Jason Borger | Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Wind in fly casting often gets framed in the context of headwind or tailwind, but crossing winds are a part of the game, too. It can be with such scenarios that some of the most frustrating angling moments can occur. A wind blowing from the side will move your line in whichever direction the wind is blowing. This means you need to compensate by aiming upwind with the cast as well as adjusting up/down, and perhaps utilizing an aerial Reach Mend to further compensate. It pays to practice “windage” skills (like the Across-the-Head Cast) *before* you find yourself in a tough spot. Failure to properly adjust can have painful consequences. Here’s a little (but painful) story about that very issue:

Some years ago, my father and I spent two weeks shooting a television pilot in the northern region of Russia’s Kola Peninsula. One morning, during a rip-roaring gale, we helicoptered to a series of broad pools on the upper Varzina River. We dumped our gear onto the open tundra and waited for the rotor wash to subside as the heli headed back to camp. It soon became obvious that the difference between the chopper’s rotor wash and the Russian wind was negligible. The wind was one of the strongest through which I have ever had to cast a fly.

The section of river that we were after was wide open, with little more than bald hillocks and a few obstinate caribou be-tween it and the Arctic ice pack. There was, however, a small line of runty birches that clung to one edge of the bank, provid-ing a head-height wind shadow angled across the exposed boulders leading into the water.

The script called for me to catch an appropriately oversized brown trout by crawling into position and casting across the boulder field into open water. The crawling was not so bad, but the casting was another issue entirely. I had lashed a fat char imitation to my leader, which was in turn connected to a seven-weight line and rod. I had this nagging feeling that I might have been “under-gunned,” as big-game hunters sometimes say before launching into stories about being gored by wounded cape buffalo.

My first cast abruptly brought to mind those wounded buffalo stories—specifically the parts about goring. The quartering headwind snatched my backcast (which was unrolling behind me in the full force of the gale) and swung it from my right side to my left. When I came forward with a fierce haul, the fly intercepted my head half-way. It was not a flattering piece of footage.

After de-tangling myself and switching to a less abusive fly, I adjusted my casting to an across-the-head angle and fired away. The fly still got blown off-course, but all I really had to do was get it in the water. A brown trout stretching some 25 inches was the reward. In the final edit, the whole sequence came across great, but take number one was definitely left on the cutting room floor!