Fly fishing into strong winds

When trying to fly fish I hate the wind, it roughs up the surface making spotting difficult, not to mention that the gusts can ruin an otherwise perfect cast.

I learned to fly fish on one of the windiest trout rivers in the world, the daily averages wind-run is something like 155 mph (it is very windy), What is worse the wind really howls during the day throughout the prime fishing months of spring and summer. It was a baptism by fire, I was forced to learn to fish in such conditions.

In this post, I will share my tips on how to negate the wind, and in some cases even use it to your advantage.

Firstly, try and fish with the wind blowing from behind.

When fishing on a windy day, it is always easier to cast if the wind is behind you. A back wind can even make casting slightly easier; it seems to help carry the line and straighten the loop.

The problem is, that the wind often blows down river valleys, and us trout fishermen usually fish in the upstream direction. This forces us to cast into the wind, or at-least side on to the wind. This sucks, and for us non casting gods, it can make long casts next to impossible.

Tips on how to cast into the wind.

  • 1) The wind does not blow constantly, there are gusts and lulls in its speed. I know being impatient is easy but trust me on this one and wait until a calm patch before making a cast. More often than not the trout will still be there. This should be obvious but avoid casting into the full strength of a gust.
  • 2) The wind is weaker closer to the ground, so side casting from a squatted position can often get better distance than casting directly over the shoulder. Side casting with a fly rod does take some practice, and in doing so you will catch more tuffs of grass, but with practice it can be a very useful skill to learn for fishing on windy days.
  • 3) Faster line speeds are better at punching into a wind, so for this reason learning to single or even double haul makes casting into the wind easier. I am a terrible caster, and even I could learn to double haul. It just takes practice.
  • 4) Use heavier gear. Heavier lines and flies are easier to punch into the wind than a feather light 3wt. When fishing out in the opening I generally fish a 6wt, and occasionality even an 8wt.
  • 5) Shooting head fly lines are much easier to cast into the wind than a standard weight forward, rather than a standard weight forward or double tapered line. I often use a Teeny shooting head when streamer fishing on windy days.
  • 6) Sometimes the extra power generated from a roll casts is helpful. Roll casts also eliminate the need of a back cast which is just another point of failure when fishing in the wind.
  • 7) Do not expect to make long casts, concentrate on stealth and making shorter, more accurate presentation. That trout on the far side can wait until calmer conditions. I personally will probably try to wade out to reach such a fish but that usually results in spooking them.
  • 8) A sinking or slow sinking line can also improve presentation and keep the lure beneath the surface when fishing in choppy conditions.
  • 9) Limit the number of false casts, I like to get close enough that I can load my fly rod by the resistance of lifting my line off the water. No false casting required.
  • 10) When possible, try casting at an angle rather than aiming directly into the wind.

Benefits of casting into the wind

I hate casting into the wind, I try to avoid it as much as possible. Even if that means driving to the far side of a lake or heading up a forested stream to find some shelter.

But believe it or not, I have meet fishermen on lakes who actually enjoy fishing into the wind. They are crazy, but that does not mean that do but have some good points.

They believe that the rough surface makes it harder for the trout to spot them, reducing the need for stealth and delicate presentations. But this concept goes both ways, good luck sighting fish when it is rough. When fishing into the wind, expect to be blind fishing the majority of the time. For this reason, it is usually only advisable in fisheries with healthy populations.

There is also a belief that the breaking waves stir up the sediments making more food available close to shore, this in turn encourages trout to feed nearer the beach. Putting them within casting distance. I honestly can not say I have noticed that, and I will counter that fishing with the wind behind can result in many terrestrial insects getting blowing into the water which can attract the attention of fish.

I suppose one final benefit of fishing on a windy day is that popular locations can be less busy. Most people do not like fishing in the wind so there is less competition which means the fish are less pressured.

So when giving the choice, I always prefer to fish with the wind behind, but ideally no wind at all but there are some potential advantages of fishing into a head wind.

Avoiding the wind when fly fishing

It is often better to avoid the wind than fish into it. Here are some tips.

Fish early or late in the day. It is often windiest during the middle of the day, for this reason an early start often brings calmer conditions. The same applies for later in the day.

Rivers do not flow in straight line, and often certain stretches are less affected by the wind than others. I know on my home water I can find much more sheltered water just by driving 20 minutes further downstream. There the valley widens, and the wind seems less powerful.

Avoid the main valley and concentrate on tributaries. Side streams are often more sheltered thanks to high trees or even the surrounding hills.

If planning a fishing vacation, the summer months in most locations tend to be the windiest. With fall and winter being calmer on average. Sure, there are exceptions such as winter blizzards, but winter days are often calm. Just need to put up with ice and the cold.

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