You should! Granted, an afternoon of fishing isn’t the same type of athletic challenge as a basketball game or triathlon, but you can still hurt yourself if you don’t stretch out. And once you develop a chronic pain in your arm or back, it’s an uphill battle to find your peak fishing form again.
I am currently on a fishing trip in northern Saskatchewan (www.athabascalake.com), chasing massive northern pike with fly rods. Believe me, a 43-inch pike delivers a jolt that shoots right through the rod and up my arm when they hammer a fly. So every day, I do a few stretches to avoid getting injured.
First, I straighten my arm along my side, and lift my fingers so my palm is facing flat to the floor. Lift 10 times, and hold the stretch with your fingers pointing forward. Next, do the same stretch in reverse, curling your wrist backwards, and pointing your fingers behind you. What this does is stretch out your forearm, which is where a lot of the stress is felt… not only when you cast, but also when you fight fish. A lot of anglers complain of “fishing elbow” (which is the same as tennis elbow), and that can be kept to a minimum by doing this stretch before you fish and throughout the day.
It’s also great to stretch out your back. The usual bending over and touching your toes is a good place to start. I also like to gently twist my torso, just to loosen the muscles in my back.
One other important point—sometimes we get so focused on the fishing, we want to make cast, after cast, after cast. And when the fishing is really good, we want to fight fish, after fish, after fish…
Which is great, of course. But it’s best to take a time out every once in awhile, and stretch out your hands, your arms, and back. Fishing is recreation, after all (well… for most of us it is). The more you approach your fishing as a marathon, and not a sprint, the better you’ll feel, and the more likely you will be to keep at it.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.