Casting Tip of the Monthcourtesy Atlanta Fly Fishing School
Answer: Yes, stay home...(just kidding)
Wind presents difficult casting conditions for everyone. But as the saying goes "Good captains are made in deep seas and rough waters" likewise "good fly casters are made in the wind". You do, however, need a plan to meet the challenge wind presents and here are some tricks and techniques you can use to save a days outing. First: A good basic overhead cast with increased line speed (fast casts), good loop formation (tight loops), assisted by the added power of the single, double, or triple haul will give your line a decided advantage in slicing thru the air. (More about speed, loop formation, and hauling in a future article) Second: You may want to change the plane in which you are casting. These alternative casts can be quickly learned even if you are new to the sport. The plane in which you cast is determined by the wind direction, and fly fishing can be like sitting around a camp fire, the wind is always coming from the wrong direction. The easiest wind direction to work with is from your non-casting side. Using the example of a right-handed caster, this would be wind coming from the casters left side. This direction will naturally blow the fly and line away from you and allow a relatively normal overhead cast. When the wind is coming from the casting side however, the tendency is to have the fly and line blow toward your body. This creates an uncomfortable feeling causing you to wonder if you're going to hook your clothes or get an unscheduled body piercing. Changing the plane of your cast can really save the day. If we stand behind our right hand caster and use the rod tip like an hour hand on a clock, then an overhead cast would be at approximately 12 o'clock. When wind comes from the casting side, simply drop your rod tip sideways to 2 o'clock or even to a sidearm position of 3 o'clock. In light wind this will be sufficient to keep the fly and line safely away from you. In stronger wind the only safe way to cast is to keep the fly and line down wind from your body necessitating an across body cast. Again, standing behind our right hand caster the rod tip will now be at 10 or 11 o'clock. There are two easy ways to accomplish this cast. While holding the cork with the usual grip of thumb on top, rotate your wrist so your thumb points across the front of your body and your palm faces out toward the target. This will allow a normal arm movement similar to the basic overhead cast but with the rod tip going over your head pointing to the down wind side. The second way you can accomplish this cast is to rotate your forearm across your chest making an across body cast. One method has the rod above your head, while the other has it below your head across your chest. Experiment with both styles using the one that is the most comfortable and accurate for you. Other wind directions you will encounter is when the wind is coming from in front of or from behind you. When the wind is coming from in front you will want to make a high trajectory back cast and a low forward cast. The low forward cast should have your fly landing on the water as soon as the loop unrolls keeping the fly and line from being blown back. When the wind is from behind the opposite rule applies. Make a low trajectory back cast and high forward cast using the wind to carry the fly and line like a kite to the desired target. Optionally, a side-arm cast may be helpful when wind is coming from in front or behind by keeping the fly and line closer to the water. Due to the resistance wind encounters close to the ground or water, wind speed there will be substantially less than it is 10 or 15 feet in the air. Another trick that can be used with wind coming from behind is to turn around and make a forward cast into the wind and allow your fly to land on the water with your back cast. This is helpful for casters who have a weaker back cast than forward cast and should only be used until you can train yourself to made your back cast as solid as your forward cast.
NOTE: Practice casting in all planes before you encounter a windy day and the need to use these casts. At our casting school we use targets to cast toward which assists students in developing a smooth casting stroke and the accuracy needed to confidently use these casts. Once you're comfortable with your ability to cast in all planes you'll find yourself using these casts for much more than overcoming wind. With a new arsenal of casts you'll be getting around low hanging limbs and stream-side obstructions with ease. And that pocket water behind the rock that was impossible to reach with an overhead cast...now you can go see what it holds.