Tennis elbow from Angry Stripping


header003Wow, my first fly fishing orthopedic injury. I felt it happen strip setting on a snag three weeks ago. After that incident, I fished three days on the lake and I could tell that fast stripping and double hauling was getting painful  I put on a strap above my left elbow to help relieve the pain and kept fishing. It’s weird how one can tolerate the pain off fly fishing  when  having fun, but then casting , stripping with no hits or fish like the last two trips out,  isn’t really that fun.  A typical day of fishing is about 6-8 hours of continuous casting and the way you strip flies for stripers is alot of work and elbow stress.

I was planning on fishing today. The weather was perfect, but in the morning as I was moving some furniture I realized that I couldn’t pick heavy objects up with my left hand. I took a rod out to the front yard, double hauled a long cast and stripped it in fast–pain!. Looks like Ill have to rest it another week before I can fish.  It typically takes 3-6 weeks of rest to heal this type of injury.

According to the California State Insurance Fund,  Fishing injuries make up 9% of all sports related eye injuries and makes up 38% of fishing related injuries.  A team of Biomechanics 3sensorsresearchers at Montana State Bozeman did a research project studying trout flyfishermen.  In a survey of 812 fly fishing instructors,  49% reported shoulder pain, 39% elbow pain and 36% wrist pain.  74% reporte pain in at least one of these locations.  25% reported moderate to severe pain.  27% reported they changed their casting style because of pain.   There is definitely repetitive motion injuries associated with fly-fishing and striper fishing has to be one of the most severe of all fly fishing based on the speed of stripping,  the size of fish and the rod and line weights.   The weird part for me is that the pain I have is in my stripping elbow.  I have had no problems in my casting arm ever but striper fishing more often theses last few years  has irritated my left elbow.

This research also examined casting experience as a variable in kinematics. Guides with an average of 18 years experience and 200-plus days fishing per year showed significantly better abilities to hold their form when casting greater lengths of line, generating much greater line velocity by utilizing the transfer of velocity from shoulder down the arm.  The non-guides with
an average of 6 years of experience and 30 days fishing per year showed deterioration in their casting motion and loop formation as line length increased. The non-guides reverted to a full-arm “waving” motion when the line length became too great. This motion could lead to shoulder,
elbow, or wrist complications over time.

In the Survey of fly casting instructors found that those who uses a haul in casting reported significantly more pain .  Casting shooting heads adds weight and produces more distance to the cast, but it also increases the mechanical stress to the arm during the fly cast.  Survey sais that 79% of shooting head casters report experience shoulder, elbow or wrist pain after casting.   With respect to stripping for stripers,   experienced striper fishermen keep their rods pointing at the line and low if not in the water so there is no slack in the fly line.  To do that,  the wrist is pointed down which is bad.  To minimize the stress on the casting wrist a v-style grip should be used and the rod should be low on the body while pointing at the line to minimize wrist bend.   Unfortunately, I feel this sacrifices the quickness of the set slightly.   I learned to strip straight back from the first guide and line- set out and back which Im sure is the source of my elbow stress.   I don’t really know any way to compensate for that left hand motion.  If anyone has any ideas, other than not stripping or setting on flies and fish I would love to know.  Till then , I’ll take Ibupfofen, a  tennis elbow brace and weight training before I quit because I’m fishing no matter what.   I wish I could brag that the injury is caused by lifting lots of heavy stripers into the boat,  but the reality is that it hurts more when I don’t catch fish –casting and stripping for 9 hours straight without a hit.

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