Another major difficulty when fly fishing is dealing with the problem of crosswinds. These can cause havoc with your fly casts and can be very dangerous to yourself, your fishing buddies or guides. These winds can push a fly into your direction which could possibly put an eye out or embedded in your head, not a happy thought. My advice if in doubt at all when casting in windy conditions just pack up and go home as its just not worth risking a serious injury. Cross winds are a problem but we can alter the way in which we cast to deal with this so we can continue to fly fish safely. Lets discuss these changes so we can continue fly casting with crosswinds.
If the wind is directed at your casting arm and moving across your body there is a tendency for the cast to be pushed at your person during both the backcast and forward cast which brings double the danger. We have a few choices to consider to address this.
a) we can roll cast so the flies don’t pass by our person at any time but remain out in front of us so no risk.
b) we can cast over our other shoulder (kack handed) by crossing the rod over our body and putting the flies below and again out of harms way.
c) we can cast back handed, that is we stand with our back to the water and use the backcast to actually cast the flies. As the wind is blowing the flies away from us it is perfectly safe although if the wind is very strong we need to make sure there is enough room between us and the next angler so they don’t hooked up.
Both the kack hand cast and backward cast involve a bit of practice to get them correct but once learnt they can be an asset to your fly casting to enable you to fish on during crosswind days.
Option (a) and (b) are OK for short casts on a river or from a boat but if you are looking to cast longer distances then learning the backwards cast is required.
Lefty is good is for something other than hanging your watch.
There is another option we can use in this situation and that is to learn to cast with our other hand. This can be accomplished with a lot of practice and once learnt is a great way to get out of trouble when presented with difficult casting winds or having to present a fly under a low hanging bush that’s just too difficult for our normal casting arm.
Not a lot of anglers go to the trouble of learning to cast with their other hand as it feels awkward and maybe they don’t feel they have the strength or control in that arm. However if you persist you will grow muscle memory in that arm and it will get stronger and be able to cast just as good as your normal arm.
I know a few anglers who have gone further and can make much more accurate casts with their other arm than they can with their normal arm as the practice they have put in has developed it so much.
A thought on trailing loops (or wind knots)
Tailing loops can be a condition of windy days and anglers put it down to the wind calling them indeed wind knots. However as we usually try to overpower the fly rod so much on windy days trying to punch the line out we cause the rod to kick instead of a smooth transfer of energy into the line from the rod. That kick causes trailing loops and has put a lot of anglers off fishing windy days. Just remember to increase the power steadily and make a good stop and you should be fine.
One final thing, when it is windy not a lot of anglers will go out and fish your favorite spot as they find it too difficult to cast. The extra wind causes a ripple on the water to help camouflage you so the fish don’t see you and they are usually more prepared to come close. So being able to fish windy days has its benefits and well worth the effort. So get your fly rod and get out there and practice.
For more info on fly casting with crosswinds check out this video from Orvis with Peter Kutzer