Put your back into the soft-shell shuffle

By Keith Elliott

Still, it taught me how to fish the unlovely Victorian structure. And the secret is crabs. At certain stages, crabs cast their shells - they become vulnerable, hiding under rocks and in mud (of which Southend has more than its fair share). You won't catch much on hard-backed ones, but when they're "peeling", they're on every fish's menu.

The bad news is that collecting them is tough work, lots of walking through treacle-like mud, often sinking up to your knees. Muscles I hadn't used for years creaked and complained. I could have bought my bait, but the going rate is 50p a crab. I've used as many as 100 in some sessions. Anyway, pride wouldn't let me take the sensible option.

But pride cometh before a fool. The next day, I was a creaking cripple. And that's when I remembered, too late, advice in a press release from Maggie Doyle of Powell Communications.

She had been chatting to a physiotherapist about fishing, and realised that dumb clucks like me risked serious injury. According to that physio, Julia Trevor, continuous casting can leave fishermen with repetitive strain injury (RSI), or tenosynovitis, in their wrists, elbows, shoulders and back. Julia says: "Launching into a day's fishing without relaxing the joints can cause unnecessary stress on the body, which you are probably only aware of once it's too late."

According to her, the shoulders and back come under attack numerous times in a fishing session, whether from bending and twisting when netting fish, to casting, wading or even carrying kit. Or gathering crabs.

She advises: "Before starting to fish, take 10 minutes to warm up the muscles... repeat these exercises every hour, and wear a sports support, especially on existing injuries and cold-sensitive joints."

Quite what reaction my press-ups and deep knee bends would provoke from fellow anglers, I'll leave it to you to guess. Still, it's clearly a small price to pay for health. Maggie, it turns out, also happens to be doing the PR for a range of health products. And guess what? Julia reckons: "It is worthwhile to keep moving, and invest in a Vulkan neoprene support." Some coincidence, eh?

You may find that Vulkan and bankside exercise help if you have crab back, aching wrists or even sticky-out ears (Vulkan? Geddit?) Personally, I'll stick to the tried-and-tested remedy while fishing: lager and a couple of meat pies.

Oh, and thanks for your support, Julia. I'll always wear it.

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