Things that are good: The Fishpond Nomad Hand Net

by | Jun 19, 2019 | 22 comments

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.
Your support is appreciated.

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.

READ: Troutbitten |Net Fix

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.

Big Hoop

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 . . .

Big enough hoop. Deep enough bag.

Short Handle

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.

The net’s frame rises no higher than my shoulders. That’s a good thing while walking through the woods or crawling through the brush.

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.

Love It

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.

Buy the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net HERE to support Troutbitten


Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Another nicely thought out piece, Dom. While I love the idea of the Smith Creek net holder, I can’t use one. A lifetime of wonderfully misspent hours has left me with two surgically repaired shoulders that literally won’t allow me to reach far enough behind me to pull the net out of the holder, let alone put it back. I’ve thought about using one like a wild west gunfighter: tied down alongside my leg, but that really isn’t practical. As for FishPond I like their stuff, it’s well made and durable.

    • So I don’t mean to be skeptical, but here I’m going to sound skeptical . . .

      Can you scratch the lower part of your back? The part just above your belt line? Because honestly, that’s all it takes. There’s no contortion necessary. I feel like it takes more arm movement for me to get in and out of waders or sling my vest on. Know what I mean?



      • No, I honestly can’t. I can reach around to the small of my back but the motion required to lift up from that position isn’t possible. I suppose I could try and pull a net sideways and out of a holder but then putting it back would be another event. I’ve tried various methods but the frustration and irritation aren’t worth the effort. I don’t wear chest waders anymore either for some of the same reasons. Take care of your body, I didn’t.

        • Sorry to hear that, Mike.

  2. I have the original Nomad (with a black net bag); I second the recommendation! It is the real deal

    • Sinks, brother. It sinks.

  3. Do you think it would be large enough for 30″ steelhead? I am currently carrying a way too large net for them.

    • Yes, you could land a 30″ inch steelhead. However, if you plan to land a bunch of thirty+ inch fish, I’d probably go with a deeper bagged net. And give me a call to be your fishing partner . . .

  4. I love this net as well. It has served me well netting some trophy trout. It’s an investment you won’t regret. Now if I could only figure out a better way to attach it to my Orvis Sling Bag…

    • …and there’s the other problem. I wear a sling pack now and while I can reach behind my head to pull a net off the magnet (it’s a whole different range of motion from trying to reach behind my back), It’s incompatible with my sling pack. *sigh*

      • I hate sling packs for exactly that reason. I find them terribly inconvenient for many, many things that I want to do. I need everything on hand NOW, not having to sling a pack around to get it. And if you do attach a net in any way, it makes the slinging awkward. I know I’ll ruffle some feathers with that comment, but sling bags make no sense to me.


  5. I have the nomad for bigger rivers and love it. It will meet all your requirements ,light ,durable and deep .I wish they made a smaller version for little rivers . I give the net an A plus . However I would not by the confluence magnet system . Eight pounds of pull is too much , you pull your vest off trying to get it loose . I use a cheap magnet with a fanny pack and try to remember to stuff the net behind the fanny pack , trying to get away with not having a cord . I wear a vest with a few things in it for the day and fanny pack ( Topo Designs ) to spread the load , so far that system is working well . I am not a fan of the smith net holder , I did not think it held that well.

    • Hey Bob. Thanks for the input.

      They do make a smaller one, called the Native Net.

      I don’t like magnet systems either, not of any type.

      Regarding the Smith Creek holster, it works great. But you do have to customize it to your net. Need to get it REAL snug in there. Have to adjust the holster via the velcro piece, real tight. Then make it a little smaller. Then jam the net in there. Keep it there for a week or so, even when you aren’t fishing. It will hold then.

      You’ll also see that I did add tape to my handle. I alternately spiraled hockey tape and electrical tape. Gives a little extra grip.



  6. Good net. But I don’t understand why people use them. I can keep a fish wet, not have to touch it, and release the fish in a fraction of the time by using a Ketchum. My wife and I release a LOT of fish every year. And a lot of big fish. And we don’t carry a net.
    I don’t understand the need people have to scoop fish up-rather than spend an hour learning to release them more quickly and with less injury.
    Nets are like 30 lb vests. Old school. Hang a Ketchum on your lanyard and go light.

