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Fitness and Flyfishing

By KiKi Galvin

August 2014

Iceland-Not for the Faint of Heart or Unfit 

In this column I am writing about something a bit different than what I have been writing about. I have pretty much covered the muscles groups and exercises needed to strengthen them the past year. 

This past August a merry band of anglers including yours truly went on an adventure of a lifetime to Iceland to fish for Atlantic Salmon. The country is beautiful and much of the country side looks like the surface of the moon. It is all volcanic with a bright green moss growing on top of it. Equally as amazing and beautiful were it’s rivers and waterways. Iceland is full of rivers that hold Salmo Salar ( Atlantic Salmon) Arctic Char and Brown Trout. We were there to catch the elusive Atlantic Salmon. The saying goes that Salmon are “the fish of a thousand casts” Well I am here to tell you it is true in every sense of the word. Most of the rivers are big with monster water, deep pools and steep cliffs. I hope by now you all know where I am going with this! I have been sharing my knowledge of fitness as it relates to fly fishing and casting and everything I know and have shared was realized on my trip! I am in pretty good shape, but I should be I am a personal trainer….and yet some of the activities really challenged me and made me grateful that I follow and subscribe to much of what I have written in my Column “Fitness for Fly Fishing”.

First of all you are up early, then driven over a very bumpy terrain to a pre-determined pool  only to find yourself standing at the precipice of a very steep cliff and a rope is your only way down!  This is where your core and upper body strength come into play, not to mention grip strength as you descend down the rope with your rod in your teeth.

Once you made it down and in the rushing water   then commences the cast, mend, strip, strip, strip…one step down and repeat over and over again pulling a little bit more line off your reel as to cover the entire pool. You put to use every muscle in your entire upper body. Oh I forget to tell you 6-9 wt rods are used most of the time….challenging your wrist and forearm strength. Salmon fishing is the perfect example of insanity…”doing something over and over again expecting a different result.” If nothing hits, you go back up to the head of the pool and do it all over again with a different fly…exhausting. You fight the current to stand up, then you cast… oh maybe a thousand times. God forbid you have to cross the river to fish from the opposite side because your guide spots a fish behind a rock way over there. If that one decides to hit your fly hang on because you are in for the fight of your life. You have to show that fish who is boss my guide told me and I was thankful I had the upper body strength and endurance to do just that. Then remember you have to cross back over the river to the other side and get back up that rope to get to the truck…legs don’t fail me now is all I could chant, my walking every night before I left for Iceland helped with the aerobic challenge at hand. Once in the truck it is back to the lodge to eat lunch and sleep only to get back out there for the evening session! Fun, fun, fun bring it on I say! The moral of this story folks is that all I have shared with you this past year in my column really does make one prepared for a trip of a life time and maybe just maybe the fish of a lifetime too! Mine was 20 lbs and it took me 30 minutes to land. My band of merry anglers fished for 6 days and all lived to tell about it. Get out there this Fall ladies and put your fitness to the test. I promise you will be amazed. 

Kiss More Fish!

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July 2014

Small Muscles Big Job

Well this is the final article in the series of articles that have addressed the issue of the importance and the role of good muscle strength, balance and posture plays in the sport of fly fishing.  The small muscles I am referring to are the Biceps Brachii, Triceps Brachii, Flexor Carpi Radialis, Flexor Carpi Ulnaris, Extensor Carpi Radialis and Extensor Carpi Ulnaris.These are the smaller muscles that act on the upper arm, forearm and wrist to complete the casting motion. I know in the big picture we can take these muscles for granted until we end up with an overuse injury (elbow tendonitis). This is common in fly casters as well as tennis players. If you find yourself nursing this injury it can be a long process to rehabilitate it enough to cast pain free again. So as we are strengthening our larger more powerful muscles we need to pay special attention to the above mentioned group of muscles. They act on our joints and muscles to perform all the thousands of false casts, roll casts and that perfect no drag dry flydrift we all aspire to! 

