The Scoop on Fishing Nets

fishing nets

When I first started fly fishing, I gave little thought to using fishing nets. We always had a long-handled net in the drift boat. But I did not realize the value of a net for wade fishing until a friend gave me a small net made by Brodin — a company near Logan, Montana less than ten miles from my home.

It did not take me long to get hooked on using a net to land the 14-20 inch trout I caught. I lost fewer fish, and it was less stressful for the trout I landed. If you’re new to fly fishing, here is the scoop on fly fishing nets:

1. Do pay attention to the net frame materials.

There are two basic net frame materials.

Some frames are made out of wood. This is the case with my Brodin net. Wood is fine, but you will need to varnish it occasionally depending on how much use it gets. Other frames are made out of composite materials—carbon fiber and fiberglass. This is the case with the Fishpond net another friend gave me.

Side note: It’s nice to have friends who give you fishing nets as gifts!

2. Do not buy a net unless it has a fish-friendly bag.

Most nets sold today have a rubber or nylon bag—that is, webbing.

This has more flex than the traditional twine (string) bags. It is less stressful for a trout when scooped into the next. The difference between the two kinds of material resembles how you feel when you fall on mattress versus a kitchen table.

3. Do give some thought to the handle and frame size of your fishing nets.

You want a net with a large enough hoop (opening) to land large trout but small enough so it is not cumbersome to carry. Handle size is important, too.

My Brodin had net has a short handle. This makes it ideal for longer hikes up the river. But my Fishpond Nomad Emerger net has a longer handle, which allows me to land trout further away from my body. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to land a trout that is two feet way than a foot away.

4. Do not fail to purchase a magnetic clip with a retractor.

The magnetic clip (actually, two magnets) allows you to reach behind your head where your net is clipped to your fly vest and have it snap into place. The retractor allows you to drop your net in the water without fear of it drifting away.

5. Do exercise caution when walking through brush.

If you are wondering why I mention this, you have never caught your net on buckbrush, walked a few feet, and then had your net snap back and whack you!

6. Do not stab at a fish with your net.

When trying to land a fish with your net, keep the net under the fish and lift it up. If you try to stab or jab or flick with your net, it won’t work. You can’t move it through the water quickly enough. So no “net flicks.” Did you see what I did there? Sorry!

Of course, you do not always have to use a net. You can head for shallow water, and then “beach” your fish as long as the bank is soft.

My podcast partner, Dave, and I did this last fall on a particular run in the Gardner River. We were catching brown after brown in the same deep run. We didn’t want to get too close to the run to spook the other fish. So we would pull the trout onto the soft, muddy beach. But under most conditions, you’ll do well to bring along the right net and use it properly.

10 Questions to Ask Your Fly Fishing Friends

fly fishing friends

We have assembled ten questions you can ask your fly fishing friends. You can use these as conversation starters. Or, simply post them on Facebook to see if they go viral. Here are the questions as well as our answers.

We’d love to have you post your answers in the “comments” section below:

1. What is your “go to” fly rod—the one you use most?

DAVE: Now that I live in the Midwest, it’s my eight-and-a-half, four-weight Redington. When I’m on bigger rivers, it is my Sage One nine foot six weight.

STEVE: My “go to” is a Winston Boron II-X. It’s a nine-foot, six-weight that’s made in Montana. If I’m on a smaller creek, I’ll switch to my Orvis eight-and-a-half-foot, four weight.

2. What river that you’ve never fished is at the top of your bucket list?

DAVE: There are so many rivers that I’d like to fish – the many in Oregon (including the McKenzie River), Washington State, and British Columbia. I’d love to fish as many rivers as I could in Alaska. I don’t have a yearning to fish a particular one – just all that I haven’t fished. Plus, I’d love to fish all the great rivers in the northeastern United States. Basically, every river I haven’t fished is one I want to fish.

STEVE: I suppose it would be the Bighorn River in Montana. I’ve fished all the other major rivers in Montana. But since I had so many other superb rivers to fish when I lived in the Bozeman, Montana, area, I never ventured east to experience it.

