Springtime in southwest Montana is honestly one of the best times to
fish. However with the arrival of spring comes the dreaded windy
days. Many anglers don’t think about the gear they’re using but still
head out to the river with gale force winds. Chances are these folks give
up 10 casts into their day because their equipment can’t handle the adverse
conditions. Like I said, many anglers overlook their gear but still
expect it to perform in rough conditions. This is a big mistake.
The soft 5wt rod you use to throw small dries wont get the job done in windy
conditions. Go out and get yourself a 9’6wt rod. The 6wt has more
of a backbone and will allow an angler to cut through the wind a heck of a lot
better than a 5wt; Not to mention the fact that spring usually means large
nymph rigs and streamers. In order pick up and cast these rigs during
hurricane force winds you have got to use a 6wt, at minimum.
Lets talk more about rods. I say go get a 6wt rod but what I really mean is go get a fast action, 9 foot 6wt rod. I prefer using a saltwater 6wt with a 7wt line. A saltwater 6wt gives me more backbone and casting power than a freshwater 6wt. The 7wt line helps me load the rod a lot quicker which is essential in the wind because you don’t want your flies flying through the air too long. If the saltwater rod is too much for you, a freshwater 6wt will work just fine. 9 feet is the minimum length I would use in the wind. Here on the Madison, some folks like using 9.5 foot rods because the river is so wide. The extra 6 inches will allow an angler to cast a little further and they also seem to have more of a backbone than a 9-foot rod. For those that don’t think size matters, I’m here to tell you that it does. Along with the added strength, the extra 6 inches allows an angler to be more precise and direct with their cast and this becomes obvious during windy conditions.
Fly line and leaders are two more overlooked piece of equipment. To have success in windy conditions, one must use the right fly line. Paired with a 6wt rod, the Orvis Hydros Bankshot line is a solid choice for better casting in the wind. Another great choice is an Orvis Hydros Power Taper. Both of these lines feature a large front taper that allows for quick loading and easy casting with large nymph or streamer rigs. In my opinion, leaders aren’t as important as fly line both there’s a few tricks to keep in mind while setting up your rig. In the wind I always like to use a heavier leader like 0x-2x. The bigger leader seems to cut through the wind easier than a smaller, thinner leader. On top of that, spring fishing isn’t nearly as technical and fish are less leader shy so it only makes sense to use a thicker leader. Who wants to fish 4x when you get the same results from 1x or 2x?
Orvis Helios 9’ 6wt (Saltwater or Freshwater models)
The Helios is super lightweight and pays dividends to your arm after casting heavy flies all day.
Orvis Hydros SL III
The Hydros SL III is designed to match line weights of 5wt-7wt lines. This is a perfect match for either the freshwater or saltwater Helios rods.
Orvis Hydros Bankshot and Power Taper
Both lines offer a power taper that makes it easy to load the rod and will cut through the wind more efficiently.
Orvis Super Strong tapered leader 0x-2x
There is no need to fish anything less than 2x right now and like I previously mentioned, the thicker leader will be easier to cast in the wind.