Being covered head to toe in cameras, lenses, photographic excuses and a tripod while I fish has limited what fishing gear I can bring along on the stream and for reasons of weight, size and tangles, a landing net was one of the big sacrifices.
Lacking a net is not a big deal on a very small stream most of the time, but I’ve missed them on my trips to the tailrace section of the Mitta Mitta and some of the other larger local streams where a bigger fish is always a possibility and, of course, on my trips to New Zealand. Also, with the late autumn-winter lake fishing starting soon, I will be dusting off my kick-boat and hitting the lakes and not having a net out there is nuts. With all that in mind, I started looking around for a new net, but, of course, ended up with two.
The first is the Fishpond ‘Nomad’. I first came across one of these while out fishing with Snowy Mountains guide Matt Tripet. I was shooting a Flylife Magazine story on the Lower Thredbo River and I was very surprised by how light it was given its size.
Matt had the long-handled ‘Guide’ model (go figure) that seemed a bit big to me, but, as Matt explained, clients that pay good money for a guide to put them onto fish, particularly beginners, don’t exactly like it when said fish is lost in the landing and a long-handled net makes that job a lot easier. Fair enough.
When ordering one for myself however, I went for the shorter ‘Hand Net’ model figuring it would be big enough most of the time and any net is better than none.
In use the smallest of the Nomads is a great thing weighing in at only 350 grams (.77 lb.) and at a little over 66 cm (26 in) in length with a large, deep basket, it’s more than big enough for anything I’m likely to catch anytime soon.
The construction of the net is a little sci-fi: a carbon-fibre and fibreglass composite with a very grippy rubberised paint finish Fishpond call ‘RiverKoat’. The net is both waterproof (Whoa, really?) and very buoyant (Thank you!) while the net bag itself is a modern rubber material and, theoretically, won’t harm fish if they’re handled carefully. Replacement net bags are also available. The nets attach securely with a large clip on the end of a short para cord lanyard.
Mine has the ‘Tailwater’ (brown trout) finish, but they can also be found in the more sedated ‘Original’ finish.
As great as the Nomad is, it is definitely more net than I need on a tiny stream where a ten-inch trout is good and anything over a foot is an event. For that you need something much smaller like the HandyPak net.
If the Fishpond Nomad nets are the king of hi-tech, the Handypak net is the king of compact and I don’t think you would find one that travels much smaller.
I first saw one of these hanging off the busy belt of my friend Michael Young during a mid-summer day out in the upper Gibbo River area and was instantly intrigued by the hand sized leather holster with a substantial wooden handle sticking out of it.
In fact, I didn’t even realise it was a net until he reefed it out of the holster it sprang open like one of those fold up tent thingies for the beach and I couldn’t wait to get back into phone range to order one.
It arrived a few days later I was instantly impressed with the solidity of the build, particularly the hand-stitched and embossed heavy-duty leather belt holster that looks like it will last a lifetime, and the thick, unfinished teak handle.
Teak was chosen for the handle for the same reason it’s so common on boat decks (back in the day) being very well suited to the elements without being treated. The spring steel of the folding net bag must be pretty good as well because Michael tells me he has had his for years and it’s still in fine working order. I would also assume Handypak know a little about longevity seeing they’ve been making these since 1955.
In size the net bag, when folded, is a little larger than your hand, but at full spread is pretty much standard trout-landing net size. I have the $46.95 (US) ‘Vintage’ model, but there’s also the lighter and cheaper version with a vinyl holster and plastic handle at $22.95 and the top of the line $61.95 ‘Ghost’ series with teak handle, leather holster and a rubber net bag. Depending on your needs, the black net bags come in two depths of 10’ and 19’. I chose the 10’ to make releasing smaller fish easier, but would go the 19’ if I lived in New Zealand.
As far as I’m aware, these amazing little nets are only available direct from Handypak at:
Feel free to correct me in comments if you know of any fly shops that stock them that need a mention.