Wind out of the South, you’ll hook ‘em in the mouth!
Joe taught me this version of a frequently used fisherman’s poem shortly after we started fishing together. I’m sure many will know something similar. My dad, a flat land warm water fisherman of considerable skill, used to watch the cows. If they were up feeding, he said the fish would be biting. So as I sit here watching the tops of the pines bend and some of the remaining broken branches fall out of the ashes and cottonwoods, it came to me: We ought to talk about fishing in the wonderful Wyoming wind. It turns out both Joe and dad had some scientific basis for their wisdom. The wind is largely a function of barometric pressure changes, which fish respond to.
Casting into the wind is one of the biggest challenges. Charlie has mastered this feat and has passed his secrets on to Marty and Kathy. One of the ways that works for me when I just have to cast directly into the wind is to use a side cast. Simply moving the plane of the cast from more or less directly overhead 90 degrees to the horizontal will help avoid a significant portion of wind. Wind velocity 3’ above the water is less than at 12’ or so above. My favorite strategy, however, is to avoid having to cast directly into the wind period. Especially for the next several months a good deal of our fishing will be done on flat water: Pathfinder and Alcova. These large bodies of water offer a number of places to avoid the wind – or at least to put it at our backs. It seems that having the wind at your back offers the best condition possible. Well that’s mostly true. But having a strong wind at one’s back offers new challenges. I fish a lot of 1/32 oz streamers in these reservoirs. And when a strong wind is at my back, it isn’t uncommon to get whacked in the back of my head by one of these missiles. A couple of options can be employed to avoid this. The simplest is to use a different casting stroke. Instead of the regular overhead cast, use a circle of oval cast. My favorite trick, however, is to use a roll cast. Wind aided, it’s amazing how far you can roll cast. I’ll bet Blake can roll cast his entire fly line!
A couple of changes in the way we rig up can help. First of all, this time of year I leave my 4 wt. rods in the barn. As well as most of my 5 wts. As much as I love fishing these rods, a better choice is in the wind is at least a 6 wt, and maybe even something heavier. Another change I make this time of year is to a full sinking line. I don’t use the sinking line just to avoid wind problems, but it helps. Once that sinking line hits the water, it goes down and the wind isn’t as able to blow it around. And the added weight in the sinking line reduces the impacts that the wind has on a floating line in the air. I’m talking mainly, here, about fishing the reservoirs. When fishing the Platte in a heavy wind, the change to a 6 wt rod is still a wise move. And instead of rigging up with the typical 3-fly arrangement, I’ll sometimes cut back to just 2; or even to a single fly. The ability of a good wind to put tangles in my line is reduced considerably by this reduction in the number of flies thrashing around, and the number of fish caught doesn’t seem to go down all that much.
It’s sometimes said that the best of all plans changes the minute reality sets in. So with all of the above preparation, I still carry 3 rods most of the time. In addition to the 9.5’ 6 wt with the sinking line, I’ll usually have a 9’ 5 or 6 wt with a multi-fly nymph set up. And the 3rd rod will be a 5 wt with a long leader in the event that we locate pods of rising fish that might want to eat dries.
And, oh yea: be sure to have a warm jacket, a hat, and maybe even gloves. Forty degrees feels warm in the sunshine with no wind. But on a cloudy day with a 30 mph Wyoming breeze, it definitely feels cold.