Monthly Archives: February 2016

Fishtailing and Porpoising Arrows

QandA logoI got this message just a few minutes ago. I responded directly but thought you might want to see the interchange, too.

A couple of years ago I was placed in charge of our NASP Archery team at my school and have noticed a couple of issues that I wanted to see if you had any advice about. Both involve the smooth flight of the arrow.

Many times we see arrows fishtailing down to the target. I assume that this is caused by the archer’s release and its effect on the string. I feel like sometimes our students let that string drag off and maybe that is causing it to roll and create the fishtail. I wanted to see if in your opinion whether my thought was correct.

The second thing is a porpoising arrow, one that seems to wave its tail up and down while in flight. I cannot figure out that one at all. And I even have it happen to me sometimes. If you have any advice or comments on this I would really appreciate it.


Genesis Bow

You can see the nocking point locator (white on black string) is slightly higher than a line at right angle to the string and lined up where the arrow touches the rest.

The fishtailing you mention is due to multiple factors. If the arrows are flying fine and an occasional arrow fishtails, you are right—a sloppy release is at fault. A clean release allows for a great many other things to be slightly off, but is not a panacea. Contributing factors in fishtailing are many: centershot setting, arrow spine match among them. And arrow spine is never correct in any archery program in which the equipment is lent to the participants. This is because a student with a 21˝ draw may use the same bow and arrow as a student with a 29˝ draw when they should use radically different arrows. The “Genesis arrow” is a 1820 aluminum arrow (18/64˝ outside diameter—20/1000˝ thick aluminum walls) with a spine of roughly 0.600˝. The only thing making these arrows way too stiff for archers shooting a 20# (max) bow with a short draw length is it is 29.5˝ long. The considerable “extra” length softens these rather stiff shafts a great deal and makes them “adequate.” The 0.020˝ wall thickness (basically the thickest walls you can get on an aluminum arrow) make them extremely sturdy, a real boon for youth archer programs. Getting a correct spine match for an archer requires a great deal of fiddling even after the correctly spined shaft is selected (of which the choices are myriad). Most of the fiddling is with the length of the shaft. So, the “spine match” for your NASP archers is “iffy” at best. Often only a slightly suspect loose of the arrow can cause considerable fishtailing.

Bow Squares

A bow square is the preferred tool for checking nocking point location.

Note One of the problems we have with beginner’s classes is expectations, primarily the expectation that anyone can shoot at all well with borrowed equipment. The ones who can probably have physical measurements (primarily draw length) which give them a better spine match than most.

The porpoising, in our experience, has always been due to an incorrect nocking point position (typically too low), this leads to the arrow leaving the string “nock low” and the nock or, more likely, the vanes of the arrow clipping the rest or the arrow shelf on its way out, giving you large up and down oscillations. Often the arrow shelves on these bows have many scuffs on them (left by previous encounters of vanes with the bow) and you can’t tell whether any of them are new. Keep those shelves cleaned off if you can (I use a Scotchbrite scuff pad). A clean shelf with a scuff mark left by a vane hitting it is a clear sign of a “clearance problem.” Clearance problems stem from nocking point height, centershot (arrow rest) misplacement, and arrow spine issues.

The bottom of the nocking point locator, should be roughly 1/2˝ above a right angle from the string to the arrow rest (mimicking the bottom of an arrow sitting on the arrow rest). Lower than that is asking for such problems. This is a primary use of a bow square (see photo), one of which I hope you have. If not, you can use the corner of a piece of stiff paper to find the point that forms a right angle to the string and touches the arrow rest, too.

Let me know if this helps.




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Where’s the Support?

I just got a phone call from a former coach trainee who was putting on his own coach training class and had some questions. I was to glad to help, but once again it was pointed out to me that almost no help is being given to the trainers.

If you can recall your last archery coach training class, how did you feel about the level of organization? The quality of materials? The follow-up? You may or may not have been surprised by what you got as you may have had not very high expectations. But the support provided to your trainer was almost nonexistent. There is a “trainer packet” which provides copies of the training materials, a test key, that sort of thing. Of course, your trainer had to buy the training packet. (We get charged to train volunteers who work for free.) From time to time it also included a handout on how to structure the training and even one time a set of PowerPoint slides to use. (I am unaware of anyone actually using those slides. I reviewed them and then set them aside.) There have never been any helpful teaching tips, suggestions regarding how to deal with “test anxiety” that trainees may suffer from, or other practical tips. No suggestions about how to arrange for lunches or training sites (if done at a shop, I always offered a free training for a shop employee as payment). And in this day when you can’t have a meal in a restaurant without the staff asking you many, many times “How was your meal?” and your receipt having a web address to take a “satisfaction survey,” there is an appalling lack of follow-up to coach trainings in this country. (I don’t know about overseas.) I spent some time with a former Executive Director of USA Archery outlining how the group of coaches was a marketing group to which all kinds of things could be sold (“Coach” windbreakers, whistles, lanyards, wind meters, books, online training courses, etc.) and he excitingly took notes, but what we got and continue to get instead is nada, zip, zilch, <cricket, cricket> aka nothing.

All of these examples of the nonexistent “coaching support system” lead us to realize that we needed to actually create such a thing. This blog is part of that effort. The Archery Coaches Guild ( is also part of such a system. The Guild, by the way, is now officially launched. We have sent out thousands of invites to join (which is now free thanks to a helpful sponsor) and we hope to ramp up activity on the website in the next couple of weeks. Come join us. Nobody else seems inclined to offer archery coaches any kind of support, we might as well do it ourselves!

PS If you are reviewing The Beginner’s Guide to Archery Equipment, you have 10 days left to get your review submitted to get a free copy of the eBook that will be produced. You can’t say I didn’t remind you!


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Wanna Copy?

In my last post I asked you about providing equipment help to new archers and parents of new archers and those of you who responded seemed to think it was a good idea. So I wrote a booklet The Beginner’s Guide to Archery Equipment … well, I have a first draft anyway. You can help bring the project to completion by doing this: if you send me an email at mentioning the title above, I will send you a PDF copy of the draft booklet. It has a few photos included but more will be added, so it isn’t really complete. If you read it and submit a review to me (at by the deadline of February 28, 2015, I will send you a copy of the finished book.

Please ignore typos, etc, as such things will be corrected later. What I want to know is:

  1. Will this be helpful?
  2. Did I leave anything important out?
  3. Are the directions clear enough (photos will be added)?

The plan is to make this available in an eBook format (Kindle? PDF?) for cheap (US$2.99) and then look at videos to accompany The Guide.


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