloured water may produce results from a boat, but are generally unproductive from the bank.

Lighter winds result in a steady undertow created by the action of the waves (fuelled by the wind) on the shoreline resulting in a food trap soon capitalised upon by the fish. All sorts of techniques can be employed to exploit these conditions, including fishing fast sinking lines coupled with Boobies. The current will place a fantastic action on the fly that can be used to pop up Buzzers and other imitative flies. Short lining and constantly walking the banks of brown trout fisheries such as Colliford will also often pay dividends when the wind is blowing onshore. Look for scum lines in particular which are usually within easy reach, full of food and fish!

Use a short length of line when casting into the wind for the first time. Ahigh back cast will be needed to angle the fly correctly on the forward presentation and this can be easily achieved by leaning forwards as the cast is made.

The tilted angle of the body will allow the rod to stop high and the line will follow. As with all casting, be smooth and do not try to overpower the back cast.

Allow the line to straighten as usual and load the rod. It is also worth learning to haul, as this will provide extra line speed.

Make a forward stroke that will be angled downwards due to the stance, creating a loop that slices through the air with ease. In calm conditions this would create a splash but during windy sessions the impact of the line will not be noticed. This was certainly the case during my session at Colliford while shooting pictures for this feature.

Don’t shoot any line into the forward cast; instead hold it back with the line control hand, a technique that works particularly well on the final presentation. Checking the line in this way stops the bottom leg of the loop from moving, causing the top leg to turn over efficiently. Much the same effect is produced when the line extends fully against the reel.

Above all, don’t overstretch and reach out for distance in windy conditions. Seldom will the fish be at range and this was certainly the case at Colliford where fish were taking little more than 10 yards from the shore.

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Casting with the wind – Belgian casting

A TAILwind is a chance to send out some truly huge casts, covering vast amounts of water. In a wave this allows for a great deal of fishing time with tactics such as surface-disturbing patterns retrieved at speed.

But if the back cast collapses, the net result is slack line which at best will not load the rod efficiently, leading to all sorts of problems, including tailing loops, tangled leaders and shoddy presentation. At worst the slack line will clatter into the unfortunate anglers back or head!

Leaning backwards into the rearward stroke will assist when using a standard overhead cast. But one very effective method is to make a side cast followed by a high forward cast. This technique is known as a Belgian cast.

Place line on the water and rotate wrist so the back of the hand is parallel with the ground and the reel face is up. Make a very smooth back cast, creating a horizontal loop.

Once the line has extended into the rearward side cast and loaded the rod, make a high forward stroke in a vertical plane. In other words a standard overhead forward stroke.

Adding in a well-timed double haul and experimenting with rod stroke to determine loop size is all good practice that will soon triumph over the wind, enabling comfortable fishing in some favourable conditions.

Fishing details

WITH thanks to South West Lakes Trust for allowing us to use Colliford Lake for this month’s feature. Further details from The Jamaica Inn on 01566 86250 or visit the Trust’s website at www.swlakestrust.org.uk

Also in the Cast Better series...

1. Casting in the margins

2. Camouflage your casting

3. Distance casting

4. Casting teams of flies

5. Casting in the wind

6. Reaching a tight spot

7. Good presentation at distance

8. Make your own shooting head

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