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The best fly fishing nets have soft rubber bags that protect fish when you land them. The soft rubbery material of the net, a.k.a. the bag, doesn’t scrape off the protective slime that makes fish so slippery. If you plan to catch-and-release your fish, which is what most fly fishers do, you’ll want to release the fish unharmed — and that’s a lot easier with a good net.
If you want to learn how to choose a fly fishing net, including ways you can attach and carry a fly fishing net while fishing, use the table of contents to skip down to those sections. Otherwise, you can jump into our top ten fly fishing net picks for 2021:
Fly fishing anglers have many choices for great nets these days. Most modern fly fishing nets have rubbery bags that are safer for fish. The handles and hoops are made from a variety of durable materials, including classic wood. The most important thing is to choose the right size of net for the type of fishing you want to do. In fact, the best net manufacturers offer multiple options in both size and shape — so don’t hesitate to explore the size options that are offered in the manufacturer’s product lines. Here are our favorite fly fishing nets for 2021:
Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net
Fishpond has an entire line of ‘Nomad’ nets, and they’re all great. Our current favorite is the Nomad Mid-Length Net because it’s so versatile (read our full Nomad Mid-Length Net review here). The mid-length handle easily tucks into net sleeves and behind lumbar packs — and it’s long enough to be useful when fishing from a raft or small boat. The entire length is 37″ with a 13″ x 18″ head. The Nomad series of nets are made from a lightweight and durable carbon fiber and fiberglass composite. For extra durability, Fishpond’s ‘River Armor’ versions add an outer layer of woven DuPont Kevlar fiber and carbon fiber. (If you’re rough on your gear, choose the River Armor version.) Note: For a short and more packable landing net, try the excellent Fishpond Nomad Native Net.
Fishpond’s Nomad nets are so good that fly fishing giant Orvis offers an Orvis-branded version of the nets. The Orvis Nomad Camo Nets use the Orvis-exclusive camo pattern that is, we have to admit, super cool. You can choose from three core size versions at Orvis: a Hand Net, a Mid-Length Net, and a boat-ready Guide Net.
There are a lot of reasons to appreciate the Rising Brookie Landing Net, including the fact that these brightly colored anodized aluminum nets are Made in America in Utah by Rising. The Rising Brookie Landing Net is our favorite because it’s small enough to be packable but big enough to handle large trout. Better yet, if you need a handle longer than the 10″ handle on the Brookie . . . you can add a 14″ extension accessory. So cool. As you might expect, Rising offers larger ‘Lunker‘ and boat nets.
The Measure Net has been one of our favorite nets for years. Its claim to fame is the easy-to-read built-in measuring system in the bottom of the net. Once you land a fish, all you have to do is add the number at the tail of the fish with the number at the head of the fish and you’ll know the fish’s length. It’s fast and easy on the fish. We especially like it for beginners and kids because it gives them information about the true size of the fish they’re catching. The Measure Net can also help you more closely follow the size of fish found in the areas you fish. For instance, the largest cutthroat trout my buddies and I have caught in a particular river drainage tapped out at 18.5″ for years — until I caught a legit 19.25″ beast.
If you’re looking for a traditional fly fishing net made with wood, take a look at the Brodin Eco-Clear Net series. Brodin nets are manufactured by hand from sustainable woods in Costa Rica. Built to last, these are heirloom quality nets.
White River Fly Shop Hobbs Creek Rubber Bag Trout Net
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly wood fly fishing net, it’s hard to beat the outstanding value of the White River Fly Shop Hobbs Creek Rubber Bag Trout Net. Sure, the name is a bit long, but the net is solid. You can choose from clear or black rubber bags and from two sizes.
If you’re looking for a super inexpensive fishing net that won’t hurt fish, try the White River Fly Shop Ice Cool Trout Net. It has a lightweight aluminum hoop with a clear rubber net. The carbiner at the end of the handle is attached by a built-in magnet that could be handy — but we still recommend that you also use a tether with all magnetic net holder systems as a backup when wading in rivers where nets can float downriver.
The O’Pros Driftless Dryfly Net features a carbon fiber, fiberglass composite, a soft rubber net, a custom carrying bag — and a lifetime warranty. Solid stuff for the modern fly fisher here. Note: O’Pros makes the handy O’Pros 3rd Hand Rod holder, which has been a favorite accessory in our guide to the best fly fishing gifts.
American-made in Bozeman, Montana, the Blue Ribbon Jacklin Net is an all-purpose fly fishing net. It comes in two size options and is made from contrasting layers of ash, cherry, and walnut woods. You can get it in a standard mesh, but we recommend that you choose the sweet AquaFade Ultra Light rubber net version.
