Trouts Journal

TROUTS' GUIDE TIPS // 5 Tips for Netting Your Friend's Fish

Zeke Hersh / Feb 27, 2023

Editor's Note: I was sitting down to write this blog a couple of weeks ago. I realized that while I've certainly netted my fair share of fish for my friends, we are lucky to have an experienced and talented staff of professional flyfishing guides who literally spend every day of their summer netting other people's fish. You could make an argument that this skill pays their bills. So, I gave Zeke Hersh a quick call and asked him to turn on the bat signal for our guide staff and have them drop some knowledge when it comes to netting your friend's fish. Enjoy. - Ivan

As a guide for over twenty-five years, one of the first things I've learned is how valuable a net and the net job are to your client or your fellow angler.

With so many years spent on the water, I can tell you that I have had my fair share of blunders when the net comes out. One time, there was a hole in the net unbeknownst to me and I went for the scoop and the fish fell right through it. There have been countless occasions where flies got caught on the net and hooked my own hand with a powerful fish on the other end. Of course, I've forgotten the net in the truck a time or two and have paid the price a river mile later.

The latter is a sure way to have “one of those days." Hooking and attempting to land way a float trip's worth of fish or that fish of the year can lead to utter disaster. I can tell you first hand, a boat is no place to be missing your net and there have been a few occasions where I remembered my net was in the truck, just in time, and had to anchor up and run back to the truck before the shuttle was run.

Just having the net is the first step to success. While a net sure makes landing fish easier, I've gathered some tips & tricks from some of my fellow Trouts' professional fly fishing guides that will help you avoid disaster when you or your friend hooks into a decent or better-than-decent trout.

1. Don’t Chase the Fish

This tip is from our own Andrew Contreras.

Andrew notes that a common mistake anglers make is trying to chase down the fish before it's ready or before there's an opportunity to make a scoop. The problem with chasing the fish is that the fish will sense the added presence and pressure and this can lead to an unanticipated run. That will often result in an immediate break-off or even more embarrassing - the fish will use you as structure and wrap themselves around you, which most assuredly will usually result in a break-off.

Another looked over fact is that when you start chasing, you lose any leverage you have on the fish, making it harder to turn them.

2. Don’t Rush the Net Job

That brings us to our next tip - this one is from our own John Spriggs. "Don’t rush the net job, just don’t."

This is a tip most of my guides mentioned when I asked them for their feedback, but John Spriggs' tip resonated with me the most.

Both of us are float fishing guides and I feel we both know this is an intricate part of a successful day on the water. While some fish come right to the surface and you can net the fish almost immediately from the rower's seat, most of the time you have to be patient and wait for the right moment.

I can tell you from experience patience is key. I sometimes don’t even grab the net until I can tell the fish is done. And heck if it’s a big one, I sure don’t want to jinx it by grabbing the net early.

3. Slack Water is Your Friend

This tip comes to us courtesy of Trouts guide Kaleb Orrock, a stellar float fishing guide in his own right.

Slack water is definitely your friend in the netting process. This is not only true from a boat but from the shore as well. In a float fishing scenario, you will see most guides look for eddies or flat water to get the net on the fish or to be able to deploy the anchor safely to better assist in the net job.

While wade fishing, it is best practice to make your way to the middle to lower section of the run, where the water should typically slow down, and then swing the fish towards the shore and into the net. Be cautious to not come too close to the end of the run where the water will speed up again as it slips into the next run of the cascading river.

4. Head Up and Head First

This tip is echoed by all of the staff and Sean Cowman says it best, "Don’t scoop until you see the head up."

Not only does this make it easier for the netter to see the fish, but it also allows the angler to keep control of the fish, steer them to the net, and help the fish into the net head first.

Keeping the fish's head up prevents the fish from being able to get in position to employ its powerful tail for those brutal last-minute runs away from the net. I take every opportunity to get the fish’s head up, just always be ready for a run, if the tides turn. The quicker you can keep that head up and subdue the fish the better.

5. Scoop with Confidence

I typically employ two different techniques depending on what the fish are fighting like and the position that the angler or boat is in.

If the fish seems to be more subdued, I will go for a slower and more methodical approach. When the fish is being pulled toward the net, the netter will approach with the net a little in front and to the side and go for a slower slide under the fish, making sure the head is up and towards the opening of the net.

The second technique I employ might seem to break some of the rules we have previously talked about. However, this technique is required when a quick reaction is required and an opportunity presents itself. This technique employs a quick downward stab into the water when the fish is coming towards the netter and then a quick turn of the wrist when the fish is in the basket.

This move is really like catching the fish in a lacrosse stick and is used when the situation presents itself and is almost always a quick move on instinct. As you can probably guess this sometimes does not work out, with a miss or a potential last-minute move by the fish. But, aggressive fish sometimes need aggressive technique.

All of these tips are great things to think about the next time you are out with friends for a day on the water. If you apply some patience with the process this will ultimately be the best technique. But always keep your eyes open to opportunities that might present themselves. I am a firm believer that the faster you can bring that fish's head up and get them to the net the better. Keep your eyes open to any weaknesses and opportunities that arise in the fight and be ready to capitalize on these opportunities.

Remember, a sure way to have that epic day on the water with so many hookups and large trout on the line is to just forget the net. I kid, of course, but it sometimes seems to work that way.

Want to learn from our best?

Looking to learn how to net fish and more? Look no further than our talented and experienced roster of professional fly fishing guides. From half-day fly fishing trips to full-day fly fishing trips in a boat or walk/wading, they're ready and willing to share their expertise with you on the water. Book a day with any of our guides HERE.

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