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Fly Fishing Conditioning

As the stream temperatures become warmer, the fish become more active. And so do we!

Going into fly fishing without prior conditioning is an easy way to hurt yourself. Although fishing does not seem like an intense sport, fly fishing can test your abilities in the most unsuspecting ways. Having the appropriate core, ankle, and shoulder stability to walk on altered terrain and repeatedly cast for hours upon end is what justifies being in peak condition for fly fishing. These increased demands make fly fishing a sport that requires preparedness so that you do not wake up sore the next morning from long wade the previous day.

Here are exercises that will condition the three regions that are key for staying on the water for hours to catch the big one:

Core Stability

Maintaining a strong core is the most important aspect of traveling in swift waters. The best training for your core stability will be outlined in another blog, specifically on Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, but for now, I will outline three exercises that can build stability and stretch your core. The first one is planks. Holding a plank for a set amount of time will help build strength in your core. A few tips for maintaining good form while performing a plank are to keep your butt down, shoulders over your elbows, and allow a slight bend in your knees. I challenge you to aim for 30-120 seconds, depending on how many sets you want to perform. With every exercise, it is important to ease your way into increased intensity. The advice I give every patient is to challenge yourself. Side planks and big dogs are two other core exercises that can aid stability. I have included pictures of these to help visualize good form.

Ankle Stability (Y-Balance Training)

Proper ankle stability is essential to navigating the uneven terrain the streams possess, and training strength will prevent rolled ankles in the creeks. Start by taping three points on the floor, one in the front and two in the back, 45 degrees to the left and right (12, 4, and 8 o’clock). Start with a short distance, i.e., two feet from the center of the three points to start. Once you have mapped out your three points, you can begin. Stand on one foot in the center of your three points, then reach for the three points with your other, and do so while maintaining balance on one foot. This will strengthen your ankle by training in multiple ranges of motion, testing you for terrain while hunting for your next big catch.

Tiers can be added to this routine by starting with sliders. Then progresses to larger distances away from the center point. And if you want to challenge yourself, try this with your eyes closed or on a Bosu ball.

Shoulder Stability

Otherwise known as scapular stability is one region that a fly fisherman should always have supremely conditioned. A fisherman’s last thing is a stiff shoulder; two cues can help reduce this. The two cues are down and in. Just as it sounds, activate the muscles that bring your shoulder blade downward; you should feel the muscles activate below your shoulder. Then bring your shoulder blades together towards your spine while maintaining the downward pressure simultaneously. By doing this, you are activating more musculature intended to stabilize the shoulder blade by aiding the rotator cuff and lateral shoulder muscles that can be overused while casting. Also try to keep your elbow close to your body. This will reduce further stress on your shoulder.

Good form Incorrect form

These three body areas require attention before the fishing season and should be regularly performed during the season to keep conditioned for the sport. If you require assistance or are interested in trying these exercises with a professional or exercises for another sport, you know where to find us!

Besides physical preparation, having some key items are a must when out with nature in Montana:

  • Bear spray

  • Air horn

  • Bear bell

  • First aid kit

Tight lines,

Montana Team

by Brad Phillips, DC | April 29th, 2022 | Montana Team Chiropractic

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