Wind Drifting your Boat



It is said, “better sailors catch more fish”. An interesting perspective that holds a lot of truth. Boat control when done with a single of even multiply small drogues or wind socks simply will keep the boat and angler over fish for longer periods of time. They are forgotten pieces of boat control equipment that was commonplace in the 1980’s amongst walleye competitors. Unfortunately, they never really made it to our general angling world at the time or with trout anglers on lakes were they never were introduced to the method. In other parts of the world that have high wind issues they are commonplace and often viewed as the best approach to fishing lakes for various species.

You are probably asking what the heck is a drogue or wind sock? There are two styles one is called a drogue the other a wind sock. Wind socks are conical shaped while drogues are rectangular shaped. Wind Socks by definition is a device, are typically conical or funnel-shaped with open ends, and drogues are rectangular shaped parachutes. (also known as a Para drogue) They are commonly towed behind a boat to reduce drift speed, to lesser extent, they control boat drift direction and improve boat stability.

While drogues are used to slow a drifting boat, speed is still determined by wind influence and boat gunwale surface area. When there is a significant wind blowing, it will push your boat along so fast that it tends to overcome your lures or flies while fishing. You will end up retrieving faster to keep up with the boats drift as opposed to getting a good controlled fishing presentation. In a fishing situation drogues and wind socks are usually deployed out the side of the boat so that the boats drift perpendicular to the wind push. This usually reduces the boats drift speed by up to 80 percent.

  From the fishing perspective. Fish often and usually prefer a slower retrieve of lures or flies on most days. Drift socks and drogues allow better lure or fly control on any size or style of fishing boat commonly found in Alberta waters. In turns this offers more casts into the fish holding zone for longer periods of time. Controlled boat drifting technique always produces a higher catch rate from free drifting boats.

 In Alberta the average summer time winds speed on most days is 12.65 km/ hour. With this a person will likely see more windy fishing days than calm days. Wind is a part of everyday living on the northern prairies of Canada. Our abundant wind phenomenon is an advantage when the boat is easily controlled by slowing its drift speed and aligning long drifts across many structure types.

The advantages are many from a fishing perspective.  Casting downwind with a spinning rods or a fly rod appreciatively increases casting distance. Fish feed up wind that has been created currents with wind push. An angler covers more water and easily moves towards more active feeding fish over larger expanses. Wind controlled drift also reduces the risk of spooking fish with motors and even electric motors or water push from a faster drifting or motoring boat, especially when fish are shallow. Wind drifting is the stealthiest approach that can be used in medium or shallower depth water. They are also used when fish are actively feeding higher in the water column over open water expanses, around submerged islands, rock canines, shoals and long shorelines.

To draw a mental image of a drogue or wind sock. Picture it either as an underwater conical or rectangular parachute that allows a slower lateral drift as the boat travels downwind along shorelines or over other types of structures. Weed lines, wind lanes, long shore currents, sunken island, points, shoal and inside turns are all good fish holding water. With wind drifting there is no noisy gas motors. Electric motors are used to alter and correct the drift angle occasionally as a boat travels via wind power. When tethered correctly boats are easily moved without pulling the wind sock or drogue while angling.

The drogue is deployed into the face of the wind either via a quick throw or a controlled feed up wind of the drifting boat. They tether to moveable clamps or tie downs along the gunwale. When deployed the boat will drift broadside to the wind. Casting and retrieving flies or spinning gear are then fished downwind over the opposite side of the boat. This allows the angler also to fish over virgin water, reducing the risk of spooking fish while covering off fresh moving fish continuously. Fish in general move up wind to feed as wind always will cause currents.  Currents collect, gather and disperse food items. Additionally, casting downwind on a slow drift allows sink time for the angler to achieve proper depth with their fishing presentation. In turn this keeps the presentation in the water at depth for longer periods of time. Simply if you stay in the fish feeding zone longer it gives the fish a longer period of time to react to your presentation.

 Most drogues and wind socks are made of a rip stop nylon. They are very compact and usually will be fitted into a small tote bag for storage. A good drogue will measure 1800mm x 900mm deep. There are also larger versions. While wind socks typically are measured in inches across the circumference of the larger opening. The common sizes are 24”/ 32”/ 42” or 53”. Your boat dealer can assist you with the proper sizes of wind socks for your boat length and hull style.

The wind sock and drogues are also very useful safety tools. Losing power on a boat when a gas or electric motor goes out on high wind days is risky business. By deploying these devices and tethering them to the bow they will keep your nose into the wind as you dead drift towards a windward shoreline in a safer fashion at a slower speed. This stabilizes the boat and reduces or even removes the boat from being tossed around in the wind or worse being turned in the wind broadside. Being broadside to a gale wind typically never has a good outcome. Being prepared is much better and these types of sea anchors really should be part of your safety kit especially if you fish large water like Slave Lake, Utikama, Athabasca, Malagine or even Cold Lake. Winds can come up sudden and be fierce. Let’s get back to using these devices for boat control while fishing, which is a more enjoyable thought.


Times when a drogue or wind sock should be deployed are:

  • When anglers have to cope with excessive wind speed and rate of boat drift to fish effectively.
  • When anglers are forced to fish deeper and the rate of boat drift is such that the sinking lures, lines or flies cannot be fished effectively to depth needed.
  • When open water drifts are an option and the fish are in tight pockets, suspended or groups.
  • To combat the poor drifting qualities of a specific boat design.


Lake anglers should be safely capable of fishing in high wind speeds. The use of different sinking fly lines or diving crank baits will dictate to optimum drift rate of the boat. This simply means the faster the flylines sink rate or the faster the dive on a crank bait the slower the drift speed should be of your boat. When the drift rate goes past the optimum for any line sink rate or crank bait dive rate, the first thing the angler will notice is that there is little line resistance to the retrieve. Adjusting the drogue or windsock by deploying a larger or smaller one will be required to adjust boat speed.

Experienced boat anglers are aware of these points but anglers new to boat fishing or beginners should be well advised to try and understand these fundamentals of boat control to take advantage of fishing on wind swept lakes.