3. What is the oldest piece of gear you use when fly fishing?

DAVE: A pair of Dan Bailey Waders. They are going on 10 years.

STEVE: I have an Orvis fly vest that is twenty-years old. It has a ripped pocket. But it’s like an old friend! I plan to keep using it until it falls apart.

4. What is the newest piece of gear you use when fly fishing?

DAVE: I just bought a pair of Patagonia Foot Tractors (wading boots). It was time. I wore a pair of Simms boots for way too long. The soles were worn, and last fall on the Gardner in Yellowstone National Park, I struggled to wade more than up to my knees.

STEVE: A Fishpond Nomad Emerger net. A friend gave it to me as a gift. It has a slightly longer handle than my Brodin hand net, but it’s not too bulky when it’s clipped on my vest and I’m hiking in a couple of miles to fish. The composite material makes it light, as well as strong.

5. What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done on the river?

DAVE: I locked my car keys in the trunk of my 1971 Chevy Nova. Steve and I had to wait for a rancher to drive by. We were on a road that dead-ended at the trail head of a wilderness area. We used the rancher’s hammer and screwdriver to punch a hole through the lock. Sure enough, I had left the keys in my fly fishing vest.

STEVE: I dropped the top two pieces of my four-piece Orvis eight-and-a-half, four-weight rod into the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. The pieces floated away. Thankfully, the good folks at Orvis treated it like a broken rod and replaced the two missing pieces. Actually, they gave me a new rod.

6. Which brother do you most resemble in the movie A River Runs Through It – Norman or Paul?

DAVE: Definitely Paul. I was not quite the hell-raiser that he was but I always saw myself as a kind of rebel against the system (whatever that meant – authority, status quo, etc.). I was a rebel without a cause, in many ways. Fortunately, I had to grow up (finally and reluctantly). I’m not perfect like Steve!

STEVE: Definitely Norman! I’m the oldest child who is more serious-minded than free-spirit. I’ve worked hard to be a good fly fisher, but I’m not a natural like Paul was.

7. What was your most satisfying moment on the river?

DAVE: Probably last fall catching browns, cutts, and rainbows on the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park. It was an unbelievable two days of unlimited catching (and releasing). The second best may be the year previously on 16 Mile Creek in Montana when Steve and I had a banner day fishing hoppers.

STEVE: It was either catching rainbows on the Yellowstone with an elk hair caddis fly I tied with elk hair from a bull elk I shot during archer season or else watching my boys land trout after trout one spring day on Montana’s Madison River.

8. What is your most embarrassing moment on the river?

DAVE: Snapping a rod while on a guided fishing trip down the Lower Madison. I had just grabbed the guide’s rod to give it a try. It was an Orvis H2 (an expensive rod!). I had hooked a large rainbow, and it darted under the boat because of my poor ability to reel it in.

STEVE: It’s probably the time when a friend told me to be ready to fish a great run as we floated by it in his drift boat. He emphasized that I’d only get one chance, so I needed to make a solid cast. Well, I promptly cast my fly into a bush on the bank above the run. He just shook his head.

9. What is your favorite book about fly fishing (besides A River Runs Through It and The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists)?

DAVE: Probably Gary Borger’s book Nymphing which I picked up in the 1990s.

STEVE: This one is easy for me. It’s Bud Lilly’s Guide to Fly Fishing the New West by Bud Lilly and Paul Schullery. It has great stories and a lot of helpful information.

10. Who convinced you to take up fly fishing?

DAVE: It was Steve, back when we were 18. Another friend inspired me to try nymph fishing and that took my fly fishing to an entirely different level.

STEVE: It was Jerry Williams, a seasonal Ranger-Naturalist in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was in high school at the time, and he led a weekly fly fishing demonstration in Moraine Park. He was an enthusiastic teacher who had a knack for simplifying and teaching what can be a complex sport.

Alright, it’s your turn to answer these questions! Ask your fly fishing friends to do the same.