When you make a living landing fish, a quality landing net is important, and this past season at Alaska West we had the privilege of trying out one of the more unique net designs we’ve seen – A net currently being produced by a fresh new company called GoDolly landing nets.
Not all nets are created equal. A quality landing net is a guide’s most important tool, and when it comes to trout, we’re really particular about the nets we use.
We recently outfitted our guide staff with measure nets for our trout population and we can honestly say they’re one of the better landing nets we’ve used. We went with the ‘Guide’ model (go figure), which seemed just about the right size for our leopard rainbows and the occasional rogue salmon who decides to eat a trout fly. They’re far more than just the right size however.. We like them for a whole bunch of other reasons and today we’re going to tell you why.
What is a Measure Net?
Just as the name implies, measure nets are landing nets that allow fish to be measured without ever being taken out of the bag (or the water for that matter). We picked up the largest model (referred to as the Guide model) but they are available in a whole bunch of sizes and shapes all the way down to the tiniest single hand solo net.
The measure function is brilliantly simple and makes easy work of getting a quick but accurate length of your fish while still in the water. That means trout that are less exposed to air, handled less, and back on their way as quickly as possible and that’s a really, really good thing.
On the net bag itself, the middle of the measuring ‘strip’ actually starts at zero and measures on either side from the middle-outward (see photo bel0w). This allows the fish to be measured regardless of where it is laying on the measuring tape. Simply add the number at the fish’s nose to the number at the fish’s tail to get an accurate measurement of the fish. It just couldn’t be easier.
The well being of our fish is our top priority when it comes to choosing a landing net and one of our favorite things about the Guide model is that the rubberized net bag itself is extremely fish friendly. Rubberized nets have been proven to be far easier on fish, greatly reducing the risk of removing the protective layer of slime that protects the fish from infection. Plus, not only is the bag rubberized, its also made up of a tightly woven mesh which keeps pectoral fins, tails, and the like from getting beat up while rolling around in the net (as can be the case with larger mesh sizes).
One of the biggest drawbacks behind many of the rubber bagged landing nets available today is that they’re often extremely heavy. They also tend to tote a lot of surface area creating an immense amount of drag in the water. That might not seem like a big deal, but that can make the difference between landing that special fish or watching him come unbuttoned at your feet.
However, that couldn’t be further from the case with the measure net. We’re not sure how exactly, but the bag on the Guide model is surprisingly light and although it has a very small mesh, it cuts through the water really well. That makes for a quicker, more accurate ‘stab’ which anyone who has netted their share of fish will surely appreciate.
The Guide model also has an adjustable handle, adjusting from 56 to 68 inches which we really appreciate when we need that extra little reach from the boat.
We appreciate the aesthetics of a wooden handled net built by hand from exotic hard woods as much as the next guy, but in our line of work they just don’t last. No net will ever last forever of course, but we like that the Guide model is built to take some abuse. Plus, should you ever need to replace the bag itself, simply unzip the old bag, and zip a new one onto the frame! No weaving or tying in a new bag involved. It really couldn’t be any simpler.
For the traveling angler, the handle can also be quickly disconnected from the frame for easy transport in the boat, the truck, or the suitcase.
We’re really happy about the Measure Net and aside from keeping us honest, we think it does a lot for the well being for our trout as well. If you’re in the market for a new trout net, we can’t recommend them enough. Or, if you have a favorite net frame that’s in need for a new bag, you can even pick up the appropriate measure net bag for your own frame too!
For more information, be sure to stop by your local fly shop, or check out all the available shapes and sizes on the Measure Net website by clicking right here.
More on Landing Fish
As they say – Behind every great angler is a great net man.. Okay, maybe no one says that, but they should!
Landing big fish takes team work. Any body who has attempted to put the mesh on a hot fish in heavy current knows that there’s just as much skill required of the net man as there is of the guy doing the fighting.
However, as the angler, there’s a lot you can do to make the net man’s job a heck of a lot easier. Whether you’re fishing with a guide or another buddy, the following tips will help them out, and ultimately help you land more fish.
Help Out Your Net Man – 6 Tips
- Communicate. While fighting your fish, let the guy who’s going to be netting your fish know exactly what you’re going to do ahead of time. “I’m switching sides,” or “I’m going to get his head up..” Communication is key and many big fish are lost when the angler and the net man aren’t on the same page.
- Find Soft Water. When attempting the land big fish (we’re talking big king salmon, steelhead, and the like), maneuvering a net big enough to handle such species is extremely difficult in fast currents. The faster the water, the more difficult it is to be accurate with a large net during what could be a very quick window of opportunity. So, after hooking your fish, make your first priority finding good soft water to fight and land your fish from.
- Get the Fish Upstream. As the fight is winding down, work to get your fish slightly upstream of your net man. This puts the fish in good position to roll his head up and over towards the net (more on this bel0w). Attempting to land a fish that is downstream of the net man puts both the weight of the fish AND the strength of the current directly on the leader, which often doesn’t work out well. Plus from a downstream position, the fish is able to watch the net approach them, which they generally don’t seem to like.
- Big, Slow Lift. Now that you have coaxed the fish just upstream of the net man, the next step is to reel down until you have enough control to make a big slow lift of the rod, starting from the upstream side over to the downstream side. The goal of this is to lift their head up towards the surface of the water and then directly downstream where the net man will be waiting to make his shot. Remember, fish can only swim one direction, and up isn’t a direction that gives them much to work with, thus allowing the net man to make his move.
