Many anglers get away with a net they can strap to their backs; for stocked trout or wild mountain brookies, this is perfectly adequate and sensible. But there’s a certain class of anglers who need something more; yes, the big fish catchers are part of it, but also photographers, guides, and hiking anglers. All of these people benefit differently from having a big ass net. Guides need the long handles on “boat nets” to help net fish that inexperienced anglers may not have under solid control. (Further, those long handles help a lot in actual boats). Photographers need larger nets to serve as temporary aquariums while getting cameras set up and ready for photos. Longer handles let assistants comfortably manage the fish while the photographer gets prepared. Hiking anglers can use larger nets as combination walking staffs, eliminating the need to carry two bulky items.
Several net companies make great “boat model” nets, usually with handles 30″ long or longer and net bags at least 20″ across. Brodin‘s Excalibur (available with their clear “ghost” bag for $165, pictured above), Fisknat‘s Clark Fork ($150) and Sperrey‘s SW20 all are beautiful, hand-crafted wood models which will look great in photos and will get the job done.
Not every angler fishes in an environment where a $150 net makes sense, however; extended backcountry trips where the net will double as a walking staff often demand something a bit more rugged. For my own personal Netzilla, I use a model suggested by Ian Crabtree of Scott Fly Rods: your basic aluminum bass fisherman’s net. While I found mine at a discount store, Bass Pro Shops has a model for $30. Don’t feel like lugging around a shiny metal net handle? Neither did I; I disassembled my net and wrapped it in black grip tape (also an Ian Crabtree suggestion, pictured at left), making it easier on my hands in cold weather and also less reflective, both for fishing and photography purposes.
The best thing about my net is that it’s essentially disposable. At only $30, if I break it, I’ll buy a new one. I’ve tipped its end with a walking stick’s rubber foot, and logged many a mile on forested trout water throughout the Southeast, using it as a safeguard in swift water. Its black rubber mesh is the same you’d find on a high-end bag, and being black, it is unobtrusive in photos.
Have a favorite big ass net or a net supplier I failed to list? Let us know in the Comments section!