Picking the Perfect Fishing Net
Fly Fishing expert Auggie Lange deep dives into how to ensure that your fishing net is your fishing partner - and always has your back.
The Importance of a Net & Why I Never Fish Without One
For the past two summers, I have lived in Jackson Hole, WY chasing trout both big and small. If there is one thing I have learned, you never know when you will get that next bite, and sometimes it does get lonely out there.
One thing is for sure, my fishing net is my fishing partner, it always has my back. When my fly finally connects to the mouth of a trout there is still a level of uncertainty as to whether I will catch the fish. Will my line snap? Will the fish shake the hook loose?
That uncertainty makes it fun, but the most exciting part for me is when I finally scoop that fish into my net and the fight is over. This is truly when you feel the full satisfaction of a catch. If fish could talk I am sure they too would explain that nets are a must-have on the water. When you net a fish:
- The fish remains in the water longer
- It limits the handling of the fish
- It makes taking photos a million times safer and easier on the fish
These three points lead to a more successful catch-and-release. Using a net minimizes your chances of hurting the fish while you are handling it, and one of the top priorities of any fly fisherman should be to treat all fish with as much respect as possible.
Figuring Out which Net is Right for You
In my opinion, using a net on all fish is important for their well-being and helps you remain an ethical fisherman. Certain freshwater fish are very hearty and require less skill to handle; however, when fishing for trout, you don’t have the same luxury. Living in the mountains their entire life is not easy, but nevertheless, they find a way. Trout are delicate, and not very resilient to environmental changes or mishandling. Using a landing net allows you to safely capture the fish while it still has energy, which leads to a more successful release.
When picking out the right net, it is important to know what species you will be “netting.” This will determine the size and shape of your net. For trout, I own a Fishpond Nomad Native Net. Fishpond’s Nomad Series are specifically designed to safely land trout. Their nets vary in length and backet shape for every situation of trout fishing. They are the most popular landing nets among fly fishermen for a reason, they:
- work well netting fish large and small,
- feel great in your hand,
- are extremely durable,
- float like a cork,
- are easily gripped, even when wet,
- use a silicon rubber net bag that doesn't harm the fish
Like I said, I personally own a Fishpond Nomad Native net and I could not be more satisfied. This leads me to the next question in choosing a net.
Is Bigger Better?
One of the reasons I am so pleased with my Nomad Native Net is because of its size. You might think I like it because it is big enough to net large fish. Trust me, it does that, but I actually like it more for its design, simply because it feels small and lightweight for its size. I rarely notice the net when it is dangling by my side. No matter how far I walk or how long I fish, I rarely know that it is there until I grab for it and quickly pull it from its magnetic release to scoop a fish. It has clear rubber mesh instead of black nylon, so the fish look stunning in all the photos and my flies never get snagged. A huge factor is its length, long enough to reach out and get a fish but short enough to never skip off the ground or trip me up with it by my side. That is why the Nomad Native Net is one of my all-time favorites for wading by myself.
One thing I have learned over the past summer is that on rare occasions, my Nomad Native is just not enough. This is where things are going to get a little personal. When I am fishing with other people, a net on the smaller end of the spectrum turns into a problem.
When I was wade fishing with my uncle in an absolutely beautiful Wyoming river, I hooked a nice fish early and he netted it for me. Then, a few hours later I hooked into an absolutely huge cutthroat that would not budge. After about ten minutes of fighting, my uncle waded out and stuck his little net into the water. He couldn’t get it under the big fish in time and the fish gave an aggressive kick and the line snapped. The fish was gone and the day was over. Nothing hurts more than watching yourself lose a huge fish over and over again on GoPro footage.
There are a couple of things that led to the fish snapping off, but the bottom line is that with a longer and bigger net, you have more room for error. That is why sometimes going bigger is better. If you know you are headed into fast water with big fish, go for the Nomad Mid-Length or even the longer Guide Net. The Mid-Length line is the perfect inbetween size to handle bigger fish, without being too bulky to carry, and perfect for using on a kayak, boat, or other watercraft.
After that incident with my uncle I knew that I needed an upgrade. That’s when I found that the Nomad Mid-Length Net was exactly the size I needed. But, in true college 20-year-old fashion, I decided to make my own. I was working for a furniture builder at the time and he taught me everything I needed to know. After about ten hours of work, I had handcrafted a hardwood net with a larger basket. It is my pride and joy (was not cost effective, should have just bought the Fishpond). It is very similar in dimensions to a Nomad Mid-Length Net and it is the perfect size for a strong two handed scoop, but light enough to still wield with one hand. It can also work well as a boat net. I used it in Colorado to net my girlfriend's first rainbow trout from my kayak. It was a beautiful fish that I netted with ease.
When fishing with a friend, this net has come in handy countless times. During an exceptionally great evening, I was even able to net my fish and then turn right around and net my buddy’s fish. We had two fish in the net at the same time. With a step up from this size, such as the Nomad Guide Net, you can target even larger species. But with length comes more materials, and practically speaking, the other obvious difference between the Native, Mid-Length, and Guide Nets is the price.
Pick the Net that Fits Your Budget
Nets are what we economists would call a necessity good (my degree is in analytical economics). This means that you need the net to fly fish. The average fly fisherman can’t afford a high-end $599 handmade walnut burl-handled net. But fly fishing isn’t a cheap hobby.
If you are going to spend a week or more each summer fishing, then your best choice is to go with Fishpond's Nomad Nets. I can personally tell you they are the best fly fishing nets for landing fish, they are light as a feather, and tough as nails. Their frames are made from carbon fiber and fiberglass composite, which will last forever and look stunning. They are between $100-$200 and, to me, the quality is worth the price. They come in varying hoop sizes, but for the beginner, the Nomad Native Net is perfect. If you are looking to upgrade to a larger net, then the Nomad Mid-Length is a great compromise between a long and short handle.
If you are still on the fence about it, don’t worry, all fly anglers have been in your shoes at some point. There are plenty of more economical choices that will work perfectly well as trout nets. Adamsbuilt or Frabill offer a few options built for fly fishing on a budget. If you are just starting out, and a Nomad is not in the cards, then these nets will get the job done. As you can tell, I myself have dabbled with different nets, and the Adamsbuilt is my pick for beginners on a budget.
Last Funny Story about Why a Good Net is Priceless in your Time of Need
The year was 2020. Long story short, I hooked the biggest trout of my life (the one that I lost with my uncle may have topped this one). The monster trout was dragging me up and down the river until finally the big brown started to tire. The net that I had was another homemade job, an old tennis racket that refashioned into a fishing net. The fish was so large that I had to start the net at its tail and work my way up to its head. I used the last of my energy to swing the net up the length of the fish, and halfway up its long body, it gave two tail kicks and was out of the net. It swam ten yards away unphased but still hooked. After three more attempts, I finally got it all the way into the net and secured the biggest brown I have ever seen with my own two eyes. I was lucky. Normally with a fish that big you only get one chance to seal the catch.
I took some photos and wanted to get a video of my release, and that is when the fish kicked out of my light grip and swam away and out of my life. I tried to land it again, but my tiny net was useless. That moment proved I needed a bigger net. That’s when I began to focus on Fishpond's Nomad Guide and Mid-Length Nets, because for the one fish that is the fish of a lifetime, the right net is priceless.
P.S. And when you do get a net, make sure you have a lanyard or a magnetic net release, because that makes it much easier to carry your net and catch your dream fish. Whether you have a sling pack or a vest, a magnetic release is a life saver.
P.P.S. If you have any questions about choosing the right net for you, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or a fellow Fly Fishing expert on Curated.