It’s every angler’s goal: catching a fish so big you need to use a net to make sure it doesn’t get away.
But landing nets aren’t just for lunkers. A good case can be made that every fish should be netted – to ensure a successful catch, and for the well-being of the fish itself.
A caught fish struggles most violently just as it is being brought to hand. This is, after all, the moment when the fish realizes a very large, wader-clad creature is about to pluck it out of the water. Fighting for its life, or so it believes, the wriggling, flipping fish may well get off the hook, and there goes your photos or fillets.
Losing a fish is bad enough; abusing one is even worse. A hooked fish in the final moments of capture tends to thrash violently against mid-stream or shoreline rocks or the boat deck. If you’re planning to release your fish – and most fly-fishers do, most of the time – an out-of-control fish often experiences serious and unnecessary injury.
A landing net solves both problems. Scoop up the fish as you’re pulling it in, and the worst it can do is twist and turn harmlessly inside the soft fabric of the net bag. Once its initial panic subsides after a few moments, you can reach in (wet your hand first to avoid damaging the trout’s protective slime), left out the fish, take its picture, unhook it and send it on its way.