Does a Landing Net Make Sense for Small Trout?

A sign in the dentist’s office caught my attention: “You don’t need to floss all your teeth. Just the ones you want to keep.” I think something similar can be said about using a net to land trout: “You don’t need to net all the trout you catch. Just the ones you want to protect.”

Landing Nets Versus Barbless Hooks

I’m a big advocate for using a net for 12-20 inch trout. Some of the veteran fly fishers and guides I’ve talked to claim that using a net is more important for trout safety than using a barbless hook—especially since barbed hooks today have much less severe barbs than those of yesteryear.

A Confession

However, I have to confess that I’ve never bothered to take a net when I’m catching small trout of the little streams I fish in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. By small, I’m referring to 8 to 11 inch trout.

Okay, perhaps I should say 6 to 11 inch trout!

In fact, I’ve even smirked inwardly at some anglers I’ve seen with nets clipped to the back of their vests on some of these small streams. Who needs a net to land an 8-inch brookie?! Or maybe the smirk was for wearing chest waders on an 80-degree day along a stream whose deepest run is three feet.

An Excuse to Buy More Gear

I repent, though.

I just ordered a Brodin Phantom Firehole Net. My old Brodin, which was made not far from where I used to live in Belgrade, Montana, has string netting. I wanted one with rubber netting since it’s much easier on trout. I have a Fishpond Nomad which works great for bigger trout. But that would be overkill for smaller trout.

At least that’s my excuse to make a new purchase.

The Brodin Phantom Firehole Net is only 23 inches long with a hoop that is 7 inches by 15 inches. That makes the handle 8 inches long. This will work nicely for small trout, and it would work in a pinch for a larger one.

An Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Benefit

One of the benefits of using a net for little trout is obvious. It prevents excessive handling of the trout. It also keeps them from flopping on boulder-lined banks. Even (or especially) smaller fish are not indestructible.

But there is another not-so-obvious benefit:

It’s the habit and skill this will form. If I commit to using a net every time I fly fish, then it will become a habit. Furthermore, there is a skill (maybe even an art) to landing trout. The more practice I get, the better I get—assuming that I’m using the right techniques (lifting up the net rather than stabbing at the fish, lifting my rod when I’m about the land the fish, etc.).

The next time you see me toting a net on a small stream, please don’t smirk. Or if you do, make sure it’s not because I’m using a net for small trout. You can shake your head or roll your eyes because I’ve justified yet another fly fishing gear purchase.

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