Fly Casting Against the Wind

fly casting against the wind

A friend recently went through his late grandfather’s personal papers and stumbled upon the notes to a speech. My friend laughed when he saw a particular note his grandfather had written at the top of a page. The note read: “Weak argument, yell louder.”

Unfortunately, I’m tempted to adopt a similar approach when I’m fly casting against the wind. My inclination is to cast harder. But casting harder against the wind resembles yelling louder when the argument you’re trying to make is weak. It is highly ineffective.

Here are seven tips when fly casting against the wind. Some are obvious, some not so much. All of them can make a big difference.

1. Use 6-weight line

The current favorite for an all-around fly rod is a 9 foot, 5-weight.

But after years of fishing in the wind on Montana’s Madison and Yellowstone Rivers, I’m sold on a 6-weight rod for windy conditions. The added power of a 6-weight does help you cut through the wind. If you can’t afford another fly rod, at least get another spool with 6-weight line. It will work fine with your 9 foot, 5-weight rod.

By the way, you might want to shorten your leaders from 9 feet to 7.5 feet. A shorter leader is easier to control in windy conditions.

2. Cast between gusts of wind

Alright, this is one of those rather obvious tips. But it works when fly casting against the wind.

One of the windiest days I ever fly fished was during the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston, Montana. I had to stop for a while and close my eyes to keep them from filling with dust. But I discovered that if I waited, I would get 5 or 10 second windows to cast. I had to be quick, but the window was sufficient to get my fly on the water.

I caught a lot of trout that day.

3. Use your wrist, not your whole body

Again, the temptation is to work harder when you cast in windy conditions—to put your whole body into it. If swinging your arms and swaying your entire body is your approach, stop it. The wrist flick is where the power is. That’s what makes your rod work for you. If you try to get your entire body into the cast, you actually diminish the performance of your fly rod.

The wrist flick — back and forward — makes the rod do what it is designed to do.

4. Learn the double haul

One of the best ways to cut through the wind is to use the “double haul.” This technique increases line speed by delivering velocity to your fly line. Joan Wulff says: “The rod is loaded more deeply, and that transfers to greater energy in your line.”

Basically, you use your “line hand” (your left hand if you’re casting with your right hand) to haul or pull back the line on both your forward and backward stroke. It’s much easier to see than to describe.

So here is a helpful video by Orvis: The Double Haul

Joan Wulff teaches the double haul here: Joan on the Double Haul

5. Lower your cast

The idea is to keep your line low — perhaps under the wind. There are two ways you can do this.

First, use a sidearm cast. You can still double haul while casting sidearm. A second way to lower your cast is to crouch or kneel. I can’t remember how many times I crouched while standing knee deep in Montana’s Madison River on windy days in March and April.

6. Shorten your casts

This may seem obvious, but you may need to remind yourself to keep your casts shorter. The less line you have in the air, the less problem you’ll have with the wind. You can live with a shorter cast if you can extend your drift as much as possible. So keep feeding line until your fly drifts through the feeding zone.

7. Don’t cast against the wind

That’s right. If at all possible, figure out how to get the wind at your side or, preferably, at your back. This might mean fishing the opposite bank or casting downstream instead of upstream.

If you practice these techniques when fly casting against the wind, the day won’t make you quite so angry. You may not even mutter or yell inappropriate words. Instead, you’ll happily hum Bob Seger’s old tune, “Against the Wind” as you make one effective cast after another.