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We are indebted to subscriber Richard Suter for a tackle tip that will be of interest to anyone who is having trouble gripping a fly rod firmly, or simply holding one, for a period of time because of arthritis. He writes:

“Starting about ten years ago, I began having trouble with my hands while fly fishing due to developing arthritis (and Dupuytren’s Syndrome). Like others with arthritis, I suffer hand pain when gripping thin objects like pencils, gardening tools, vegetable peelers, squash racquets and, sadly, standard fly rod grips. One problem area is in the fleshy part of my thumb. I experience pain there while gripping a standard fly rod tightly, and the pain increases when I ‘push’ the rod with my upper thumb in the forward cast stroke.

“In search of a solution to this problem, I consulted hand specialists, as well as fishermen, guides and outfitters. Over the years, with some help from others, I have come up with some ‘fixes’ for my problem.

“I can’t call the first one my own invention, only an adaptation. But it works. I simply wrap my standard fly rod handles with squash- or tennis-racquet grip tape (available at any tennis or squash pro shop). I apply as many layers as needed until the rod handle is thick enough to grip tightly without hand pain. With the handle wrapped this way, I find I am able to grip it firmly enough to propel the rod tip forward without having my thumb extended up vertically behind the rod grip. I am able to use a standard firm hand grip with my thumb horizontal, reaching toward the index finger.

“Solution number two came from a friend of mine, the famous fly fishing dentist from Western New York, Bill Nesbitt. He pointed out to me that extra-thick cork grips are available to custom rod makers, and he offered to put one on a new custom rod he was building for me. He later put an extra-thick cork grip on another older rod I had. To help him fashion a grip that would be comfortable for me to hold, I made a model of the hand grip I wanted of plaster and paper mâché. Nesbitt used my grip model to determine, not just size, but where to sand down finger grooves in the oversized cork grip. When I first used the rod he sent me, I brought along a dowel and sand paper he had supplied to further refine it to fit my hand. What I have now is a very comfortable grip which also lets me avoid using my thumb to push the rod.

“The third answer came from a fly fishing home builder I know in Missoula, Montana, by the name of Morgan Suter. He told me about a product called ‘My Grip,’ made by a company called Fastcap (www.fastcap .com). Suter uses ‘My Grip’ to improve the grip on the tools he and his employees use in their work. ‘My Grip’ is a thick, rubbery pad with a finger grip molded into it. You put the material in very hot water for a couple of minutes, then wrap it around your rod grip handle and squeeze it moderately for about five seconds to form the custom grip you want. While the material is still warm, you can easily trim away excess to improve the look of the finished product. After it cools, it provides a flexible, thick handle that is quite comfortable. It also allows you to avoid the painful ‘power-thumb’ position.

“My motto these days is – If it hurts to fish, invent, adapt, take painkillers. Just don’t quit no matter what. In that regard, I once saw a fly fisherman in the Bahamas who had his wheelchair strapped to the bow of a skiff so he could continue bonefishing. Tight lines!”

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