Fly fishers should always be concerned with doing what is best for our favourite quarry “the fish”. As a professional guide for over 30 years now I have uncovered some undeniable truths while wading or floating over my favourite fishing haunts –having a net while angling is one of them.
It is a fact that with a net you will be landing your fish a good 20% to 50% faster than bringing a fish to hand in any other way. This means a less stressed fish! A fish was created to breathe water not air. A fish landed by dragging him up onto the shore is inhumane. Not alone are you forcing shoreline silt into their delicate gills but you are scraping off protective slime coating. The grass and rocks of the river bank damage this coating and all fish without it - will die!
Even a net not properly prepared can be devastating to fish slime. All nets should be adequately pre-wetted before receiving a fish. Mesh nets are more crucial for pre-wetting than rubber.
As the guide, one of the greatest deeds I can be part of in my day on the water is “netting of the fish”. Witnessing first-hand countless times over the years the clients reaction to a “fish in the net” is all the proof I need. Keeping a “fish in the net” under the surface allows composure time for the perfect grip n grin photo. Wooden handled nets work best because they float while the net bag sags below the surface creating a resting chamber for an already reviving fish.
To me a perfect photo shows the water dripping off the fish. This means the fish has been only out of the water for a very short period of time!
A prepared angler needs to have their net available and close at hand. A net must be easily deployed and replaced one-handed. Remember you are fighting a fish your other hand is busy - two hands are not an option! So a net with a squeezing type metal clasp and the end of the handle is useless, as are poorly thought out or positioned net holding loops on bags or vests. You also need to consider that nets can be heavy, especially when wet and it is very difficult to find a strong enough string/cord retractor capable of handling this weight.
My favourite solution to the issue of keeping the net handy and easy to deploy is a Magnetic Net Release. Just make sure the magnet is strong enough and has an easy time resetting itself in the proper position
These holder's retainer cord should be long enough to reach the fish while still connected to the vest net loop. If fishing with a friend or being a guide this cord should be easily disconnected from your vest to allow you to leave client/friend with net and fish while you back up for proper photo taking.
Some magnet releases and retainer cords are poorly designed. They only allow you to attach to the net handle. Therefore, when net is attached to vest the net loop hangs down by your butt. This is not ideal when wading in deeper waters where your net bag is submerged and causing extra wading difficulty. Having the widest part of a net by your butt is also dangerous while walking trails to your favourite fishing spots. I know my net likes to catch every available branch and remember if you don’t stop quick enough you might find yourself at the wrong end of an outstretched elastic retainer cord. To solve this make sure your net magnet package has an option to attach to the hoop. It is usually a strap that fits between the mesh and the rim of the net hoop.
A net that is easy to use and not in the way will never disappoint you and more importantly will always return a fish in better shape for future enjoyment for you and others. Let’s keep working together to find even more ways to preserve and enhance our waters for future generations to enjoy.
I know a place where we can go… Your Fly fishing Guide/instructor Ken