To strengthen these muscles we can use a light hand weight as well as a tube or band. We are all familiar with the Bicep Curl, start with your arms at your side, elbows in and draw your forearm up to your upper arm. For the Triceps Brachii, flex at the waist, tuck your forearm up to your side and press the forearm back like you were handing off a baton in a race. To work the Flexor Carpi Radialis and Flexor Carpi Ulnaris make a fist and bring it to your forearm. To work the Extensor Carpi Radialis and Extensor Carpi Ulnaris, reverse the motion by making a fist and bring the back of your hand to your forearm. They are most commonly called wrist curls. I also like as I am sitting around to squeeze a small pliable ball for a bit, it works the grip muscles and all the small muscles in the hand.

I hope many of you have been able to read these articles and put the information to use. Not only do these exercises improve your fly casting and fly fishing abilities but will hopefully keep you injury free and enjoying more of your precious time on the water!

Kiss more fish!

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By Kiki Galvin

March 2014

Fly casting is not all in the wrist 

In the past few articles we have discussed many things including posture, balance and aerobic conditioning. We have talked about many exercises to achieve all these things as well. This article is going to concentrate on the specific muscles that act upon and stabilize your shoulder to actually perform a fly casting stroke. The muscles are all included in what we call the shoulder joint proper. These muscles are: the Deltoids, the Latissimus Dorsi and the Pectoralis Major. They are very strong and powerful and should be called upon when casting. To strengthen your Deltoids: Anterior, Medial and Posterior Deltoid for the Anterior you can do a front raise by lifting your arms straight out in front of you and up to the shoulder; to strengthen the Medial you raise your hands above your head; and for the Posterior you can do a seated row. All these should be done with a light resistance hand weight, an exercise machine or a resistance band.  For the Latissimus Dorsi a standard lat pull down using an exercise band or machine will do the job. For the Pectoralis Major a standard prone chest press with light hand weights or a chest press machine will do.

Another very important set of muscles interior to the shoulder joint are the Rotator Cuff muscles. They are stabilizers and of course rotators. Their tendons form a cuff around the upper and posterior part of the joint. We know them as SITS:  Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis.  We all know that these are the set of muscles that can be and do cause many people problems after many years of casting and fly fishing. It is very important that anytime we are performing exercises we warm up the Rotator Cuff muscles.  It is very easy to do.  Get a hand weight, bend over at the waist and make basketball size circles with both right and left arm. Do this 15 times per arm. A good stretch is to take one arm and pull it across your chest and apply pressure to the upper arm.

Take time before you get out on the water this Spring to go over and perform the exercises I have discussed in the past several articles. I promise you your day on the water will be much more enjoyable and less strenuous as well.  In my next article I will conclude with the smaller muscles of the upper arm, forearm and wrist. 

Happy Fishing!  

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By Kiki Galvin

November 2013

Perfecting posture on the water

Hopefully most of you had a chance to work on some of the muscles I mentioned in the last Fitness for Fly Fishing article. In this article I am going over the Flexor Muscles of the Anterior Shoulder Girdle. These muscles are: The Serratus Anterior and Pectoralis Minor. The Serratus Anterior enables us to perform a forceful forward motion with the upper arm. Kick boxers would use this muscle to deliver a knockout punch. Not that we would be doing much of that while fishing but it helps us to do a pushup which is a great exercise to do to strengthen our upper body which improves posture. It also helps to maintain balance of strength between the upper back and chest. The Pectoralis Minor keeps us from having rounded shoulders. This can be a very uncomfortable and fatiguing syndrome while fly fishing! To work these muscles it is very easy just do a pushup on the floor (the most difficult); pushup on your knees (modified); push up on a counter or table (easy) push on a wall (easiest.) We have already discussed that you can start with 1 set of 15 repetitions. Try the different positions according to your level of strength. A great goal would be to be able to do all four positions 1 set 15 repetitions.

