Success in fly fishing doesn’t require a landing net, but a good quality net will help ensure the safe, injury-free handling of fish being released after the catch.
Selecting the right net means meshing your fishing style with your personal sense of style. Your net needs when fishing a high wilderness lake are very different than when fishing small streams, which in turn differ dramatically from big river fishing too.
All good nets, though, have a few things in common. First, the net bag should be rubber rather than knotted cord. Cords — nylon, polyester, or cotton — can injure fish by scraping off scales, catching on gills, or cutting into flesh. Molded or extruded rubber cradles fish without damage, though it can be a bit heavier when compared to knotted nets. To reduce the chance of spooking fish as you draw them to the net, look for a clear or light-colored rubber net bag.
The size of the net hoop must also be considered. At a minimum, it should be slightly larger than the biggest fish you might catch in your chosen water. And that leads to the specific needs of various waters and fishing conditions.
General Wadeable Trout Streams
For most wadeable trout waters, a small to medium-sized hand net is preferred. A loop of 13- to 16-inchs is ideal. Hoops that size can support net bags big enough to safely cradle trout of 20 inches. Classic wooden frames are still popular but aluminum frames can be lighter and more durable.
One of our favorite nets in this class is Measure Net’s Medium Rubber Net. Why? Because, as much as some men deny it, size does matter. The bigger the fish, the greater the satisfaction. Of course, part of the joy of landing a whopper is being able to brag about it. Measure Net uses tubular aluminum frames to hold a black rubber net and the bottom of the net is printed with a ruler — at the center of the net is zero, and inches are counted away in each direction. To measure your catch, just note the numbers at nose and tail and add them.
The Medium Rubber net features a 16-inch hoop and 24-inch measurement scale in the net bag. For smaller streams, the Small Rubber Net works well with its 13-inch hoop and 20-inch scale. Measure Net offers larger nets as well, up to the 23-inch hoop Guide Net (67-inch total length with adjustable handle extended). The Medium Rubber runs $36 — $32 for the Small.
Larger Wadeable and Floatable Streams and Rivers
Many western rivers hold trout of impressive size and weight. They also feature strong currents and tough wading conditions. A small hand net might work for some situations, but for the safety of the fish —and the angler —a larger net with a longer handle is recommended in these rivers. Typically, a hoop length of at least 18 inches, and a handle at least 12 inches long is desired. That means a net of 30-plus total inches, which gives anglers enough added reach to their fish that they won’t have to bend and twist too much while in sketchy water conditions.
The Nomad Emerger Net from Fishpond meets these requires nearly to a ‘T’. The Emerger features a long, narrow hoop measuring 18.5 x 9.8 inches, supporting a clear rubber net bag 12-inches deep. That’s big enough to cradle a massive brown trout or even a small steelhead. It can be carried tucked through a wading belt, or suspended from the back of a fishing vest. It’s also large enough to work as a boat net in small rafts and personal watercraft. The Nomad line of nets employ a blend of carbon fiber and fiberglass to create an incredibly strong yet lightweight frame. That material also floats, so retrieving a dropped net is easy. $150.
Remote Mountain Lakes and Streams
When hiking into remote fishing locales, weight is an important consideration. Many hiking anglers forego nets altogether to save weight on the trail, but nets can be critical aids in safely landing fish in some mountain lakes and rivers. Since these waters typically are exceptionally cold, with short ‘growing’ seasons, the fish grow exceptionally large. A 15-inch trout in a high mountain lake is a monster. Therefore, the size recommendations here would be the same as for small trout streams (above), but an eye towards minimize the net weight.
The Tenkara Rod Company Landing Net has earned our respect as the ultimate pack net. The Landing Net frame uses the same carbon fiber found in the company’s fishing rods. That material is strong, but incredibly lightweight. The 16- x 8-inch hoop supports a clear rubber net bag (10 inches deep). A short 8-inch handle allows for a good grip without excessive weight on an overly long shaft. The net weighs a mere 12 ounces, but will support several pounds of trout if necessary. $99.