- Steer the Fish Towards the Net. While the fish’s head is being positioned up and over to the downstream side, this is the point when the net man will most likely try to make shot. Therefore as the fish’s head begins to point downstream, use your rod to keep pressure on the fish and ‘steer’ his head towards the net. A good net man will always net the head of the fish whenever possible, so give him a good look at it!
- Commit. When landing really, really big fish, often times there is only a split second for the net man to make his move. Therefore, its really important to be predictable for the net man to make his best decision when to strike. Once you start your lift, try to commit all the way through until he’s in the net. Otherwise, you might be pulling away, while they’re going in, risking a break off. Did we mention that communication was important?
More on Landing Big Fish
The ability to ‘tail’ a fish, that is, the ability to land fish safely and effectively without a net is a skill every angler should posses. After all, we’ve all been on a trip where the net didn’t make it into the back of the pickup. Regardless, the old adage reigns true; if you want to catch the biggest trout of your life, leave the net and camera at home.
Many steelhead and salmon anglers actually prefer to fish without a net. A net worthy of landing large anadramous species, particularly those that are few and far between, can be a bit cumbersome while wading and some would argue that they’re also worse on the fish.
Regardless of what you fish for, tailing fish is a worth while skill and the following tips will help you land more fish, safely release more fish, and protect your gear in the process.
- The Honorable Foot. The old days of ‘beaching’ fish are gone. If keeping fish is your prerogative, then playing fish into inches of water is surely a quick and effective method of landing them. However, if your goal is to release fish, beaching fish is a sure-fire way to increase the chance of mortality upon release. So, if you plan on releasing your fish, please please please land it in at least a foot of water. We call this the Honorable Foot, and it’s a pretty solid rule to fish by.
- Get the Fish Upstream. A common mistake made when tailing fish is grabbing at the leader with the fish directly below the angler. Doing so allows the current to put maximum strain on the leader and fly usually ending in an unexpected head shake causing the fly to slip, the hook to bend out, or the leader the break. Instead, try not to grab the leader until you have coaxed the fish to a position directly in front or upstream of you. This results in less strain on the leader and a better angle between your leader and fly as you make your approach.
- Let it Slip. Whether fishing a single hand or two handed rod, any 9 to 15 foot rod doesn’t make grabbing the leader particularly easy on a big fish. However, the easiest method for getting a hold of the leader before tailing a fish is as follows. Once you have tired out (not exhausted) your fish and have brought it to within a rod’s length away from you, pinch your line against the cork with your rod hand and use your line hand to strip excess line off the reel. Once you are comfortable with your position of the fish, raise your rod high and slightly behind you while allowing the excess line to slip through the guides. This will cause the line to fall close in front of you, allowing you to grab the fly line. Then simply hand over hand the line as you approach to tail your quarry. Many steelhead anglers utilize the minimal drag of classic click-pawl reels to create a similar effect by allowing the reel to ‘free-spool’ in order to grab the line as well.
- Keep Your Leader Out of the Guides. A simple but common mistake made when performing the tip above is reeling past the leader-fly line connection. Be cautious that the loop to loop or nail knot between your leader and fly line is not in the guides when performing ‘the slip,’ as the subtle catch of the the connection in the guides could cause just enough force for a break off.
- Make the Grab Count. In attempts to be gentle to a prized fish, some anglers attempt to grab the wrist of the caudal softly. We understand that there are good intentions here, but this usually results in a sudden burst of energy, causing the fish to slip free of the grasp and prolong the fight further. Time is the biggest threat to the well being of a fish, so make your grab count in order to send the fish on its way as quickly as possible. Still having trouble holding on? Consider a landing glove for a quicker, safer, and more effective ‘grip.’
- Lay Your Rod Downstream. Once you have control of the leader and/or the tail of the fish, make sure your rod is pointing downstream. Many many anglers, when caught up in the excitement of a well fought battle, drop their rod in the most convenient direction the moment they get their hands on their fish. However, laying the rod down pointed upstream often causes the fly line to wrap around the rod tip. Should the fish slip free with an unexpected burst of energy, this all too often results in a broken rod tip. Make sure your rod tip is pointed downstream and the current will aid in straightening out the fly line while you tend to your fish, greatly reducing the chance of a broken rod.
More on Landing Fish
Thanks to loyal reader Kevin Kelly for getting in touch with an excellent question. Kevin didn’t recognize the landing nets that he’s seen in a lot of our pictures from Alaska West, so he asked about them, and we put together this post about them.
Got any questions we can answer for you about our fisheries, our operations, or anything else related? Do like Kevin and drop us a line!
Landing Nets at Alaska West
We use Loki Nets. We like them a lot.
For king salmon, we use the Salmon and Steelhead CS-3 with the 36″ depth tangle-less net, a 1.25″ diameter fiberglass handle, 5′ length and an upgraded yolk.
For other salmon and trout, we use the Salmon and Steelhead CS-1 with the full rubber catch and release net, along with a 1.25″ diameter fiberglass handle, 4′ length and the upgraded yolk. It’s a bit large for smaller trout and dollies, but who needs a net for those fish anyways! It’s great for releasing tons of salmon, and larger trout and dollies.
The handles for these two nets are interchangeable so if you have a preference in different fishing situations, you can easily switch them out.
Fiberglass handles and the upgraded yolk are a must – they hold up to all the abuse and massive strain put on them by all the fish we land. Loki has great customer service and all the replacement/upgrade parts in-house. They make nets for almost anything you can think of, and are willing to help you build one-off nets to suit your needs for any species, anywhere.
P. S. If that much thought goes into the nets we use at Alaska West, think how dialed-in our fishing program must be…