    • I have occasionally gone without a net and regretted the decision on my tailwater which holds trophy trout. They are difficult enough to get within netting distance… I also use light tippet for the midge patterns that work on my water. Without a net, there would be a lot of long distance releases with lost flies…

    • I respect where you’re coming from, but there are quite a few good reasons to use a net.

      I land fish much, much quicker with a net. Often, a trout needs to be worn out a good bit before it will cooperate enough to be in range of a Ketchum release tool. I think a Ketchum in combination with a net is a great idea, but not the Ketchum alone.

      I carried and used a Ketchum for a long time. It just doesn’t always work so simply. The net is great for those times when life isn’t perfect for me.

      People don’t have to scoop up fish. You are right. But a lot of people want to. They want to see the trout. I started carrying a net only when my young sons started coming with me. I wanted them to be able to see the trout. Many of us do like to take pictures, and that’s a good thing, in my opinion. I say it’s the grand compromise of catch and release angling — taking a picture instead of putting it on a stringer.

      Lots more of my thoughts on all that are here:

      Sometimes holding a trout is necessary, and sometimes it’s okay to hold a trout just because you want to — as long as it’s held carefully. That’s why I wrote the article.



  7. Dom, love your blog. Keep up the great work. I have really made some choices because of this site.
    Anyway, I need a new net. Mine is cheap, heavy, and just a all round pain in the a$$, so I’m looking for a new solution. Figured I would follow your lead, and go with the FishPond Nomad as you recommend, but I ran across the River Armor edition. It’s a little more expensive, hoop tighter and handle a little longer. I’m stuck between the two and wondering if you have an opinion or have ever tried it on the river. I am leaning in that direction, but the longer handle my concern. I used the Smith Creek net holster as well. Any opinion from your end?

    • Hi Greg. Thanks for the question.

      I’m sure the River Armor edition is a great net, but I don’t see the need. I have had ZERO issues with my Hand Net, and that’s after a LOT of days on the water.

      The measurements on the Nomad Hand Net are also perfect, to me. I don’t want a narrower hoop, and I certainly don’t want a longer handle.

      Those are my thoughts.



  8. Dom – I’m currently a sling pack guy but I’ve always struggled for an efficient way to carry and access a net. Your article has me intrigued to try out the smith creek holder setup (I already have the Nomad net), but then I’d need to switch to a vest or chest pack instead. Curious to know what vest you wear and any other recommendations that are compatible with this net/holder setup.


    • I keep using an older Patagonia vest. There are limited choices out there for us vest guys Simms and Patagonia both make good ones right now. The first thing to look for is a shorty vest. You don’t want it long. Get it to ride high and wade deep.

      Regarding sling packs: I hate them. For me, they are just about the most inefficient solution out there. I want my gear accessible NOW, not after I sling a pack around and then sling it back. And if anyone has a decent way to carry a net when using a sling pack, I’d like to know it. If you attach it to the pack, it’s weighty and cumbersome when slinging back to front. If you tuck it in behind the pack, you must remove the net to sling the pack around. That kind of thing just doesn’t work for me.

      Those are my opinions, only. I know packs and vests are personal decisions.



  9. Dom, I’ve only recently discovered your site, and it’s wonderful. Furthermore, I support nearly any son of the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I see you’re an affiliate of Fishpond, which is great.

    However, speaking just for myself, I think paying Fishpond prices for a net borders on obscene. Anyone who has seen my fly tying supplies or six or seven dozen fly lines knows I’m not shy about spending money on fishing—but it’s a damned net. I would rather buy a cheapo with a fish-friendly bag and give the rest to conservation.

    I would say this, though—I bought a folding net for trips to New Zealand and Chile. The one I got was not well made, but I suspect, given their popularity in Europe, that well-made ones are available. A well-designed and fish-friendly folding net with a holster for bushwacking is something I would spend some money on. Are you aware of one?


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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