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Help Out Your Net Man

Posted on January 22 2016

Landing silver salmon on the fly at Alaska West.
The net-man is your friend. Photo Bob Millette.

As they say – Behind every great angler is a great net man.. Okay, maybe no one says that, but they should!

Landing big fish takes team work. Any body who has attempted to put the mesh on a hot fish in heavy current knows that there’s just as much skill required of the net man as there is of the guy doing the fighting.

However, as the angler, there’s a lot you can do to make the net man’s job a heck of a lot easier. Whether you’re fishing with a guide or another buddy, the following tips will help them out, and ultimately help you land more fish.

Help Out Your Net Man – 6 Tips

  • Communicate. While fighting your fish, let the guy who’s going to be netting your fish know exactly what you’re going to do ahead of time. “I’m switching sides,” or “I’m going to get his head up..” Communication is key and many big fish are lost when the angler and the net man aren’t on the same page.
  • Find Soft Water. When attempting the land big fish (we’re talking big king salmon, steelhead, and the like), maneuvering a net big enough to handle such species is extremely difficult in fast currents. The faster the water, the more difficult it is to be accurate with a large net during what could be a very quick window of opportunity. So, after hooking your fish, make your first priority finding good soft water to fight and land your fish from.
  • Get the Fish Upstream. As the fight is winding down, work to get your fish slightly upstream of your net man. This puts the fish in good position to roll his head up and over towards the net (more on this bel0w). Attempting to land a fish that is downstream of the net man puts both the weight of the fish AND the strength of the current directly on the leader, which often doesn’t work out well. Plus from a downstream position, the fish is able to watch the net approach them, which they generally don’t seem to like.
  • Big, Slow Lift. Now that you have coaxed the fish just upstream of the net man, the next step is to reel down until you have enough control to make a big slow lift of the rod, starting from the upstream side over to the downstream side. The goal of this is to lift their head up towards the surface of the water and then directly downstream where the net man will be waiting to make his shot. Remember, fish can only swim one direction, and up isn’t a direction that gives them much to work with, thus allowing the net man to make his move.
  • Steer the Fish Towards the Net. While the fish’s head is being positioned up and over to the downstream side, this is the point when the net man will most likely try to make shot. Therefore as the fish’s head begins to point downstream, use your rod to keep pressure on the fish and ‘steer’ his head towards the net. A good net man will always net the head of the fish whenever possible, so give him a good look at it!
  • Commit. When landing really, really big fish, often times there is only a split second for the net man to make his move. Therefore, its really important to be predictable for the net man to make his best decision when to strike. Once you start your lift, try to commit all the way through until he’s in the net. Otherwise, you might be pulling away, while they’re going in, risking a break off. Did we mention that communication was important?

More on Landing Big Fish

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