Landing nets – 12 tips on buying and using one

River angler deploys landing net
Pic courtesy of Herry Lawford
  • You like to think that old-school knotted nylon fishing nets, like racists, are gradually dying out but until they’re all gone, examine one carefully if it’s offered to you after years in the attic and “It used to be your granddad’s…”. Those knots do damage when they rub against fish and they can be prize tangle territory once your hooks get in the vicinity. Go for a net with modern, rubber mesh.
  • On the subject of modern materials; we should pause here to give thanks that we live in the times we do. This is from Tom Iven’s 1973 book, Still Water Fly-Fishing: “I now mesh my own nets using 40lb breaking strain twisted Terylene which has been immersed on its spool in boiled linseed oil and varnish and allowed to dry”. Good grief…
  • The net should be big enough to handle the largest fish that you could potentially catch on the water you’re fishing. I was once with an angler at big-fish venue Dever Springs when a visitor turned up with a river fishing net. “Good luck with that,” my colleague muttered…
  • Where a big net is called for, you must assess how cumbersome it will be to carry with or on you for any length of time. Is it foldable, in other words (but in a way that doesn’t compromise the strength of the handle)?
  • Shore- and boat-fishing nets are rarely interchangeable. A boat net requires a long handle, so that fish can be netted away from the boat, which would otherwise spook them at close-quarters. Given that accidents happen, a boat net that floats is also a plus.
  • Some landing nets have a built-in weighing scale, for minimal fish handling and a rather better look than the Boga Grip
  • Just as a soccer team is never more vulnerable than when it’s just scored, according to cliche, so you are never more vulnerable to an escape attempt than when the net is close enough for the fish to see it. Try and minimise the state of alarm by crouching as low as possible as you wait to net your catch.
  • To hide the net, net a fish in water deep enough to keep your net below the fish and therefore unseen.
  • “No attempt should be made to net a good fish till it has turned on its side, and ceased to struggle or splash, and till the net is right under it. The best way is to draw the fish over the net, not to push the net under the fish. In practice, there is often a combination of both these movements…” – from Fly Fishing.
  • Bring the fish in head first, never tail first. If it feels the net frame, the trout will dive in a last bid to escape: you want it diving into the net, not away from the net, as will happen with a tail-first approach.
  • When the fish is within range, lift the rod tip so that the fish’s head is pointing upwards, ideally just out of the water. At that moment, it has no leverage and is ripe for netting.
  • If a netted fish feels powerful enough to be capable of one last vertical leap as you raise the net, tip the frame sideways so that there is mesh directly above the fish. Only do this if your net is deep, mind.

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