Nets can be a blessing and a curse throughout a day wading your favorite rivers, lakes, and streams. They can help you land the fish of a lifetime and also help reduce the stress on your catch. On the contrary, far too often I find myself trudging through brush and trees to access a promising stretch of water, only to have my net get caught on a branch. After a few curse words and time wasted, I manage to free myself and continue on my way. As someone who takes pride in efficiency, wasting time untangling my net from bushes is the last thing I want to do. Fumbling to free my net only to have it get caught on other gear with a fish on the line is even worse. This frustration has led me to some of the best products available to manage your net.
There are a variety of solutions available for carrying and managing your net while wading. Comfort while transporting your net is just as important as ease of access when you have that lunker on the line. Many of the options are versatile and can be used with vests, packs, and slings. The 3 main categories are magnets, retractors, and holsters, each of which has its own advantages. Consider one of the following options to manage your net while traveling to and fishing on your favorite water.
Net Management Solutions
Many modern anglers choose to carry their gear in traditional fishing vests and newer sling-style packs. While using either of these methods to transport fly boxes, leaders, floatant and more, there is also the added advantage of a great place to attach your net. Most fly fishing vests have a ring on the back as a place to attach one end of the magnet (pictured above). Most packs on the other hand typically have a variety of locations to attach the magnet to. Net retractors and magnets are both great options for net management as they help keep your net behind you and out of the way until you’re ready to land a fish. These products typically work best with short-handled “tailwater” style nets if you plan to attach it to a vest.
There are several brands of net magnets available like Orvis’ Magnetic Net Release, Dr. Slick’s Magnetic Net Keeper and Loon’s Magnetic Net Release. All of these products can be attached to the rim of your net leaving the handle dangling below ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Magnets are a great way to carry almost any brand of the net and typically come with some sort of lanyard to keep your net from floating away. The biggest drawback that I have found with magnets is that they can be somewhat of a pain to put back after landing a fish if you wear a vest. I also find that the magnets can release nets by mistake a little too easily.
Similar to net magnets, net retractors can be attached to the ring on fly fishing vests. They can also be used on sling packs and lumbar packs. Retractors are great because they help keep your net secured and out of the way throughout the day. Orvis’ Gear Keeper Net Retractor is a versatile and durable choice when it comes to retractors. One of the biggest benefits of the retractors is that it will return to its unobtrusive location for storage when you are done. This is thanks to the spring-loaded mechanism inside the retractor that re-coils the lanyard.
Check out this video from Tactical Fly Fisher’s Devin Olsen on how he manages his net with a system of retractors and magnets.
Some anglers find having their nets attached their gear with cords and lanyards to be a drawback since it can lead to tangles and therefore prefer to avoid magnets and retractors. Fortunately, net holsters and packs with purpose-built net holders are widely available. Sure, tucking your net in your wading belt is an option, but over time it can stretch your belt out and can be cumbersome. Net holsters typically come in two varieties, aftermarket holsters that attach to your wading belt and packs with integrated holsters. Smith Creek’s Net Holster, Fish Pond’s West Bank Wading Belt and Vedavoo’s Netster are great low profile options for the minimalist angler. These products keep nets firmly in place on your back without any cords, lanyards, or magnets and typically work best with mid to long-handled nets.
Need a new pack and prefer to manage your net without cords and lanyards? Umpqua and Rising both make high-quality packs with built-in holsters. Umpqua’s ZS2 wading belt and packs can be equipped with the Zerosweep Net Holder for a perfectly integrated holster and is compatible with all net styles. In addition to Umpqua’s ZS2 system, Rising’s All Day Lumbar Pack has net carrying first and foremost in its design. This pack comes with a generous outer holster to slide your net through. Holsters are a great way to manage your net without running the risk of getting caught up on a lanyard or cord.
If back county bushwhacking and trailblazing is part of your average commute to your favorite water, consider Yakoda Supply’s Bushwhacker Net Cover. This new product is a bag that fits over most standard nets (think Rising, Fishpond, and Brodin). This net cover keeps your net bag completely safe from snags on trees accessing the water. Once you reach the water, stow the ultra-lightweight bag in your pack or bag until your ready to head home. An added advantage to the Bushwhacker Net Cover is the reflective logo that helps make you visible on a dark walk back to your car.
Make sure that you’re ready to land that fish of a lifetime when the opportunity presents itself with a properly managed net. Be sure to have your net securely attached to you and ready for action the next time you get out!