A good wading net is as important as your fly rod.
Not only does one make landing a struggling fish much, much easier, but the best fly fishing nets also provide gentle protection to delicate fish, preserving their all-important scales and slime.
Unfortunately, many of the nets suggested for fly anglers are offered by reviewers who’ve clearly never fished a day in their life! And from long-handled landing nets designed for big boats with tall gunnels to nylon nets that will scrape the scales from a trout as fast as a butter knife, what you’ll find on offer is rarely what you really want or need.
Don’t worry--we’ve got you covered with the real deal, and each of the nets we review below offers a winning combination of features that make them just right for you.
Quick glance at the best fly fishing vests:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Handle material: laminate bamboo and hardwood
Size: 9.5” x 16” x 10”
Mesh material: rubber
Hoop shape: rounded teardrop, squared-teardrop, and long oval
Fly anglers already know that this sport can get expensive--fast! But not all fly gear needs to break the bank, and Sunshine Fishing’s landing net demonstrates that quality doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
There are a number of identical or virtually identical nets on the market from companies like Freestone Outfitters, Isafish, and others. It’s possible they’re made at the same factory, and in any case, they’re the same basic net rebranded slightly to create a distinction without a difference.
I’ve singled out the Sunshine Fishing option because it’s offered in more hoop styles and net depths than its similar/identical competitors.
Constructed of laminated bamboo and hardwood, it offers roughly 9 inches of handle and three hoop shapes: a rounded teardrop, a squared-off teardrop, and a longer oval. All three provide roughly 10 inches of width and 16 inches of length--plenty of space for your trout.
Two mesh sizes are available for the roundest of the hoop styles, and if you’re a fan of micro-mesh, this is the way to go. Note, too, that the rounder hoops offer deeper nets.
All Sunshine Fishing landing nets employ rubber mesh, and the fish you’ll release will thank you!
These nets offer a magnetic lanyard system to keep this important gear where it’s supposed to be and ready for use. And if you do manage to drop it, it floats as a good trout net should.
If there’s any improvement to be made, it’d be a slightly deeper mesh for larger species like steelhead.
Overall, if you’re a fly angler who is concerned about your budget, it’s hard to go wrong with this choice.
Handle material: carbon fiber and fiberglass
Size: 26” overall length; 13” wide; 18” hoop length
Mesh material: rubber; 12” deep
Hoop shape: squared teardrop
To my mind, there’s simply no better maker of fly nets than FishPond. Backed by a 1-year guarantee, their nets are clearly designed by anglers for anglers, offering the features and sizing that reflect real-world experience.
The Nomad Hand Net is a good example.
The vast majority of fly nets are built around small- to medium-sized trout, a frustrating realization for anglers chasing steelhead or salmon. And as they can tell you, trying to coax a big fish into a tiny net isn’t going to go well.
The Nomad, however, is built just for bigger prey, and if you’re a steelhead or salmon fanatic, this is the wading net for you.
With a 26” overall length, this net is short enough to stay out of the way until you need it, and the connecting hardware and cord are top-notch.
Now, this is a big net, and I don’t recommend it for trout fishing. It’s more likely to get hung up than smaller sizes, but when big is what you need--well, it’s what you need.
An 18” x 13” hoop is plenty capacious for big fish, and with a full foot of depth, it’ll handle most anything you throw at it. Of course, the net itself is rubber, offering ideal protection to delicate scales and preserving slime.
FishPond builds this net from fiberglass and carbon fiber, making it the lightest I’ve seen by a mile at less than a pound. That matters more than you might think by the end of a long day’s fishing on slippery stream beds, and breakage just isn’t something you need to worry about.
And it floats like a buoy, too.
Overall, for larger species, I can’t think of a better wading net, though you may choke at the price.
Handle material: carbon fiber and fib erglass
Size: 32” overall length; 9.8” wide; 18.8” hoop length
Mesh material: rubber, 12” deep
Hoop shape: squared, elongated teardrop
For trout anglers who need a bit more reach from their wading nets, the FishPond Nomad Emerger is ideal. Built with the same uncompromising quality and attention to detail as the standard Nomad, the Emerger is an excellent choice where a few more inches of handle can mean the difference between a landing and a loss.
32 inches in total length, the Emerger offers a bit more than a foot of handle, providing reassuring reach when the big moment comes.
