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.