Dryfly fishing for trout reduces pain

Dryfly fishing for trout reduces pain

I am a fly angler. Although I am not able to fish as often as I would like, it is […]


I am a fly angler. Although I am not able to fish as often as I would like, it is something that I try to do as often as I can, usually with marginal success.

Flyfishing requires casting. And if your angling skills suffer like mine do, lots of it.

After casting for a while it is surprisingly common to get upper extremity pain. McCue and colleagues surveyed 292 fly-casting instructors and queried whether they experienced pain when they casted, where the pain was and with what type of fly fishing.

What they found was interesting, though not surprising. Upper extremity pain was frequent, but not usually disabling, and worsened as the size of the rod (and the size of the fish) increased. About half had shoulder pain, 39% had elbow pain, and 36% had wrist pain.

Interestingly they found that a few things correlated with pain, but not how far they casted. Most fly anglers got some sort of pain but it wasn’t associated with distance casted.

They did however find that 31% of saltwater anglers reported moderate or severe pain as compared to 19% of their fresh water colleagues. A few other notable differences include:

  • 79% of anglers who used shooting heads had pain vs. 66% who didn’t
  • 78% of anglers who used extra weight with sinking flies vs. 60% who didn’t
  • Each additional foot of rod length increased the odds of some degree of pain by 46%
  • No differences in pain was present with different rod actions (e.g. fast action vs. slow action rods)

And a recommendation for those of us that are practitioners of upper extremity care: don’t treat fly anglers like overhead throwing athletes.

So, dryfly fishing for trout doesn’t really reduce pain, though it sure seems to do so when I have a fish on.

Wilderness Environ Med. 2004 Winter;15(4):267-73. Upper extremity pain seen with fly-casting technique: a survey of fly-casting instructors.  McCue TJGuse CEDempsey RL.