Netting the fish you catch can be tricky. Sometimes, actually landing the fish can be as tough as hooking it in the first place. And how many times have you had a whopper come almost to hand, only to have it wiggle off the hook at the last instant?
No matter how you slice it, that’s a bummer.
But there are some easy tips to remember that will increase your odds of landing fish in a net.
First of all, remember that a fish’s body position will tell you whether it’s “ready” to be landed or not. As a rule of thumb, when the fish has its nose pointed down toward the bottom of the lake or river, and it’s attempting to plow away from you, that means it still has plenty of gas in the tank.
When the fish’s head tilts up, however, especially when it breaks the surface, it loses leverage, and that’s when you can make your move. When the head comes up, apply steady pressure with your line, and steer the fish toward the net.
Be sure to make a large enough opening with the net to capture the fish, meaning, get that net down into the water, and then lift up. Many fish get knocked off the line when they bump into the net itself.
If you are fishing in a river, you want your body position to be parallel to the fish, or slightly downstream. Trying to pull a fish upstream into the current only adds tension to the line, and that can cause a break.
I also like to land fish with the rod tip starting down low (parallel to the river surface), maintaining plenty of contact with the line. At the last instant, however, I lift the rod tip high. That does two things: first, it raises the fish’s head more, and gives you better leverage (as I explained above), and second, it glides the fish toward the net, without forcing the angler to crank on the reel.
Of course, if you plan on releasing the fish, landing them sooner than the point when they are fully exhausted is a good thing. Be sure to use heavy enough leaders and tippets to give you that option. I also like to use rubberized mesh nets, because they are less apt to harm the protective coating on many fish, especially trout.
With practice, this all becomes second nature. And your landings-to-hookups ratio will improve dramatically.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, and the editor of TROUT magazine.