There are few things more relieving than sliding a fish into the basket and having a moment to take a breath. There are scenarios where a net is not necessary, but more often than not a net will be your best friend when bringing a big fish to hand. Not only does it increase your landing ratio, but a fish-friendly net will decrease your catch-and-release mortality and impact on our fisheries.
What makes a good net? Here are a few things to look for:
Floatability: I once had a customer come into the fly shop I was working at and complained that his new $200 net sunk to the bottom of the lake while he was releasing a fish. The net itself was a work of art but liberally varnished and very heavy. When choosing a net, make sure that you have the freedom to use both hands to release a fish without worrying about the dent it may make in your pocket.
Mesh vs. Rubber: Popular now is “ghost mesh”, a rubber netting with large diameter holes that becomes very slick when wet. A lot of anglers are gravitating towards this as it has almost no chance of knocking slime or causing bodily harm to the fish before being released. Catch & release mesh is another great option, and much lighter than rubber. The only real downside to mesh is that small flies have a way of finding themselves caught up in it.