Videos and magazines typically demonstrate casting techniques during days as pretty as the weather girl on the six o'clock news. Bugs, mud, rain, swollen rivers, or drawn-down lakes never seem to make the cut, and in the real world, good fishermen must adapt to challenging conditions. One of the toughest of these challenges is fishing in a strong wind. Here are some ways to beat the breeze.
If you're flyfishing, your casts need to change according to wind direction. Working with a tailwind is easiest. Throw a low, sidearm back cast under the gusts, then make the forward cast a little higher than normal. The tailwind helps to carry the line forward. In the opposite situation, a somewhat higher back cast allows a headwind to fully extend the fly line to your rear, making it easier to throw a punching forward cast toward the surface, rather than slightly above it, as you would without the breeze in your face.
Wind coming from your casting-arm side is dangerous because it can blow the air-borne line—and the fly—into your body. The usual result is a hook in your back. There are several ways to beat this, but the easiest is simply to turn around 180 degrees. Then your back cast becomes your delivery cast. If the crosswind is coming from the other side—meaning your rod arm is already downwind of your body—then you're home free. Remember to aim upwind of your target; the cast will be blown slightly sideways before it lands.
Spinfishermen and bait-casters face another set of issues. Choose a lure that will cut through the wind. A broad, flat Dardevle spoon tends to sail off-target when cast into a stiff headwind, but the narrow, thick shape of a Krocodile spoon will break through any breeze.
If you're casting into a headwind, use more than normal force and give your lure a low flight path. The higher you cast, the greater the wind's adverse effect on distance and accuracy. A low trajectory will also help in a crosswind. As in fly casting, you'll need to aim upwind of your target.
In a crosswind, the biggest challenge comes after you cast. A stiff crosswind will immediately create a large belly in the line between your rod tip and the lure in the water. This makes it difficult to maintain contact and retrieve properly. If you get a strike, that slack may also prevent a solid hookset.
There are ways to counteract this. If you're fishing topwaters, choose one that digs into the surface. The cupped face of a popper creates enough water resistance to remove some of the line belly as you work the plug, whereas a Spook-type lure will just be dragged across the surface by the wind-blown line.
Soft plastics pose a different problem, and you'll likely need a heavier than normal weight with your Texas-rigged worm or Carolina rig to compensate for a crosswind's influence on your line. You can also position yourself to cast straight up- or downwind. This will prevent line belly formation, and by keeping your rod tip at the water's surface, you can negate much of the wind's effect.
One of the best tips I ever heard about casting in the wind came from the late Lee Wulff, who likened it to landing his bush plane on a wilderness lake. "The wind usually isn't constant but comes in gusts," he told me years ago. "I used to time the wind gusts [by watching the water's riffled surface] to keep from being pushed around while landing on small lakes. Casting in the wind is like that, too. Mentally time the wind gusts and cast between them."
CHECK THE AIRWAVES
Unlike Bob Dylan, fishermen do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. A small portable radio designed to receive NOAA weather forecasts should be an essential part of your fishing gear. Mine lives in the glove box of my truck, along with spare batteries. If I'm wade fishing, I listen to the latest forecast while suiting up streamside. When I head out in a boat, I take it along and tune in periodically. Aside from the obvious safety advantage, the short-term wind forecasts allow me to pick a protected river bend or stretch of canyon, or to find the lee and windward shores of a lake. RadioShack has a nifty pocket-size unit (model T581) that receives all seven NOAA radio channels and runs on three AA batteries ($50; 800-843-7422; www.radioshack.com).