The short answer is yes, use a landing net. But if you aren’t convinced, here are a few reasons why adding a landing net to your gear arsenal is one of the smartest, most responsible things you can do as an angler.
With a Net, You’ll Avoid Last-Second Break-Offs
When you try to land a fish by hand without a net, disaster often strikes at the very last moment. You grab the leader then the fish thrashes, throws the hook, or snaps the tippet.
But with a net, as soon as you get the fish in close, you can seal the deal with a quick scoop. Game over. You win.
Nets Offer Increased Line Control to Keep Stray Hooks at Bay
When fishing with two or three fly rigs, it’s easy to lose track of all those extra hooks when landing a fish by hand. If you aren’t careful, they’ll end up embedded somewhere painful like your arms, hands, or fingers, but lips and cheeks aren’t out of the question.
Even worse, a feisty fish might end up with the extra hooks impaled into its body, gill plates, or eyes. You don’t want that blood on your hands.
These hook-induced injuries are easy to avoid by using a net. With the fish secure in the net, you can focus on keeping your elaborate rigs contained and away from fleshy areas.
Using a Rubber Net is the Best Way to Minimize Stress and Injury to Fish
Fish are naturally covered in a layer of slime that protects them from parasites, bacteria, and fungus among other harmful things. When you touch a fish, especially with dry hands, that slime rubs off and takes a long time to regenerate, leaving the fish vulnerable to disease.
As a responsible catch-and-release angler, it’s important to touch the fish as little as possible. And the easiest way to do this is with a net a I’ve fallen in LOVE with is the Fishpond Nomad Mid Length. (Amazon link to check reviews and prices) The long handle helps when reaching out to net a fish when fishing by myself, plus it works perfectly with my sling pack.
To read about my Sling Pack and Net setup go to this article – Selecting a Sling Pack for Fly Fishing.
Old-style nylon net bags are very abrasive and scrape slime off a fish just as bad as a bare hand. But rubber nets do very little, if any, damage to the fish. Plus, hooks don’t get snagged in rubber like they do nylon.
If you do need to grip the fish to remove the hook, you can grab the fish from the outside of the bag, using the rubber netting as a buffer between your hand and the fish.
Beyond protecting a fish’s slime, using a landing net also makes it easier to give the fish plenty of time to recover before release. Simply let the fish hang out in the net until it’s strong enough to swim away on its own.
We’re in the Golden Age of Fly Fishing Landing Nets
Fishing nets continue to get lighter, more durable, and more fish-friendly. They’re no longer a burden to carry and only make life easier for you and the fish. If you’re ready to get with the program, click here to learn about the best fly fishing net currently on the market, then check out our post on the best way to carry the thing!
Recommended Landing Net for Fly Fishing
If I had to guess how many nets I have, 28 would be the number. I know that number seems unrealistic, but I have a bunch of nets. I will say that only two of them get used 95% of the time.
The first is the Fishpond Nomad Mid Length (Amazon link to check current prices).
The other net I use is a really cheap wood frame net with a deep net bag. I actually sawed the net handle down so it would fit in my air travel carry on bag.
Other Reference Articles
If you have a debate going on about if you should take a net fly fishing, read about why I think you should in this article. – Take a Net Fly Fishing?
Looking to read a little more about landing nets for fly fishing? Read this article – The Best Landing Net for Fly Fishing.