Get Fit: Workout Plans for Fly Fishing


Many people think that fishing isn’t a strenuous activity. Not something that can make you sore for days, drain your body of energy, or require any kind of physical training. These people probably also imagine fishing as floating down the river in a barrel with a flask and some worms. To the true fly fisherman, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although we all enjoy the easy days catching a dozen fish an hour on the same sunny bank, we usually put our bodies through the gauntlet just to get a few casts. Sleep deprivation, malnourishment, sore hips, extreme heat, extreme cold and crappy seats in planes and cars are all too common for the tenured angler. All these factors accumulate into micro-trauma to your back, ligaments, and muscle fibers that can lead to chronic injury as well as make an acute injury more likely. No one wants to tear their ACL a 10 mile hike from their car. Unless you want the be the Revenant or something …

Putting our bodies through this punishment is a necessity to do what we love, but the amount of stress our bodies can take before they break is entirely up to you. It has to be a lifestyle, like fishing, but adding a few simple routines to your week can prevent daily soreness and potentially a major injury. When you lift weights with proper form you’re looking good in the mirror and all that good stuff, but you’re also increasing your bodies ability to withstand trauma. All the jumping, lunging, wading through water, mud, snow, all with a backpack of gear cause a lot more shearing forces to your ligaments than you think. In addition to the increased muscular strength and joint stability required to hike, building muscle increases the amount of protein in your body. These proteins are incredibly dense, and used by the body in times of mild starvation as an energy source. This is not a preferred energy source by any means, but when things go wrong in the wilderness you’ll be glad you spent a couple hours a week lifting.

Something else that cannot be stressed enough is the recovery and rehabilitative work required for optimal muscle function and joint health. If you don’t have a foam roller, get one. Foam rolling the quads, IT bands, and glutes is critical to release muscle that gets knotted up after prolonged use. When you stretch a muscle, you’re pulling on it to release from the end of the muscle IE the joint. This will stretch/release muscle near the tendon/joint but fails to release muscle in the middle. This tightness in the middle causes constant pulling on the tendons/joints at both ends which is where joint pain often comes from. If this isn’t treated, over time the muscle loses proper range of motion and function, and the joints become weaker and more painful. If you’re new to foam rolling brace yourself because at first it’s pretty painful too, but I promise after 5-10 days of consecutive foam rolling it will no longer be painful but feel like a massage.

Below is a simple resistance training routine that can be done 3 to 4 times a week.  Always make sure you take 24 hours rest in between lifts, 25 grams of protein after a lift, and have eaten a full meal at least 2 hours before lifting. Always hydrate. Always lift to an optimal range of motion with proper form.

Do 3/5 times a week as maintenance and before/after you’ve been sitting for long periods of time especially if you’re going straight from sitting to physical activity IE long car ride followed by hike.

Tennis ball roll on glutes – 60 seconds each

Static stretch for 40 seconds each: Hip flexor, hamstring, piriformis, glutes, lats

Foam roll: quads, glutes, IT bands, upper back/Lats.

A – D take 45-90 seconds rest between each exercise

Superset exercises labeled in the same letter column IE A1 and A2 are done back to back until all sets are completed

A1 Bulgarian Split squat (with or without weight) 3 x 10 each leg
A2 DB bench press 10, 8, 6, 5, 5
B1 DB goblet squats 15, 10, (4 x 8)
B2 Band supported pull ups (pronated grip) 4 x (8-12)
C1 Single arm standing DB shoulder press 4 x 8 each
C2 Barbell deadlift 4 x 8 @ 60-70% of 1RM
D1 Snap Y’s and T’s (prone on bench) 3 x (10,10)
D2 Ab wheel 3 x (8-12)
D3 Single leg DB RDL 3 x 10 each leg
E1 Sprint intervals On track/ exercise bike/rower: Sprint 20 seconds, rest 30/40 seconds – repeat at least 10 times.

– Gabriel Free, BSc – Kin, CSCS

To get a customized workout plan for your fly fishing ventures, you can email Gabe at

And be certain to always check with a doctor before beginning a workout plan.

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