Text: Alan Bulmer Lead Image: Mark Hoffman
New Zealand is a long narrow country and no point is more than 120 kilometres from the sea. This peculiar geography, coupled with differential heating and cooling of land and water during the day, means that irrespective of where you are wind is likely to feature at some point during the day. If you do not have the ability to present flies or lures accurately in windy conditions then this will dramatically reduce your chances of success.
Aside from learning to cast in the wind, which I’ll cover separately, there are some simple things that you can do to negate the effect of the wind namely:-
- Determine for each of your fishing spots which are the best wind directions (i.e. the directions that do not cause issues with casting). This will generally be when the wind is blowing from directly behind or onto your non casting shoulder. I’ve found spots that are protected from most wind directions and I tend to target the most sheltered spots when I venture out.
- Fish at first light or at dusk when the wind strength is generally at its weakest.
- Find spots where there is deep water close to shore and occasionally target these spots when the wind is blowing directly into them. The waves created by the wind action stir up the bottom in the shallows and predators will often come in close to shore to feed on the edge of the murky water. While you still have to cast into the wind the casting distance needed to reach where the fish are feeding is often very short.
One of the best videos that I’ve seen on casting in the wind is the one that Carl McNeil produced for MidCurrent. This covers all of the options and is easy to understand. Click on the link to view:- https://vimeo.com/42697922
The key point that the video makes is that tight loops and high line speed are critical to cut through the wind and that the casting plane changes depending on the direction of the wind. It also recommends using a stiffer rod, changing to a fly line with a heavier head, shortening the trace and increasing fly weight in windy conditions.
NZ Fishing Guide Chris Dore has written a comprehensive article on dealing with the wind which is also worth a look. Click on the link to view:- http://www.chrisdore.com/dealingwiththewind.htm
If you are casting into a heavy head wind then many fishing guides recommend not attempting to shoot line into the wind. The reason for this is that when you let go of your line to shoot, your rod unloads and is at the mercy of the wind. When this happens as you make your final cast the line lands in a pile as it is knocked down by the wind. On the other hand, staying connected to the rod (not shooting line), allows the rod to remain loaded all the way through the casting stroke, thus allowing the fly to turn over.
When casting directly upwind, it can be difficult to increase the length of your line needed to reach the fish. However, you can use the wind to your advantage by shooting line on your back cast instead. Shoot line on your back cast until you reach your desired amount of line and present the forward cast without shooting line.
False casting repeatedly is a recipe for disaster in high winds, especially in any wind that is not directly at or behind you. Instead of attempting to load the rod by false casting, use water tension to load the rod. Cast out and let the line settle out straight on the water’s surface. Smoothly pick your line up off the water into your back cast. The water tension on the line will allow the rod to load on the back cast before any outside forces (wind) can act on it.
Lure casting with a spinning reel is not as badly affected by wind as fly casting. This is due to the fact that momentum the lure receives in the casting stroke is more than sufficient to propel it forward into the wind and continue to pull the thin line off the spool. The key thing in casting lures into the wind is to lower the casting angle to 30 degrees to get a flatter trajectory. This reduces distance slightly but the lure spends less time in the air and therefore is less affected by the wind. If the wind is blowing from directly behind then I will increase the casting angle to 60 degrees so that the wind has more opportunity and time to push the lure further away.
The Active Angling article on lure casting techniques covers this in more detail:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/11/13/casting-techniques/
When I’m casting into the wind I also tend to select small, heavier streamlined lures which are more aerodynamic and cut through the wind. Larger, lighter lures tend to lose form and “crab” or flutter when cast into the wind which dramatically reduces casting distance. Casting slightly across the body into a headwind also tends to improve casting performance and distance. This can also be used to introduce a “reach mend” and allow some slack for the lure to sink before the retrieve commences.