I would also like to introduce some core exercises into the discussion of Perfecting Posture on  the Water.  Core muscles are simply our abdominals and lower back muscles. To start let’s talk about an exercise called a plank to strengthen your abdominals. You support yourself up on your forearms with palms flat on the floor and up on your toes, you are facing the floor. Hold that position like a flat board or plank for 30 seconds. Work your way up 30 seconds at a time until you can hold that position for 3 minutes. It is a killer exercise but always remember to breath while holding any position. For lower back muscles lie flat on the floor, arms extended over your head and legs extended like superman (or superwoman) flying through the air. Lift your right arm and left leg at the same time and hold for 15 seconds repeat on the opposite side.

Next article we will discuss the muscles of the Shoulder Joint proper. Anterior, Posterior and Medial Deltoid; Pectoralis Major and Latissimus Dorsi.

Good luck!

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By Kiki Galvin

August 2013

Better posture for a better day on the water -
 
Let's begin to talk about the numerous groups of muscles that are specifically used when casting a rod and fly fishing. Just like golf, baseball, football or any other sport, the stronger and more balanced the involved muscles groups are that produce the desired motion the better off you are. We have already talked about aerobic conditioning, balance and leg strength: now for the muscles of your upper extremity, in particular, the shoulder girdle muscles. All of us have flexor and extensor muscles that make up the shoulder girdle. To put it simply, flexors are in the front of your body and extensors are in the back. Because the muscles as I have said are numerous I am going to address them in sections over the next few months. For future reference the muscles I am going to discuss are as follows. In this article the Extensor group of the posterior shoulder girdle, namely the Trapezius, Rhomboids, Serratus and Levator Scapulae; in the next article the Flexor group of the anterior shoulder girdle, namely, the Pectoralis Minor and Serratus.
 
Note: A  separate discussion on the muscles of the shoulder joint proper is appropriate when we discuss the casting motion in particular and of course that will include the rotator cuff muscles. We then will finish with the muscles of the upper arm, forearm and wrist. 
 
So let's get started.  We have all experienced the anglers crouch as I say, that anxious, fixated-on-the strike, bent over arms extended position while we are fly fishing. This posture, while keeping us dialed into the strike, most of the time causes our upper back to become fatigued, these muscles that I have already mentioned are the Trapezius, Rhomboids, Serratus and the Levator Scapulae. These muscles have a great deal to do with posture and can be strengthened in many ways.
 
To work on your Trapezius and Levator Scapulae a shoulder shrug is the main way done by lifting your shoulders to your ears and back down as well as rolling them forward and backward. You can also hold your hands above your head and reach for the ceiling. To work the Rhomboids and the Serratus with arms bent at the elbow and parallel to the floor reach or push forward then draw the elbows back and down. Pretend there is a soda can between your shoulder blades and try to squeeze it. Also place hands on a counter top with your feet back behind you and your body at an angle and with arms straight dip body into the counter top and then press away. It is a very small movement but effective. Remember to do one set of 15 repetitions for each movement 3 times a week.
 
In the last two articles I have given you exercises, most of them can be done with your own body weight. This will help facilitate you doing them and build foundation strength. I will be discussing the theory of Progressive Resistance which can be applied to all the exercises I have and will be giving to you in the future. I will discuss the many other forms of resistance that may be used as well as Core Exercises to round out "Fitness For Fly Fishing", and it is my hope eventually that this will be the goal of all the members of CWA!  Good luck ladies.

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By KiKi Galvin

May 2013

Good balance for a safe day on the water -

My first article on the website was all about aerobic conditioning and hopefully most of you had a chance to get started or worked on it in the early part of the Spring. Now we are heading into prime fishing season and it is time to talk about “Balance”.  I am a former marathon runner and to fish from first light to last light I rely on the aerobic endurance aspect of my fitness. To hike distances to fish good water, to climb up and down hills, ford streams and brace yourself in the currents you also need good muscle strength in your legs which affords you good balance to insure a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Keep in mind we should always carry a wading staff and have the proper wading boot to begin with. Never put yourself in an unsafe wading situation and always respect the current and water conditions.

