I have started carrying a net more and more these days when I am bass fishing especially, and it got me thinking more about how we land our fish, and mainly because I actually see very few lure anglers carrying a net. So why is this ? Could you actually do with a net to land your fish at the locations you are fishing, or can you simply beach them, lift them up or use your fish-grip to grab them ? I love my Boga grip and I think it's an incredible bit of engineering how it just never seems to rust or seize up, but as a device for landing a fish that tends to thrash/spin around like a bass I actually think it's pretty useless. Sure, I would not be without my Boga for securing a bass after landing and then holding it in the water while I remove the (barbless) hook or hooks, but have any of you lost tidy fish because you were trying to "Boga" the jaws of a bass while it was thrashing around next to you ? (and I do accept that this could be more of an issue with "green" bass from playing them hard). And yes, some friends of mine will attest to me going in pretty heavy-handed on a few occasions with the Boga and "quick-releasing" the odd tidy bass or two !! And yes, I have done it to myself, had it done to me, and I kick myself to this day to be perfectly honest............because I know that if I had been carrying a net then I would have landed the fish no worries at all.
As with me coming across the world of lightweight chest waders and wading boots thanks to my friend Nick Hart and the world of fly fishing, my carrying a net more and more these days is again down to fly fishing - yes, obviously I have used nets plenty over the years, but in fly fishing a lot of anglers tend to carry those very short-handle, "scoop-type" small trout nets that clip right out of the way on their backs. It then got me thinking why on earth those kinds of nets could not work for bass fishing, because as much as we love these fish, they ain't monsters and they should easily fit in a smallish landing net if you get them in head first and fold them up a bit as you lift the net. What I categorically do not want then is a great big landing net that gets in my way when I am walking or scrambling around - although I was shown the most ingenious extending Graphiteleader landing net handle the other day at the T&G show that could easily change my mind - check here and here. Wow !!
My first proper experiences with carrying a trout kind of landing net did not go well though. I got hold of a large size Greys GS Scoop net because it was pretty cheap and it has that rubberised mesh that is vital when you are around treble hooks and such things (look around though, because I am sure there are plenty of other nets like this out there), but the moment I went wading out in any kind of current and the magnetic cord attaching thing kept on coming free and drove me absolutely insane as the net repeatedly came loose and I kept on having to pull it back in and attach it again and again. Basil Fawlty eat your heart out with me cursing the sodding thing, plus any time you moved fast over the rocks and it came free as well - and of course my mates were not taking the piss at all !! I needed some way of securing the net to me so that I did not lose it, but at the same time I needed to be able to get to it and net a fish without any undue hassle. Believe me, I nearly gave up on the whole idea there and then, but Nick Hart saw me struggling (cursing/hissy-fitting etc.) and told me to take the magnetic cord attaching thing and throw it in the bin, and he very kindly gave me this ingenious William Joseph net retractor that I have to this day (and still owe you for Nick !!) - check here. I attached it to the big split ring that sits between the mesh and the net frame via a little karabiner, and then I clip the actual retractor to a loop that happens to be on my HPA lure bag. I know in theory the net should be clipped on my back somewhere, but I am often carrying a rucksack therefore I can't carry the net like the fly guys do - but then I could not for the life of me work out where to actually put the sodding net when I was moving around or actually fishing. It's got to go somewhere where I can get to it but also not remotely in the way. By pure chance I found that the net actually sits right over the top of my HPA bag and I carry it like this all over the place now and it rarely moves out of place.
A short-handle net is not great if you are fishing in rough conditions, high up, or can't get down in any way, but after using one for a while now I have to say that for those times that I am down at or close to sea level, it's become an incredibly useful thing to carry. Some mates of mine took one look at it and took the piss yet again about the net being too small for big bass, but I did very easily fit Nick Roberts' 10.5lb bass into it the other day (see here), so I guess it does just fine. It's also a very easy and non-distressing way to weigh a bass as well - leave the fish in the net, clip your Boga or scales onto the net and weigh it. I reckon my net plus retractor weigh about 1lb, so all I do is take that off the total weight - which let's be honest is hardly advanced maths !! I have only lost one bass at the net so far, and that was my own fish and it was purely my fault - I am not about to put a size on the fish, but it was there in front of me as plain as day and it looked pretty freakin' tidy to me. So what did I do ? Well I crouch down all professional looking (?) with the net out and start bringing the tired fish towards me - remembering of course not to go hunting with the net. But then I start looking around at the light and the potential angles for photography and my brain started thinking about how best one could nail the image - even though my camera was in my backpack and I had a serious bass in front of me. I got so into merely the idea of the photo that I sort of forgot about the fish for a second, inadvertently gave it slack line and off it suddenly swam via this "quick release" method. You know when you've completely and utterly messed up how you very quickly look around to check that nobody else was watching such ineptitude ? Well that's just what I did, but I think it was James Barry who was fishing opposite me and witnessed the whole, shamateurish debacle !! Have I lived it down yet ? Have a guess. But carrying a net like this is really growing on me.............full concentration required of course.