Durable, lightweight and suited for the job — these are things we all want from our fishing gear. But sometimes such qualities are at odds. It’s impossible to make a truly durable pair of lightweight wading boots, for example. And usually, the functionality of our fly fishing gear is balanced with manufacturing and material costs, while also considering mass appeal.
But the gear that make it to the top of the heap — the stuff that’s adopted by a large set of anglers — has the right mix of these core elements. Dedicated fly fishers are a picky bunch. We’re a discriminating group of irritable outdoorsmen who want nothing more than long moments on the water. And we demand gear that works hard to keep us there. We need the right tools, and we want things that last.
I watched a couple of my Troutbitten friends with their Fishpond Nomad Hand Nets. I waited for a few years. I netted a couple of trout with them. I noted the long term durability. And when my old wooden net finally snuck off downstream one day without me, I bought my own Fishpond net. It quickly found a welcome home in my gear bag. And it’s now an on-stream essential — a constant and reliable companion on the water.
** Note ** Links for buying the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net are at the end of this article.
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Old and New
A few years ago, I wrote an article about my faded wooden net. I kept the same inexpensive Frabill frame, deftly scooping trout for about five years. It required minor surgeries, some re-gluing of the lamination and a bunch of Dacron wraps, holding together both the wooden frame and the rubber bag. Keeping that net going was kind of fun.
If the same net had still been available, I might have bought it again. But the current bags on those wooden Frabills are too shallow, and the quality of chosen wood has suffered.
So I upgraded to the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net.
Here’s why I did it. And here’s why the Fishpond net is the perfect tool for the wading angler.
A Big Rubber Mesh Bag
Remember the twisted nylon mesh bags you grew up with? Thankfully, they are fading into the past. Trout are better served by rubber nets that don’t scrape away their protective slime coat. That’s nice. It’s also nice that your flies don’t stick in the rubber mesh netting like in the old twisted nylon. Rubber bags are a bit heavier than the old-school stuff, but that’s countered with a lighter frame, constructed of modern materials (addressed below). Progress wins — this time.
The Fishpond Nomad Hand Net is twenty-six inches long, including the handle. The hoop is eighteen inches long. So by making a few marks on the handle, you have a built in measuring stick for accurately gauging your next Whiskey — if you’re so inclined — ya know, if honesty means anything to you at all.
Importantly, the depth of the Fishpond rubber mesh bag allows for some truly monster fish to fit comfortably. I’ve had wild trout up to twenty-five inches in the bag, with plenty of room to spare. It’s all about the net’s depth. I see no point in carrying a net with a shallow bag. And while some popular brands provide bags that are virtually useless on larger trout, the Fishpond’s deep bag is just right.
A wide hoop is great, but let’s not get too crazy . . .
I know that the extra-large, black aluminum-framed Frabill nets are kind of a big thing right now. They’re standard-issue in the comp fisherman’s starter kit. And if you’re game is based on the trout tally, then I’d agree that it makes some sense to carry the largest basket possible — more room for error.
But I find those nets unwieldy and impractical, not a good match for my own goals. I found one at the bottom of some side water on my home stream once (because they sink). I cleaned it up and carried it for a few trips, just to see what I thought, firsthand. It was literally the largest piece of gear I was carrying. It caught on tree branches and briers and felt bulky no matter how I attached it. Sure, you can get used to anything out there and make it work. But why carry a net that’s larger than you need?
The Fishpond Nomad Hand Net is the perfect size for landing the biggest river trout you’ll ever encounter. For me, it has to fit that thirty incher that I’m just sure to catch someday . . .
Given a large hoop, the handle had better be short, or the net will be back into the unwieldy range.
I cannot recommend long handled nets for the wading angler. They’re cumbersome, heavy, and hard to carry with ease. I see no need for the extra reach, until I’m in a boat. (Then, my choice is Fishpond’s long handled version of the same design.) Otherwise, I’ll take the short handle for portability and lighter weight, please.
Even as a guide, I don’t carry long handled nets. I cover a lot of water with my clients, often fishing the same places I would fish by myself. The hiking angler should keep the weight down and the profile small.
Perhaps the most important quality in a net frame is its ability to float. I love using the net as a temporary live well. The hoop floats, the bag sinks, and the trout hangs out in short-term captivity, allowing the angler some time for getting a quick photo or just marveling at the beauty of a wild trout for a minute.
A floating frame also allows the angler more freedom for how the net is carried. I don’t tether my Fishpond net. I keep it in a Smith Creek Net Holster on a two-inch-wide wading belt, where it’s available in an instant. Because the frame floats, I’m not so concerned about dropping it in the water. When I’ve fumbled the net, I’ve always been able to recover it simply, as it floats downstream. By contrast, the aluminum-framed nets sink too quickly, disappearing out of reach.
Wood floats, too, of course. And that’s why I held onto my wooden net for so many years. But wood is heavier and, in fact, less durable than the Fishpond construction.
Light and Tough?
The Fishpond nets are lightweight, super durable, and they look great. Using a carbon fiber and fiberglass construction, these are tough nets that take a beating. There’s no flex in the frame, and the net holds up to daily thrashings against rocks, trees and the hard trail.
Every long-term hiker I know understands that keeping weight down matters over the long haul. And wading anglers are the same. The extra twelve ounces of a wooden-framed net may not matter to you in the first couple hours. But you’ll fish longer and harder, no matter your age, by wisely choosing the lightest gear possible, and carrying it in the most efficient way.
After years of daily use, over hundreds of guided trips, backcountry treks with my two sons and midnight fly fishing journeys into the darkness, the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net is one of my favorite pieces of gear. And if it ever does sneak off downstream without me, like my wooden net did after all those years, I’ll immediately buy another one.
* Note ** The partnerships and the support of this industry are part of what keeps Troutbitten going. And I’m proud that Troutbitten is a Fishpond affiliate. You can read my policy on gear reviews HERE. And if you decide to buy the Fishpond net (or if you buy any other product), Troutbitten receives a commission of the sale, at no additional cost to you, when you click through any of these links. So thank you for your support.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N