If you plan to catch-and-release trout while fly fishing, you will need a fly fishing net. Here is why you need a fishing net for fly fishing: Most fly fishing, particularly for trout, is done with long rods with lightweight leaders. Due to the rod design and length, as well as the low-poundage leaders, you won’t be able to lift larger fish from the water by the rod. If you try it with a bigger fish, you might break the tip of your rod and you’ll very likely break the tippet at the end of your leader. So, if you can’t pull a trout onto shore with sheer power — and you don’t want to unless you plan to eat the fish — you have to tire the fish out first.
But tiring a fish out too much is also a problem. As a fish fights, lactic acid builds up in its muscles. If you fight a fish until it’s too exhausted to move — so that you can grab it with your hands — it’s possible that the lactic acid build up will become toxic to the fish and it could possibly die from it. In catch-and-release fly fishing, this means that it’s important to net fish at the right time . . . and then quickly and easily release them. Inexperienced fly fishers will definitely have better experiences with nets — and they’ll protect the fish they catch and release.
If you’re gearing up for fly fishing and simply can’t afford a great net, definitely at least choose an inexpensive net with a rubber or soft nylon material. The White River Fly Shop Ice Cool Trout Net is a good inexpensive fly fishing net.
What is the best fly fishing net?
The best fly fishing net is a rubber-style fishing net that fits your budget and is sized for the type of fishing that you do. For instance, if you fish primarily from a boat or raft in freshwater, you’ll want a long-handled fishing net. If you fish on small streams for small trout, you’ll want a smaller short-handled landing net. To learn more, check out our top ten fly fishing nets or continue reading below.
Are rubber nets better for fish?
Yes. Rubber nets are best for many species of fish because they don’t scrape off the protective slime that makes fish slippery. If you plan to catch-and-release your fish, which is what most fly fishers do, you’ll want to choose a rubber net. Also, by rubber, we mean nets made from soft and flexible rubbery materials. Technically, a “rubber” net might be made from a soft and pliable plastic or vinyl material.
Does that mean that non-rubber nets are bad for fish? Some soft nylon mesh-style nets are pretty good, but they are more likely to remove slime from a fish. If you keep the fish in the water inside the net when removing the hook, you’ll help protect the fish. Unless you plan to keep every fish you catch, definitely do not use cheap knotted nylon nets made from stiff corded material with knots. These knots and stiffer cord material can scratch through the protective slime on a fish and make it more susceptible to disease and parasites.
When you choose a net for fly fishing, look first for a rubber net bag. It’s important to know that the material might not technically be rubber — it could be a soft and pliable plastic or a soft vinyl. The point is that you want a rubbery material. So what kind of net should you avoid? You do not want a nylon cord net with knots that will scrape off the protective slime on trout. A soft nylon mesh is pretty good, but rubber nets are better. If at all possible, use a rubber-style net bag.
Some anglers believe that clear rubber net bags are harder for fish to see and are therefore less threatening in the water. We’re not convinced that it matters. For example, trout eat super tiny insects and can key in on details most humans don’t recognize. They can definitely see a weird ghostly mesh with a circular stick coming at them in the water. So, don’t be afraid of black rubber nets. Netting a fish is mostly about timing and position — it’s not about being sneaky. Choose the rubber that’s available — or simply choose the color you like best!
Next, you’ll want to consider the size and shape of your fishing net. Where will you fish most often? For small trout on small streams, get a small landing net with a short handle. If you plan to fish from a boat or fishing raft, get a net with a longer handle. If you mostly catch small trout in rivers but hope for some 24-inch monsters, get a midsize net like the Rising Brookie Net or the Fishpond Nomad Hand Net!
How do I attach or carry a fly fishing net?
There are two common and effective ways to carry a fly fishing net.
First, for smaller nets with short handles, tethered magnetic net releases work very well. These types of net holding systems basically attach to a D-loop at the back of your fly fishing vest near the collar — or they can attach to any point on a slingpack, a fishing backpack, or even a waist or lumbar pack for fishing. Some fly fishing waders also have attachment points. The powerful magnet clings to the attachment point until you grab the net and pull it loose. After you land a fish, you reattach the net using the powerful magnets. Most often these systems also include a tether to ensure that you don’t lose your net.
Magnets work well with small, lightweight nets — but that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to small fish. Some hand nets have bags with plenty of space to hold large trout, too.
Second, many fishing packs and systems have built-in net sleeves. If you have a mid-length fly fishing net, you can stick the handle into the sleeve and carry the net behind your back. These systems work very well — and are essential when you have a heavier net or want to fish with a longer net.