Standing in the freezing water, my ego was working overtime. A pseudo badge of honor was shining in my mind as I was withstanding discomfort, growing into pain, in my left foot to keep fishing on the cold winter day. I caught a handful of fish and called it a day after a few hours. The air was colder than the water and well below freezing. Walking back to the truck, my feet got even colder and the pain in my left foot transitioned to numbness, and I began to get nervous.
After a few minutes with the floor vent at full blast I was able to wiggle my toes and the pain subsided. I knew I had pushed my limits and needed to invest in some better socks but in the following days I continued to have foot pain and I developed plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that results from inflammation in the tissue that connects the heel to the toes. It causes significant heel pain, particularly in the first few steps of the morning.
A cortisone shot eliminated my pain for quite some time, but after two concentrated weeks off hiking and fishing this summer, it has returned. Unfortunately, the pain also coincides with being less active and gaining a few pounds. Aging comes with aches, pain, and a lower metabolism. Knowledge can also come with age and experience, but for me it can be offset by stubbornness and ingrained bad habits.
Fly fishing is an activity you can participate in throughout your life, if you’re able to walk, have good balance, and have moderate dexterity in your hands and arms. Maintaining our physical fitness as we age is a challenge that takes discipline and commitment. Working out and eating healthy foods is not something I’ve come to enjoy as much as say, not. But it is a necessity.
Six years ago, I began having chest pains and after a long series of tests, I was found to have a 90% blockage of my right coronary artery. Very easily that could have resulted in a deadly heart attack, thankfully it was diagnosed, and a stent was inserted into my heart. One would think that would have been enough of a wakeup call to help me build healthy habits. Not quite. It’s been up and down. What holds me back isn’t something I’ve figured out.
If we recognize that taking care of ourselves is essential to us being around for our family, friends and ourselves, why don’t we prioritize our health. Following up on doctor’s visits and exercising is easy, but I struggle with it. Am I resigned to being a product of genetics and fate? Am I lazy? Am I afraid of something? Does part of me want to get sick or injured? What self-belief is limiting me? The answers to these questions are buried in my subconscious somewhere. Things to ponder when I am taking care of my mind on the water.
While I’m processing my health motivation hang ups, I need to maintain and improve my fitness. Fly fishing is not rock climbing but there are some important physical elements to consider. Balance and endurance are critical. Daily walking, running, biking, or rowing are helpful to maintain endurance. Keeping core strength and balance through yoga, Pilates, and lifting weights properly is recommended.
Shoulders, wrists, and hands are critical to casting and line control. As the most complicated joint in the body, shoulders are critical to a healthy fly angler. Maintaining strength and mobility can be achieved through a variety of overhead presses and arm raises. Stretches and supination exercises help to strengthen wrists and improve hand mobility.
Fly fishing has helped me tremendously with focus and my overall mental health. For me to be able to fish, I need to take care of my body. As time passes, the risk for injury or illness increases. Father time is not kind to our bodies. It is imperative for anglers to be mobile, stable, and fine tune hand eye coordination. We need to work out, in some form or fashion, to fish as we age. Taking risks, like exposing our feet to cold temperatures for hours, doesn’t do us any favors. I’m hoping to fish until the very end. More importantly, I want to be around for my family as long as possible. Time to make my health a priority.