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Casting Tip of the Month - Wind Knots

courtesy Atlanta Fly Fishing School

Question: Often when I change flies or add tippet I find knots in my leader. I know these are called wind knots but I don’t know what I’m doing to cause them. How can I keep from getting these knots?


To keep from forming knots in your leader and tippet you must determine what you are doing in your casting stroke that is causing a “tailing loop” or a loop that closes with the leader dropping and crossing below the fly line. The tailing loop is what allows wind knots to form. The fact these are more commonly found on windy days is the key to discovering what is forming them. Generally on windy days fly-fishers will cast harder (more forcefully) in an attempt to overcome the effect the wind has on the fly line and leader. This greater force applied during the casting stroke can cause the rod tip to travel in a concave path where the tip of the rod is lower in the middle of the casting stroke than it is at the beginning or end of the stroke. To better understand this let’s look at the opposite, a convex rod tip path. Fly-casters who use too much wrist can cause the rod tip to start low, go thru a very high arc, and then end low with a resulting wide loop. Conversely when a rod tip follows a concave path the result is a closed or tailing loop. The application of power during the casting stroke loads (bends) the rod so as to make the rod tip lower during the middle of the cast than it is at the beginning or end of the stroke. The most common reasons for a concave rod tip path and resulting tailing loops are applying too much power too early in the casting stroke and/or not having a wide enough casting arc (holding the rod near vertical thru the entire cast). To prove this try casting with the rod pointed straight up thru the entire casting stroke. Move the rod hand forward and backward parallel to the ground while holding the tip pointing straight up. This will result in a tailing loop on almost every cast. Knowing exactly what causes the tailing loop, and evening knowing how to throw them on purpose, will give you the solution for eliminating troublesome loops and their resulting wind knots.

So just how wide of an arc do you need to make to eliminate tailing loops? And just how long do you need to wait in the casting stroke before applying maximum speed and power? The short answer is to cast an arc stopping at 10:30 on the forward cast and 1:00 on the back cast while applying maximum speed and power just before the stopping point on both the forward and back casts. The real answer is everything about your cast varies with the type of fly you are casting, the length of your leader, the action of your rod, the weight and design of your fly line, the amount of line aerialized outside the rod tip, the wind direction and speed, and more. It is in these variables that we find the challenge and, yes, the enjoyment of fly-fishing. A sport wherein “mastery” seems slightly out of reach and the more we learn the more we find there is to learn. But then if fly-casting was as straight forward as spin fishing or using a bait caster would you even be throwing the long rod?

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