Home | Features | Instruction | Fly Casting | Ally Gowans on casting into wind

Ally Gowans on casting into wind

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
Learning To Fly Cast - Part 5

Regarded by many anglers as a bugbear, wind is usually not a huge problem if you know how to master it.

Those that can are usually allowed to reap their just rewards whilst others languish indoors. It's an ill wind ...! Here is how to cope with wind whatever the direction.

Head and Tail winds

Once the overhead cast is learnt, it is easy to understand how the normal 90 degree casting arc can be tilted forward to face a wind, or back to take advantage of a following wind. It may seem odd to consider two opposite wind conditions in the same breath but there is method in my madness.

I previously discussed the basic overhead cast and the key positions TIP/TOP/TEN or 9/12/10 (however you prefer), to deal with head and tail winds the casting arc must be altered. The twelve refers to your arm position with your casting hand approximately level with the top of your ear and so the basic cast uses that part of the clock between nine and twelve' i.e. approximately 90 degrees of arc. If the energy is delivered (backwards or forwards) over an arc longer than 90 degrees, the loop will be wider than necessary, open and wind resistant.

If you find that you feel constrained and need more space to make the forward cast after a high stopping position it is perfectly good practice (and often desirable) to drift the rod back whilst the line is extending behind. This should be done smoothly and must cease before the line straightens. With a strong wind from behind, casting a wide forward loop can aid delivery.

In a headwind a wide forward loop makes it impossible to fully extend the line.

Therefore to penetrate headwinds you must use a tight, wind cutting loop, by keeping the power stroke no more than 90 degrees.

Keep it smooth and deliver it slightly earlier on the clock face i.e. later during the cast, down to 09:00 to ensure that the line is projected low and tight, 'underneath' the wind.

It is possible to use both types of loop open with the wind and tight against the wind to get the maximum benefit. For example, with a headwind wind, use a high open loop on the backcast and a tight loop on the forward cast. Do the opposite for casting with a tailwind but the real secret for remembering how to cast with or against a wind is to tilt the rod casting arc into the wind. The diagram shows how to do this.

The rod stopping positions for casting into a wind are shown in red. After stopping around 12 o'clock to ensure a high back cast, the angler normally drifts the rod backwards before commencing the forward cast. Delivery is made lower than usual with a tight forward loop to cut into the wind. For casting with the wind the rod stopping positions are shown in green. Again there may be some drift after the back cast. The back cast must be made low with a tight loop to penetrate the wind and straighten correctly. The forward cast can be directed high with a fairly open loop to take advantage of the following wind.

Faults and remedies

These faults are not limited to windy conditions, they can occur at any time if you forget the principles!

Tailing loops (cause 'wind' knots)

Be careful about shortening and speeding up the power stroke. If the rod tip is overloaded the tip will make a concave path, and the loop will 'close' causing the well known 'tailing loop' and a wind knot or tangle is a fairly certain result. This can happen either on the back or forward cast.

 If you need to make really tight loops make sure the casting stroke is made long enough in a straight line to prevent the rod tip overloading, then it should be OK.

Keeping good loops - controlling loop size

Extending the power stroke over too big an arc produces a completely open delivery and the line does not straighten but puddles onto the water. This can be useful if a slack line is required. Practice with different lengths of power arcs, see how they affect loop size and delivery, discover when the loop will 'tail' (if you 'hit' it too hard) and when the loop is too wide to be effective. Discover also how you can throw the line towards the ground behind if you stop the rod point when it is heading downwards. Remember that the most common faults with the basic overhead and other straight line casts are breaking (opening) the wrist too much and bad timing. Breaking the wrist opens up the loop and also makes the wrist do a lot more of the work than it really ought to. It also brings the rod too far back behind, causing the line to be thrown down and in the worst instances drives it into the ground. My apologies for repeating warnings about over use of the wrist, avoiding this most common mistake cannot be over emphasized. Arm muscles are far more able to perform the casting action than those attached to the wrist, using them, it is much easier to produce straight backward and forward motion in the same plane and make casting effortless and efficient.


Starting the forward stroke before the line has straightened behind i.e. by bringing the rod forward too soon without sufficient pause is a common timing fault. It results in poor efficiency and whiplash if not disaster with a complete collapse of the cast in the worst cases. It can often be detected by the noise of the whiplash it creates and it is the usual reason for 'cracking off' flies. If a cast is noisy it is faulty.

The opposite of this condition is delaying too long before commencing the forward cast which causes the back cast to fall and either hit something or result in the forward cast rising much higher than expected because the back and front casts naturally travel at 180 degrees apart and that is the effect the we exploit when casting with head or tail winds.

Side casts and side winds

Tilt the casting plane to the side
(rather than overhead) to keep
the line low.
Cast over your opposite shoulder
to remain safe when the wind
from your normal casting side.

Next development beyond the overhead cast is to change the plane of the rod from vertical towards the horizontal so that casts can be made lower and for example beneath canopies of trees or other obstacles.

Casting action is basically the same, only the plane is altered but the side casts also allow the arc to be extended provided that the rod tip is rising from the horizontal on the backcast to keep the line projecting upwards.

On the usual casting side of the body, this is called the side cast, on the other it is a backhand side cast (for example with the right hand working across the left shoulder, or vice versa). Backhanded casts are especially valuable when the wind blows from the right hand side of a right handed caster because the angler should be safe from line and fly being blown dangerously close to him.

This situation is worth further consideration to examine how to deal with difficult wind conditions. With a light right hand breeze it is still possible to cast directly overhead, or to angle the rod plane away from the body using a normal side cast to obtain a wider margin of safety.

A stronger wind requires a backhand cast to ensure that there is no danger because the line will be blown away from the angler and the easiest version of this is to make the cast almost vertical on the downwind side of your face.

A gale may mean that the angler cannot cope even with the backhanded cast, usually because it is difficult to accelerate the line fast enough to execute a good back cast. In this event the angler can produce a powerful 'back cast' by turning away from the water and casting towards land, turning again to deliver a backhanded forward cast.

This is unconventional but very effective and is called the Galway Cast. The bonus is that this cast can also be used in other situations, for instance to place a back cast accurately between obstacles behind the angler, simply turn round look for the gap and aim the cast. Wind from the left hand side of a right handed angler should not present any problems.

My next piece will cover the use of hauls to accelerate the line in addition to rod acceleration. Forward hauls, back hauls and the double haul.

Articles by the same author

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

No tags for this article