Photos By: Matt Bornhorst
How well do you trust your companion behind the net? If you have ever hooked a trophy fish, you quickly realize the battle is not won alone. You’re net man (or woman), is worth their weight in gold if they are any good. Of course they don’t always succeed, and that failure is usually forgiven but never forgotten. Netting a fish is just as technical as fighting. Judging where best to be in relation to the fish and fisher and trying to predict the fish’s next move is critical. Being behind the net also helps the one fighting the fish by being an extra set of eyes watching fish behavior or if a fish is heading for an obstacle.
Understanding fish behavior is important in both roles. If a dog approaches you with its tail between his legs and his head low, would you quickly jump to pet it? You can look at netting a fish in the same light; I probably wouldn’t try to net a fish that is making strong runs, jumping, thrashing or is bull-dogging you snout down. Wait until the time is right. Being too impatient could lead to being called “Captain Stabbin’”. This is when you make several attempts stabbing at a fish to get him in the net while your pal holding the rod is gasping. All it takes is one stab to hit the leader and you’re black listed for the rest of the day if not year. However, a good man once told me “the devil hates a coward”. Every second longer a fish is hooked you run the chance of causing your leader to become frayed or damaged. Don’t miss a good opportunity because of nerves.
Having the right equipment is important. I say; don’t go hunting lions with a potato gun. I’ve seen anglers trying to land big fish in a net the size and depth of a frying pan I’d have a hard time cooking 4 eggs in. Get a wide, deep net with a handle that will give you some reach.
Tail netting a fish gets you out of the fish’s line of sight and lessens the chances of spooking it, but you run the risk of it swimming out of the net. Head netting a fish gives you good odds but can be risky if you bump the line or fly. Side netting a fish seems the least risky and best option when possible. All of this comes down to judgment in the heat of the moment given the landscape and fishes behavior.
Be quick on your feet. If the fish suddenly moves, be ready to move with it and/or get out of the way. It’s a delicate dance between you, the angler and the fish.
Nothing beats landing a great fish with your pal. I think it’s just as rewarding as catching it yourself. Last Winter I botched a net job and lost a big Rainbow Jamie had hooked. A few weekends back I feel I earned some redemption after he hooked a big male rainbow. After a long fight I thought the fish was done. I eased in to net him and he turned and ran downstream. I dove out of the way onto the rocks (post on knee replacement to follow) and Jamie pulled a Heisman worthy move leaping over me. The fish made a run straight into a downed tree. Somehow I got the net in between limbs and by some miracle (and a bit of net ninja skills) I pulled out that rainbow.