Written by: Luke Lowery, The Tackle Shop
Spring is one of the best times to fish in Southwest Montana. However, with the arrival of spring come the dreaded windy days. Many anglers head out to the river to battle against gale-force winds without really thinking about the gear they’re using. Oftentimes, these folks give up after just ten casts because their equipment can’t handle the adverse conditions. The soft 5-weight rod you use to throw small dry flies won’t get the job done in windy conditions.
If you plan on doing serious springtime fishing, go out and get yourself a 9-foot 6-weight. A 6-weight has more backbone and will allow you to cut through the wind and will better throw large nymph rigs and streamers. In order pick up and cast these rigs during hurricane force winds, you have got to use a 6-weight, at minimum.
What kind of 6-weight is best, you ask? I prefer using a fast-action saltwater 6-weight, which I overload with a 7-weight line. The heavyweight line helps to 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 fast-action freshwater model will work just fine. However, 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 allows an angler to cast a little farther, and such rods also seem to have more of a backbone than a 9-foot rod. For those who don’t think size matters, I’m here to tell you that it does.
To have success in windy conditions, you must also use the right fly line. Paired with a 6-weight 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. Leaders aren’t as important as fly line both, but there are a few tricks to keep in mind while setting up your rig. In the wind, I always like to use a heavier leader, such as 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?
Luke Lowery is the manager of The Tackle Shop, in Ennis, Montana.