15 to 20

15 to 20
Improve your core casting skills and use the wind to your advantage.
"Winds out of the southeast 15 to 20." How many times have you pulled up a report like that on the eve of a big fishing trip? You were hoping for, "Light and variable" but you got, "Gusty." Unfortunately, steady winds are a reality on the Texas Coast. Winds howl out of the north for a few days and after a brief blissful pause they catch their breath and sail back off the gulf with a vengeance. It'll drive a guy with a fly rod crazy. In fact, wind is one of fly fishing's biggest obstacles and many anglers forgo fishing in windy conditions because they fear it will be and exercise in frustration and defeat on the water. But it doesn't have to be that way. With a bit of practice and resolve, you can improve your casting skills and sharpen your game, and winds that were once your nemesis will seem far less menacing.

There are essentially two challenges that come into play when tackling the wind. The first challenge is maintaining accurate, confident casts. Your core casting skills will be the determining factor in this. The second challenge is to understand and recognize how fish relocate and respond to wind-induced changes in the environment. Both of these elements are important. After all, you want those hard-earned casts to be landing in lively water.

Let's begin with casting skills. Wind is the all-mighty equalizer when it comes to casting a fly rod. You might be able to fake it in the driveway, but if your core casting skills are not up to par, you will have a terrible time trying to get your fly where you want it in a stiff wind and you will look ridiculous trying.

So what are considered to be good core casting skills? That is a bit subjective, but I'll give it a shot. An angler with a good core casting skills should be able to false cast without becoming entangled in his line or having his loops collapse. He should command control over the speed of his fly line, throwing both slow loops and fast tight loops. An angler with good basic skills can double-haul and shoot line off the ground or out of a basket. He might manage to make a cast in the 80 ft. range on occasion, but more importantly, he can confidently stick a 40-footer every time. I consider each of these skills important in basic saltwater fly casting.

One of the biggest benefits of having a solid, confident casting stroke is that it enables you to adapt to a variety of situations. For example- the double haul allows you to accelerate the fly line and punch low tight casts into the wind. Commanding control over your fly line, even at short distances, enables you to make wide side-arm casts or backhand casts ( a "must" in the surf). Line control also allows you to experiment with more advanced casts like the Belgian cast or the off-shoulder cast and it lessens your chances of being taken out by a .22 caliber Clouser. Shooting line is a basic skill that will enable you to make very long downwind casts off the bow of a boat or out of a stripping bucket. These are valuable techniques in windy conditions.

There is no magic bullet that will enable you to instantly become a good caster. It just takes practice. Practice your casting on and off the water and identify where your weaknesses are. If possible, get at least a few rudimentary casting lessons. Casting lessons might seem frivolous, but they will go a long way toward weeding out bad form and tuning your skills. If you are serious about saltwater fly fishing, casting lessons are worth every penny. Remember- with practice comes muscle memory, strength, and confidence. You reap what you sow and with a little effort you will steadily improve.

The second facet of successful fishing in the wind is learning how wind affects fish behavior and location. A great casting stroke won't produce fish if you are throwing flies into dead water. The key thing to remember is that wind will push water and create currents. Currents propel, disrupt, and dislodge prey, providing an opportunity for predators to capture an easy meal. The trick is to learn where to look for, and how to identify, areas where this occurs.

We often have a tendency to seek shelter from the wind. It's human nature. You know "Find a protected shoreline." If your sole goal is to spot a redfish tail sticking out of the water on a windy day, then make yourself happy and go find some calm water. Who knows, maybe you will luck into something. But a more adventurous, and often successful, tactic is to seek out the froth and current go to the places with movement and action.

Often times, predators will patrol a windswept bank or shoreline where currents pile up plankton and waves dislodge bits of food. Small critters move in to feed on the windswept bounty and bigger predators in turn move in to feed on them. It may seem like the most unpleasant place to be- choppy, foamy, and streaked with off-color water but it is often where the fish are. Tie on a weedless fly and get to work. You'll forget about the wind when you hook your first fish.

Other prime areas include bottlenecks, creeks, points, or narrow passes where winds pile up and push water. Wind-driven water flows through these physical features as though it was being pulled along by the tides. Fish as though the tides were at work, because predators will be lurking nearby in hopes of ambushing tumbling prey.

I was reminded of this phenomenon last December while fishing in Port O'Connor. It was a cloudy cool day and a brisk wind had picked up by noon. Around 2:00 PM, I found myself slowly wading down a long protected shoreline, searching for reds. A 400-yard stretch of that shoreline had yielded nothing, not even a promising head wake. Things looked bleak and the boat behind me started looking farther and farther away. Ahead of me, the shoreline tapered into a narrow point and behind the point was a wide expanse of open water. Wind was pushing water around the point and had formed a visible seam that streaked out several hundred feet. I figured I might as well check it out. As soon as I approached the seam I started spotting redfish that had been attracted to the disturbed water. They were aggressively feeding along the seam, and those fish were a delightful end to a long dead wade.

The point is, windy weather should not ruin your chances for success. Practice your casting stroke and develop an honest level of confidence in your skills. Continue to refine your technique and get help from others when you struggle. Keep your eyes open for opportunity and don't be afraid to change your tactics or take a chance. You could very well learn something that will open the door toward more opportunity down the road.