A fly fishing net, also known as a landing net, is an essential item on all fly fishing excursions for anyone who enjoys the sport. You need a net because it helps you scoop the fish out of the water before it can free itself from the hook and get away.
Fish get really active as they come near the boat or shore and are close to the surface of the water. They realize something is tragically wrong and they often put up a big struggle right before you're able to lift them out of the water.
A fishing net helps you contain the fish until you can grab it, or even pull the fish up out of the water as you take control of it onshore or in the boat.
Landing nets are essential when fly fishing for any kind of fish because there are some you will have to return to the water if they are not the proper size. Nets help to decrease the stress in the area where the fish is hooked. Nets with special rubber coatings can help further in this regard as they reduce the abrasion that is possible with typical nylon cord nets.
The whole idea of using a net is that you can reduce injuries to the fish you are going to release, and ensure you can land fish that you are going to harvest.
In this guide, we highlight some of the tips that will help you with how to carry a fly fishing net conveniently to make the most out of it.
How to Carry a Fly Fishing Net Correctly
If you've ever wade fished or fly fished in a stream, small river, or at a lake you know already that carrying all the gear you need is difficult and can be a bit of a stressor because you don't know where to put everything comfortably.
You can wear a fishing vest, that helps. You can also get and customize a dedicated fly fishing lanyard to hold some of your most often-used tools. That helps a lot too. But for items like your fishing net, which can be the biggest tool on your person as you fish, where do you put something so big as you carry it out to your fishing spot?
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It isn't just that it's big. It's lightweight enough, thankfully, but it's bulky and the net part can grab onto branches and thorns as you walk down a trail to your fishing spot. I've had this happen often. Once it does snag on something, your first instinct is to rip against it to free the net of the snag. Well, that's my first instinct anyway!
This can further complicate things because if your net has fine line mesh, it can rip a hole in it easily. Game over, and you haven't even started fishing yet!
I first tried to carry my fishing net by looping the big lanyard around my neck and hanging it off the front of me. That works until you snag it on something while walking through the brush. Also if you are fly fishing and have some flies attached to wool or foam on the front of your fishing vest or fly fishing lanyard, the first thing you're going to do is get some of those hooks embedded in the net. I can almost guarantee it!
We've been looking at this problem for a couple of days and we've come up with some good ways you can use to carry your fly fishing net in comfort while walking around or wading through water while fishing.
Finding a suitable carrying solution will make it a lot easier to get where you're going without snags and easier to retrieve a fish when you get it in close. Most of the options presented below will work with whatever you're wearing like slings, vests, backpacks, and waist packs.
You should know that the carrying options for a fly fishing net fall into three categories: holsters, magnets, and retractors. I also have to add my no-brainer option that some of you might use. I'll tell you about it at the end in the Takeaways section.
1. Using a Net Magnet
Many fly fishing anglers these days carry their fishing gear in conventional sling-style packs or on fishing vests and lanyards. While these methods are ideal for transporting fly boxes, forceps, GoPros, split shots, leaders, and tippets, they are not so great for accommodating fishing nets. The nets are just too bulky and get in the way often.
Net magnets solve this problem by allowing you to carry your landing net with ease in a way that doesn't interfere with your fishing.
The way the net magnets attach the net for you is by using the ring that's available on the back of most fishing vests. The ring is usually cloth but occasionally will have a secure metal ring through it as well. Either one works well.
One important advantage of using net magnets with the rear loop on your fishing vest is that they do not get in your way when casting your line.
Crazy Shark Magnetic Net and SF Magnetic Net are two examples of popular net magnet brands you can find for sale. Both models work in a similar way. They require you to attach the rim of your net (the part that holds your mesh net) to a magnetic clip so the net handle is left dangling behind you. The dangling handle allows easy access to quickly grab the landing net once the fish gets close enough.
Net magnets can handle regular-sized nets in length and width. All of them should easily fit on your back. They also almost always come with a type of lanyard to prevent the landing net from drifting away which you can connect to your belt buckle, the strap of your pack, or something else. Just in case you drop it, you don't want it to be carried downstream in a hurry!
Nonetheless, net magnets are not without a couple of drawbacks. The first disadvantage of net magnets is that they can make it a real challenge when you're trying to connect the rim magnet to the magnet on the back loop of your vest! You'll get it down eventually and it will become second nature, but at first, it's a learning experience especially if you're not flexible.
The second problem is that the magnets can release quickly if the net snags on something in the water or as you're ducking under some branches or something. As long as you're aware of it and keep the lanyard on the handle clipped to something with a carabiner, you'll be fine.
Also, sling-style packs have various locations to secure a net magnet but since they are worn on the front or side, the net can interfere with your casting and other fishing habits as well as get snagged on something rather easily.
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2. Net Retractors
Just like retractors you can attach to your fly fishing lanyards, you can attach a much stronger one to your fishing vest, waist pack, belt loop, or something else.
Sling-style packs also usually have rings where you can easily place your net retractor to hold your fishing net. The benefit of a retractor is that the net is worn on the front of the body and easily reached while fishing.
Another advantage of the retractors is that they instantly pull your net back up after you pull the fish out of the net. Net retractors have a strong spring that pulls the line back up into the unit, holding the net to the device and up and out of your way.
The Hammerhead Industries Gear Keeper is a reliable net retractor that has many high ratings from buyers because of some key features.
- Quick Connect – The model has a quick connect feature so you can connect and disconnect your net quickly and painlessly.
- Versatile Hook Strap Mount – It has a versatile hook strap mount that you can easily attach to a strap, sling-style pack, D-ring, wader strap, bar, or belt.
- Strong Retraction – The gadget’s 12-ounce retraction force allows it to retract gently every time.
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3. Net Holsters
Buying a net with a net holster can be the way to go if you're looking for a simple solution. Holsters come with customized net holders that fit the net exactly. Net holders fall into two distinct categories, aftermarket holsters and packs you can put almost any net into.
You can purchase holsters separately or with a net. Packs will have integrated holsters as part of the package.
You can attach an aftermarket holster to a wading belt, belt in your pants, waist pack, or sometimes directly to your fishing vest.
Net holsters made of leather or tough nylon can be durable, but rather heavy. Especially when you are in salt water you don't want to be using anything leather in the water.
One advantage of using net holsters is that you can strap on multiple landing nets if you need to. Of course, one other advantage is that your net is held securely and won't drift with the current if you drop it.
The Smith Creek net holster is a highly rated net holster you can find for sale at the given link. The Smith Creek Net Holster is very popular among fly fishing anglers due to the following.
- Easy Storage – The holster allows you to transport your fly fishing net in a manner that does not interfere with your fishing activities.
- Easy Access – This model enables you to draw your landing net quickly and easily.
- Secure – The gadget secures your landing net, preventing it from getting entangled in branches or other obstacles.
- Custom Adjustment – This model has an adjustable strap that accommodates all types of fly fishing nets, regardless of size.
Attempting to carry your fly fishing net without a solid setup is going to make for a less-than-ideal day on the water and fly fishing experience. Spend a few dollars on one of the easy solutions outlined above, or do as I do.
With a long lanyard on my net, I put it around my neck and swing the net backward onto my back. Presto, instant access! No, it isn't very comfortable at times, so you should probably use one of these other products!
Of the three tools reviewed above, the one we recommend most strongly is the magnetitic clip or net magnet. It's secure, out of the way, and easy to use. It's best to have your net on your back while moving down a path or in the water as it puts it completely out of the way.
So now you know a few different ways you can carry a fly fishing net like a pro. Let us know which one you use, or if you come across something else that you choose to use instead, we'd love to know!
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