Every angler knows how vital a net is. We feel robbed if a fish comes off if we can’t catch a glimpse of it. For many, a fish isn’t caught unless it’s in the landing net. Additionally, a net bag is the safest place for a fish when removing a hook from its mouth. We limit handling the fish. The fish is less likely to injure itself if submerged within the net. And holding a trout in the current inside the net allows it to revive before sending it on its way.
There’s just one problem with nets: how to carry them!
How to Carry a Fly Fishing Net
Many fly fishing outfitters offer net accessories. Many serve as a connection, so you don’t leave it along the riverbank or watch in terror as it washes downstream. Hey, we’ve all been there.
Use a Magnetic Net Release
A magnetic net release is a preferred method of net management for anglers as it is quick and easy to remove the net to net a fish and replace it after use. One side of the net release attaches to the net, the other to the angler’s vest, backpack, or hip pack.
The magnet is strong enough to carry the weight of the net securely but will release if the angler pulls on it. Once the fish is let go, the net attaches back to the magnetic connection on the angler.
Orvis makes a slick magnetic net release.
Use a Magnetic Net Retractor
Magnets are most effective at storing your net in a predetermined spot. That location is usually out of the way when wading but not an ideal place when the fishing is hot. In these cases, I like to have my net at my side. The problem? My net will wash away if I’m knee-deep in a river. Combining a net retractor with your magnetic release is a strong play.
The retractor works on a pulley system or a simple bungee lanyard that attaches your net to you. This ensures your net won’t wash away, and you won’t forget it when you move on.
While a bit clunky, I have found Orvis’s Gear Keeper Net Retractor to be durable.
Use a Holster-Style Net Holder
Another option for carrying a net is a holster-style net holder. Here in the western US, we all fantasize about being Old West gunslingers. Instead of whipping out a six-shooter, though, I strive to be the fastest hand in the West with my Nomad.
Net holsters are funnel-shaped device made of heavy-duty nylon or strong fabric, attached to a wading belt. The net is secured, handle down in the net holster; when the net is needed: DRAW!
With the handle down, some extra motions are involved in having the net ready to scoop up your catch. A net retractor is helpful if you like to leave your net unholstered. Companies like Fishpond, Rising, and Simms have great net holsters.
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Sticking it in Your Wading Belt
You don’t need magnets or a holster-style net holder to carry your net. If you have a belt on your waders, you can slide your net onto your belt. A wading belt can be a great place to tuck your net, but be aware a net can slip through the belt. Yet, cinching your belt too tightly can be uncomfortable, with a net sticking up your back. If using your wading belt as a net holster, use a net tether to keep it within arm’s reach.
Where to Attach a Fly Fishing Net
You can carry a fly fishing net in various places on your gear and body. The trick is to keep the net from affecting your movement, while also being accessible.
Anchor the Net to Your Fishing Vest
Many fly fishing vests are designed with a loop to connect a net retractor. Often this feature is placed between the shoulders on the back of the vest. Carrying your net here is quite handy as you can reach over your shoulder to grab the handle. This setup is perfect for smaller, short-handled nets. However, if your net is long, it can be challenging to control the net. This method can also be complicated if you wear a backpack, which is not recommended.
Anchor the Net to Your Backpack
There are two good ways to carry a fly fishing net when you use a backpack like I do. The first is to attach a retractable net release to the upper portion of the gear. The other option would be to slide the net handle between the pack and your body. I find that the latter keeps my net secure and handy. You would not use a net retractor or release device, so there is always a risk of the net falling out the top or left somewhere.
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Anchor the Net to Your Sling Pack
A sling pack is a great place to carry your net. Like the other methods listed, a net release, retractable or not, and sliding it inside a strap can work well. While a sling pack usually runs diagonally along the body, many also have a belt component. I would suggest utilizing the belt part of the pack for securing your net because it is more likely to keep your net vertical.. Horizontally carrying a net catches on vegetation while hiking and wading.
A smaller, shorter landing net is best for this method, as a net with a long handle may drag or restrict your movement.
Fly Fishing Net: Handle Up or Handle Down?
There is no right or wrong orientation to carry your net. However, I’ve found my net is less likely to catch while hiking when the handle is down and the net basket is up. Is it possible for the net to catch on an overhead branch? Sure! But I tend to see those coming because I’m maneuvering a rod tip. Nothing is more irritating than stepping over a log only to be yanked back after my net catches a branch. You are much more likely to injure or damage your gear this way.
A small net attached to a net retractor on the top of my fly fishing vest is fairly shielded from tree limbs with my body. A net will hang attached at the vest loop between the shoulders. Unlike a net hanging this way from a belt, the handle will not restrict movements and is less likely to catch on the terrain at waist high.
Instructions aren’t included with fly fishing nets. Each angler needs to decide how to carry a fly fishing net for themselves. Be sure to find an option that keeps your net close, stores it securely, and allows you to move freely. Above all, choose a system that helps maximize the fish in your net.