USE THE 'PING CAST' FOR CASTING INTO A HEADWIND
20 Sept 2023
Making Effective Casts Even Into a Strong Headwind
Most anglers find casting in any wind difficult, but a headwind has many packing up and heading home. Many anglers resort to double-hauling into the wind, and try to slice the flyline under the wind, which in my observation, yields inconsistent results at best. However, (short of an outright hurricane) headwind casts can be made quite easily and effectively using what I call ‘The Ping Cast’. While it won’t be possible to make 20 metre plus casts with this method, with practice, accurate 10-15 metre casts can be easily achieved directly into a strong wind.
Firstly, it is important to shorten the leader to around 3.5 – 4.5 metres. The leader must be tapered; a single length of nylon simply won’t cut it. Sorting out an effective casting distance takes practice but starting short at around 5 metres of flyline plus leader will help build your skills. Not surprisingly, it’s also best to practice the following into a headwind.
The whole system of line, leader and fly needs to travel faster than the wind to the point of delivery. The key is to beat the wind with line speed, and the trick is to only shoot a very short amount of line. Shooting a lot of line has the net effect of decelerating the line, leader and fly, which won’t help.
Prior to casting, hook the flyline over the upturned tip of the middle finger of the non-casting hand (i.e., left hand for right-handed casters) and hold about 20 - 30cms of line out from the reel, pulling the line slightly back at an angle behind the reel to ensure there is no slack in the system when casting.
The beauty of a headwind is that there is no problem loading the rod-tip at the end of the back-cast. Back-casts should be made on a steeper upward angle than normal because the wind will naturally flatten the fly-line out behind the angler. It is essential not to drop the back-cast below the horizontal so that the forward-cast can be easily angled downwards.
The flyline should only cut the horizontal ‘shear-line’ of the wind in front of the angler, allowing the force of the headwind to work in the angler’s favour and ‘pressure’ the fly-line down on the forward-cast. If the back-cast drops below the horizontal the headwind is working under the flyline, forcing it to rise again going forward, which then catches the wind and makes an effective presentation impossible. The fly-line will simply get blown back in your face.
The back-cast needs to be crisp but requires no power, as the headwind provides this. However, the forward cast must be very quick with a lot of rod-tip acceleration, generated with a sharp, forward-snap of the casting wrist. Don’t muscle the forward-cast with a lot of arm action as this will have the opposite outcome, and actually reduce rod-tip speed.
The final trick is to then flick the fingertip of the non-casting hand open as the power snap of the front-cast is delivered. The short section of spare fly-line will now ‘ping’ into the reel with a sharp slap, stopping the line at the reel base and causing a rapid transfer of energy through the fly-line and leader system, producing maximum acceleration of the fly.
Think of the clicking silver balls of a Newton’s Cradle. We’re applying the same principles of Conservation of Energy and Momentum when we ‘ping’ the fly-line sharply into the reel.
If the spare fly-line doesn’t ‘ping’ into the reel with an audible slap, it is likely that it wasn’t completely released off the finger (any resistance of the line brushing against the hand or finger results in deceleration and a weak and ineffective presentation), or you used too much shooting line.
With a bit of practice, you will find a sweet casting length that suits you. If you are slapping the water on the presentation cast, it is likely your target zone (the point you are concentrating on), is shorter than the length of flyline you have selected … so either shorten your flyline or switch your focus further away. While this is a more difficult cast to master than the 'Elliptical Cast', perseverance will pay dividends and result in effective casts when confronted by strong headwinds, and more fishing time on the water.