Getting in shape for fly fishing.
For some reason, fly fishing evolved to be viewed as more of a craft than a sport. As a result, fly-fisher folk are not typically the first group we think of when we imagine a “mountain athlete.” Perhaps that is because there has never been a solid training regimen established to prepare for the physical demands of the season. That’s right, I’m here to help you harden out some of the round edges that tend to accompany the most elite river jocks. After all, the “gladiangler” sets off to battle against the fiercest of water beasts—they don’t call ‘em hogs for nothing! Being physically prepared from the start will ensure you can outcast and outlast the next guy. Here are a few basics that’ll have you rippin’ both lips and undersized t-shirts with ease. Around here, we practice how we play, so it should go without saying that all of these workouts are intended to be done geared up—waders and all.
First things first, we have to strengthen that core. We aren’t saying you need to cut out the beer; that would be ridiculous. After all, a keg holds more than a six-pack and it’ll keep you warmer in the cool spring water. But it wouldn’t hurt to have at least some muscles hidden away underneath, for working those boisterous browns and rambunctious rainbows.
Super (Fisher) Mans
Start by lying flat on your back with your arms stretched overhead. With a slight inhale, flex your abs while simultaneously raising your feet and arms several inches off the ground. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat for a few sets. Reverse this motion by turning over onto your stomach to target your lower back. That way you’re prepared to really throw your body into those hook-sets. For a useful variation, scissor-kick your feet during each raise as if you’re fighting the current; this will strengthen your lower body and ensure you’re not swept downstream.
In the fitness world, bungees are like worms: cheap and effective, but you never look cool using them. Nevermind that, because we’ll be doing this one behind closed doors—literally. Newbies often question how experienced anglers are able to throw their bugs much farther. Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it has almost nothing to do with talent or technique. Sheer strength and brute force have actually been proven to show the best results. Do you really expect to throw those huge salmonfly imitations any other way?
Tie a knot in both ends of your bungee, slip one side between the top of the door and the frame, then close the door. Pull the bungee taut and then perform a casting motion. Aim for about 10 reps, since that’s how many false casts are necessary for every real one. Repeat while facing the wall, pulling backward to reverse the previous motion and simulate the back-cast. For a useful variation, add a step into the forward pull and add some power to the movement. This is great practice for when you become frustrated and decide to hurl your rod into the woods. When you inevitably do so, at least the throw will be impressive.
Gripped & Ripped
This is it, the most important moment of fly fishing: the fabled grip-and-grin. How else are you going to show off your trophy catch to your friends back home? Fishing tales are for geezers. A picture is worth a thousand likes, so get this last workout going and you’ll be ready to show off that trophy fish.
Start this one with a 15- or 20-pound dumbbell. No way you’re ever going to catch a fish that big, but what the hell. With a flat back and knees slightly bent, lean over forward with the dumbbell fully extended below your chest in both hands. Now, in a curling motion, pull the weight upwards just below your chin—don’t forget to smile! To add some complexity, put the weight in a bucket of water beforehand and carry out the exercise with a pencil in your mouth to imitate your rod. You’ll be surprised at the amount of coordination it takes. All too often, we see the untrained angler tense up at this moment, turning fiberglass to floss. Practice keeping the jaw light while the rest of your body works to hold the fish in the camera frame.
To learn more fly-fishing workouts, visit fishingforstrength.com.