The hoop is kept narrow to make it less obtrusive when you don’t need it, but you’ll find the net plenty deep at 12 inches, and even big trout won’t crowd this net.
Manufactured from fiberglass and carbon fiber, the Emerger is tough enough to take whatever Mother Nature can dish out while weighing in at less than a pound and floating like a dry fly with fresh wax.
As a trout wading net, this is a hard act to beat, but expect the price to reflect that.
Handle material: carbon fiber and fiberglass
Size: 37” overall length; 13” wide; 18” hoop length
Mesh material: rubber, 12” deep
Hoop shape: teardrop
For fly anglers who chase trout from canoes or kayaks, a standard wading net just won’t get the job done. They need more overall length and more handle than the usual nets provide.
That’s a problem.
The Tailwater is the solution.
19 inches of handle give this 37-inch net plenty of reach for small boats, with the same ultra-high-quality offered in every FishPond net.
The large teardrop hoop measures 13” x 18”, promising plenty of space for big trout. And the rubber net, as delicate on fish as they come, is a foot deep, providing plenty of room.
Like all FishPond fly nets, the Tailwater is made from fiberglass and carbon fiber, making it as strong as it is light.
Keep in mind that the overall length of this net makes it a poor choice for wading, however.
Wading and landing nets come in a variety of hoop sizes and shapes.
Some anglers prefer more squared-off hoops, while others like round teardrops. A lot of this comes down to personal preference.
All other things being equal, a larger hoop is more likely to snag on debris and get in the way. At the same time, it’s a necessity for larger species like salmon and steelhead and awfully nice to have with trout.
Coaxing a struggling fish into a small net is a recipe for disaster!
But weigh what you need against the extra hassle of a big hoop.
Longer handles provide more reach, and a few extra inches can really matter when you’ve got a fish on your line and it’s threatening to break off and run again!
That said, longer handles--and longer overall lengths--mean a more cumbersome net. Keep in mind that you’ll typically be trailing your net from the hook on the back of your vest, and if your net is too long, it can get in the way.
For me--and your mileage may vary--32 inches is about as long as I want for wading.
Three mesh materials are common, but only one really protects the fish you catch. In contrast to nylon, coated nylon, and knotless nylon, only rubber mesh minimizes handling time and scale/mucous damage.
Nylon is tough material, and it can really take a beating--but it’s also a bit rough on your fish. Especially for catch and release, this isn’t a great choice for more delicate species.
Sometimes coated to reduce its propensity to damage delicate scales, the only real drawback of nylon for big, tough bruisers is how easily sharp hooks end up embedded in it--and just how hard they can be to remove without damaging the mesh!
And coated or not, nylon landing nets increase handling time in a recent study of catch and release angling.
“[E]xtended handling times were noted for several mesh types (i.e., knotless nylon micromesh and rubber‐coated nylon mesh) relative to bare wet hands because of hook entanglement in the netting material. However, using bare wet hands to land Brook Trout resulted in higher odds of the fish being dropped into the bottom of the boat. We concluded that the large, knotless rubber mesh was the least damaging to Brook Trout.”
Rubber mesh is increasingly common, especially for catch and release fly anglers.
The rubber is gentle on the scales and gill plates and helps to keep trout in tip-top shape. It’s also the best at preserving the mucous coating on fish, keeping them healthy and happy as you return them to the water.
It’s also really hard--I won’t say impossible!--to snag a hook in rubber mesh, making them easy to use and reducing handling time.
Knotless mesh designs are meant to be ultra-smooth, forgoing the usual knotted nylon mesh designs in an effort to spare more fish. And while the advertising hype suggests that they’re good for the fish, unfortunately, that’s far from the case.
As the Chinook Observerreports, “Knotless nylon mesh had the highest frequency of scale loss. Similar in frequency for scale loss was bare hands and rubber coated nylon mesh.
The knotless nylon mesh most frequently caused mucous loss, about 1.5 times the loss of bare hands.”
Knotless mesh also attracts hooks like a magnet, increasing handling time substantially.
We will only recommend rubber mesh landing nets in an effort to protect the sport we love for future generations.
We can’t tell you which net is the best option for your needs--only you can do that. But any of the nets on this list will help you make the fly fishing memories you deserve.
We hope that this article has helped you select your next fly fishing net, and we’d love to hear from you if it has.
Please leave a comment below.