Summer Injury: Fly Fisher’s Elbow

Fly Fisher's Elbow

What is Fly Fisher’s Elbow?

I know that many of you fly fishers know exactly what I am talking about here. Fly fisher’s elbow is that pain that stabs you on the outside of your elbow and radiates into the forearm after a long day of catching magnum rainbows or salmon.

Fly Fisher's Elbow: Tennis Elbow Anatomy
Anatomy of Fly Fisher’s Elbow Pain

Otherwise known as tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, “fly fisher’s” elbow plagues many of us during the season we love the most. It is inflammation or degeneration of the tendon that attaches to the bony part (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of the arm or elbow. The main tendon involved is that of the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis muscle. Although the injury is called tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon) the condition is actually considered to be tendinosis (degeneration of the tendon). It is usually provoked during activities which include prolonged or repetitive gripping or resistive activity. Occupational or physical therapy can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms but read on for some helpful hints when the pain hits.

Helpful Hints to Combat Fly Fisher’s Elbow

Wear an elbow band when fishing

Placement of the armband is important. If you are still feeling the same pain in your elbow with the band, try moving the band to slightly different areas. If this option doesn’t help, you may need to try a wrist brace that prevents movement of the wrist. This will rest the muscle attached at the elbow. The Band-It is the brace that I prefer because it is lower profile and will fit easily under your clothing.

BandIt Brace
BandIt Armband


You can massage the arm along the length of the muscles as shown in the image below. You can also perform a cross friction massage across the fibers of the muscle. The pain you may experience because of the pressure is normal but as you massage, you should notice a decrease in pain. Pain may be minimized by preceding with a few minutes of ice massage.

Massaging the Forearm
How to Massage the Forearm


Perform stretches 2-3 times/day for 10 repetitions as shown in the images below. Move your arm to the point of stretch but not pain. If these exercises create more pain, don’t do them. Remember that painful movements may be re-injuring your arm.

Forearm Stretch
Arm Stretching
Forearm Stretch
Arm Stretching Continued


Apply ice to elbow for 10-15 minutes following activity or pain. It is safe to place an ice pack on your arm several times a day if you notice pain.

Seeking Treatment with Occupational Therapy

Whenever you feel pain in the arm, you are re-injuring the tissue, and it will take longer to heal. If you still experience frequent pain even after following the previous hints, occupational therapy treatment may be your next step. Our therapists are specially trained to treat Fly Fisher’s Elbow. They use a variety of techniques and modalities to get you to full recovery and back to fishing pain free. Contact us to set up an appointment today!

Written By: Jean Keckhut, OTR/L, CHT | President & Clinical Director

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