Why Does My Arrow Fishtail

Arrow Fishtail
Why Does My Arrow Fishtail

As a beginner, this problem can be pretty frustrating. 

When you’re first getting into archery, the only thing you’re focused on is getting your bow and going to town on a target.  Nobody likes to think about all the many issues that may come with it.

Fortunately, I’m here to help you figure out exactly what could be causing this issue so that you can know what to look for.

In order to stop your arrow from fishtailing, you have to take a few things into consideration.  Everything from your form, high string pressure on the nose or string wrapping around the cheek, weak spine, and other potential factors could play a role in fishtailing.  But, we will be getting exactly into a few of these fairly common issues so that you can get to the bottom of what exactly is causing your arrow to wobble upon release.

There are more reasons as to why your arrows could be fishtailing, but we will be going over the ones most common.


Having a weak spine can hurt your arrow flight drastically due to the amount of flexing that happens when you shoot your arrow.  Mixing a weak arrow spine with a powerful bow is not a great combination and will more than likely cause or intensify what’s called the “archery paradox”.

This is when an arrow fishtails because the airflow onto the arrow shaft is at an angle to the nominal shaft axis.  A good way to fix this can be to add more weight to the tail of the arrow spine or by reducing weight in the front of it.  This added weight absorbs energy from the string, therefore removing the amount of energy applied to the remainder of the shaft. Whatever you do though, do not add more weight to the broadhead or tip of the spine as this will more than likely cause, even more, fishtailing in your arrow.

A good way for more weight can be either getting ahold of heavier arrows or for a cheaper alternative, adding weight tubes.


There are 3 main ways to tune a bow.  They are…

  • Paper Tuning
  • Yoke Tuning
  • Walk Back Tuning


This type of tuning is when an archer shoots through a piece of paper to help determine how the bow is shooting by paying attention to the rip that it creates. Depending on the type of rip that is created, you will then proceed to make the changes necessary to fix the outcome of your shot.  Not only will proper tuning eliminate fishtailing, but it will also help eliminate porpoising as well.

  1. Take a large piece of paper and hang it while making sure that it is not loose for accurate results.
  2. Step back about 8 feet from the paper.
  3. Using proper form, draw your bow back and make sure your arrow is level.
  4. Once you are in proper form, make a clear shot through the paper.
  5. Now view your results.
  6. Make adjustments based on the outcome and then repeat the process until you reach your desired rip.


Before using the yoke tuning method, you’ll want to make sure that it is, in fact, needed by bringing your bow to a draw as if you were getting ready to shoot.  Now, look at the idler wheel and see how the string is coming off of it.

If your string is coming off the idler wheel and everything looks normal, then yoke tuning is not necessary.  If it’s coming off to the left or the right though, you will have to tune your bow.

  1. Reduce tension on the control cable by pressing the bow.
  2. While pressing the bow, take the control cable off the top axil pin of the bow.                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  3. After removing the yoke, twist or untwist each side of the yoke to get proper alignment.
  4. Once you’re done twisting one side, attach it back onto the axle. Repeat this step for the other side.
  5. Make sure to untwist one side if you are twisting to shorten another to prevent any unwanted changes to your axel measurements.

After you’ve completed the necessary steps, get a sturdy piece of paper, hang it to the point to where it is firm and not loose, then get into proper form and shoot.  If the rip looks good, then you’re all set. If not, then repeat the process until you have reached your desired rip.

Walk back tuning consists of shooting arrows at a single point on your target using one fixed site pin from a range of distances.  This process will help determine whether or not our bow’s center shot is set properly.  We want to make sure we’re getting a nice clean and consistent shot every time.  Start by making a ” T ” on your target face starting at 6 inches or so below the target.

After you have made your ” T “, it’s now to time shoot.  Stand about 10 to 20 yards from your target and then aim where the top portion of the ” T ” and bottom portion meet.  If you don’t hit where you aimed, then you will need to make adjustments to your sight until you hit the intended target.  Repeat this process until you are able to hit the target accurately.  Once you hit the target, it’s time to move back even further from the target.

Using the same exact pin you used shooting from 20 yards, walk back to 30 yards, and repeat this process all the way up to around 50 or 60 yards all while using the same pin from the first 20-yard mark.  You’ll want to be aiming at the same spot where the two parts of the ” T ” meet for every shot. When you are completely done shooting, you’ll notice that the arrows have gradually gotten lower and lower. Do not worry, this is normal.

You’ll now want to pay attention to what side of the tape your arrows have landed on.  They’ll either be on the left side, right side, or on the connecting part of the ” T “.  The further away you are from your target, the further you will be from hitting your target.  This is because the more distance you are from the target, the more influence there will be on your arrow’s impact.

After observing where your arrows have landed, you will now want to adjust your rest accordingly.  If your arrows fell more to the right, adjust your rest to the left.  Likewise for the other side.  If they fell more to the left, you’ll want to adjust your rest more to the right.  Keep in mind that even the slightest bit of movement can greatly change where your arrow lands, so don’t adjust your rest too much at once.

After making adjustments, repeat the process of shooting and aiming at the same point on the ” T ” until all arrows are lined up vertically on the bottom portion of the ” T “.  Make sure you continue to only use the top pin for all shots.


Most torque will more than likely come from the hand holding the bow.  You can improve this by loosening your grip and letting the riser rest between your thumb and index finger. The rest of your fingers should be slightly closed. Point the knuckle of your index finger at your target and keep it pointed at your target after release.  The pressure on your bow should be pointed directly at your target. A common mistake is twisting your release with the palm of your hand.   The only good way to reduce this is to practice, practice, and practice some more. Making sure your form is overall pretty good will help with this a lot as well.


All tuning methods above work really effectively with fixing any fishtail issue.  These solutions have fixed many, many bows more than any other method out there.

As far as bow torque though, it can be frustrating, but with enough practice and patience, you will get better and eventually will find your torque lessening the more and more you stay with it.  Your bow is like a puzzle, everything has to come together in order for everything to work properly. I struggled with my shot a lot too when I was a beginner until I addressed the issues stated above.

Nowadays, everything is like second nature to me.  Practice definitely is key, though. Anyone I know that is good at handling and shooting the bow has consistently practiced their shot over and over again.  The most important thing to keep in mind though is to have patience with yourself and your shot.

Believe it or not, a good majority of beginners are either misinformed by local archery dealers or members in forums.  Just make sure you follow advice from a trusted and reputable dealer so that you get the proper equipment and tuning the first time around.  Anything ” off ” can make a world of difference in your shot. If you’re new to archery,  make sure to keep this in mind next time you decide to invest in your next sizeable purchase.

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