Now let’s get started.  The leg muscles are as follows: Quadriceps; hamstrings; hip flexors and extensors; hip abductors and hip adductors; calf (gastrocnemius) and shin (anterior tibialis). These are very easy muscles to work on and the good news is for the most part you do not need fancy machines to strengthen them. In many cases your own body weight will do.

To target the quad and hamstring find a wall and sit half way down against it.  Make sure your shins are perpendicular to the floor and hold for 30 seconds.  As you get stronger hold for up to a minute. Your goal is 3 minutes in that modified position. Once you are able to hold for three minutes slide a bit further down and start the process all over again.  Your goal is to eventually hold (seated in a chair position) for a full three minutes. To target your hip flexors slide up and down the wall (instead of sitting) for a period of time and work up to three minutes.  To target hip extensors stand facing the wall with a straight leg, and push it back as far as you can go without leaning into the wall.  Contracting the muscle as you are pushing back, hold for fifteen seconds and relax.  Repeat 15 times for each leg.  To target the abductors standing against the wall, push your leg out to the side as far as you can go without leaning over. Hold for fifteen seconds and relax. Repeat 15 times for each leg.  To target adductors sit on a chair or bench, put a ball or book between your legs and squeeze for fifteen seconds, then relax. To target the calf muscles stand on the floor or on a step and lift your body weight up and then relax to the starting position, repeat 15 times.  To target the shin muscles standing on the floor one foot at a time, lift your toes to your shin and hold for 15 seconds, repeat 15 times.  Note:  all of these exercises are done with your own body weight or can be done adding a band/ankle weights or tube.

If you take the time to do these simple exercises 2-3 times per week and take time to do some gentle stretching as well, you should see improvement in daily functional activities as well as when you are out on the water fishing.  Good luck!

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By KiKi Galvin

April 2013
 
I don’t know what you do when you are not fly fishing, but let me suggest something that may not only improve your fly fishing skills but your quality of life as well. I spend Monday through Friday as personal trainer and I am the proprietor of “MOVE”. I am certified through the American Council on Exercise and have certificates in pre/post natal care, post rehabilitation and breast cancer exercise programming. On the weekends I love to go fly fishing. So what better topic is there for me to share with you than fitness for fly fishing!

Check with your Doctor first

Before you engage in an exercise program if you have medical considerations, please seek the advice of a Doctor first. With that said, there are varying levels of fitness among the general population. Yet to live life to the fullest, it helps to have a moderate level of fitness. This means being able to perform functional daily activities with relative ease and efficiency while also avoiding injury.

A comprehensive exercise program

There are four components: Aerobic/Anaerobic Conditioning; Balance; Flexibility and Muscle Strength. To get you ready for this fishing season let’s talk about aerobic conditioning first. This activity is performed to improve the efficiency of your heart and circulatory system.  For hiking, climbing and wading aerobic conditioning is necessary. When selecting an aerobic activity, choose something you enjoy that also allows minimal impact to your joints-for example walking, cycling and yes running as long as it is on comfortable surfaces and you have good supportive footwear. Perform this activity rhythmically and continuously for 30-45 (note if you can’t do that much start slow and do as much as you can but be consistent with whatever you choose to do) minutes 3 or more days per week. Stretching is good to incorporate into the conditioning as you see fit. Stretch slowly and purposefully without bouncing. In the weeks and months ahead in your quarterly newsletter and the website we will explore the other components I have mentioned above but for now get started with your aerobic conditioning. Mark your progress on a calendar or in your fishing journal and then you can look back and see just how much you have accomplished. Trust me that first fishing outing will be much more enjoyable.

Bio

KiKi Galvin is a fly fishing guide and proprietor of Ms. Guided Fly Fishing Services (www.msguidedflyfishing.net).  She is also the past President of Chesapeake Women Anglers; Vice President of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Trout Unlimited and a volunteer with both Casting for Recovery and Project Healing Waters.