My attention was distracted watching the fisherman downstream as he danced in circles with his rod restrained and bent deep. Trout splashed teasingly just out of reach. The compromise between the two turned out to be quite comical. I hadn’t noticed that one of the anglers in our group had landed a fish, removed the fly, and held it at the waterline in his Rising Brookie net for confirmation. Yes, he was winning the biggest fish pool. The difference between the two anglers, angler #2 had his own net, convenient and ready for action. This fisherman used a high quality landing net to seal the deal.
Landing nets offer considerable relief to anglers accustomed to losing fish just out of reach. In fact, dip nets eliminate the need to handle a fish at all. Landing nets extend your reach at the critical moment, to ensure that a fish is a caught fish and not the “one that ran away right in front of me” fish.
At Vail Valley Anglers fly shop we carry some of the best nets on the market, nets from companies like Fishpond, Brodin and Rising. Landing nets have become a niche market when it comes to fly fishing. Fly anglers look for features such as durability, lightness and functionality. Sifting through the pros and cons of each style of landing net is the way to discern the best net for you.
Brodin is a classic fly fishing company that makes beautifully constructed wooden nets. The Brodin Catch and Release hand net that I have had since 2000 has served me well. The wood is worn and needs an occasional touch up but this just rejuvenates the color of the wood. Be careful, the wood can break.
Fishpond manufactures a beautiful line of nets with stylish fly fishing patterns and trout skin patterns. From short handles to long handles, the Fishpond range of nets are lightweight, have fish-friendly rubber baskets and they float. The floating aspect of their landing nets has prevented the loss of more than one misplaced landing net. The El Jefe model that all Vail Valley Anglers guides use doubles wonderfully as a wading pole. The long handle can be fitted with a durable rubber cover that protects the net for this very paddling use.
Rising Nets is at the top of the game when it comes to quality. My Lunker net from Rising is a perfect long handled paddling net. The length is manageable for paddling as well as boat use. However, when reaching the high gunwales of some drift boats, the Lunker can be a bit overkill. Cleverly, Rising machines a 14-inch handle extension that tightens as securely as the main shaft.
Rising also takes online gaming into new realms. Custom engraving is easily arranged to give your net permanent labelling. My orange Lunker net was engraved with my name and cell phone number. Hopefully, if lost, the extra attention will bring it back to me. Rising even engraved my name on the blue handle extension which could be misplaced much easier.
Another interesting feature of the Rising nets is the waterproof handle. Sealed with a rubber gasket inside the threaded cap, the interior can keep bandages or gauze dry, hold relief flies or a party drink when filled with your favorite libation. The handle of a Rising net is a surprisingly functional flask.
A few words of warning about proper landing net use will protect fish and prolong the life of your landing net. Rubber is the preferred material for mesh baskets. It will need to be replaced periodically. However, I saw a warm net, lying in the sun on a raft, being used to catch a trout that a fly fisherman accidentally lifted from the water. The dry, hot basket kicked up a significant amount of mud from the trout. Dip any fillet in water before touching a trout. Wet the fillet.
When it comes to landing nets, a landing net is compact and easy to carry, but its landing capability is limited. Wading nets provide extended reach with a larger bucket but can be cumbersome when walking. And boat nets are used for long reaches from a raft, in deep water or over a thin ice shelf. Whatever landing net you choose, pick one that will help you close the deal.