How to build a custom wood fly fishing landing net

1. CHOOSING A DESIGN

      First, decide how you are going to use the net, and how large a fish you are likely to catch. Fly fishing landing net frame openings for smaller species such as backcountry trout and pan fish can be about 8”- 10” (20cm-25cm) wide and 12” - 14” (30cm-35cm) long. Lake trout, small and large mouth bass would need a 10” – 12” (25cm-30cm) wide and 14” – 16” (35cm-40cm) long overall. Salmon and steelhead nets could be from 18” to 24” (45cm-60cm) in diameter. Handle length needs to be at least 8” – 12”.(20cm-30cm) to give adequate grip. “Guide nets” and fishing from a float tube, a canoe, or a small boat would usually require a longer handle, say 20”- 40” (500cm-1000cm) in length, and an even longer one if deepwater fishing for salmon, or lake trout, or from a powerboat with higher sides and cockpit coamings. Short, compact nets are usually recommended for back country fishing to avoid getting caught in the brush. I prefer a slightly longer handle than normal, about 10” - 14” (25cm-35cm) long, to make it easier to reach and land a fish when stream fishing.

       The classic teardrop shape, and it’s variations, is the easiest to make, but other shapes like circles and ovals are popular, and just about any shape you can imagine, can be made using a form or jig, to bend and glue the wood. One person has even done one in the shape of the state of Texas. Sharp corners are much more difficult to do, and require very thin laminations to achieve a tight turn. I’ve used up to nine laminations, but typically 3 to 5 plies are used by most makers. Some woods such as Ash, Mahogany and Walnut can be bent using a single piece to make the net frame. There does not seem to be a significant advantage in strength using either one single strip, or many laminations, as long the wood is sound and the glue joints are well made. Multiple laminations take longer to do, but allow for more design options, such as using contrasting woods, and different thicknesses for the laminations. I have even used laminations that taper in thickness, with usually the middle section (that will be near the top of the net frame) thinner than the ends, and sometimes one end thinner than the other, depending on the effect I want. A typical net frame would be made of Ash which bends and glues well, is light weight and is commonly used as a center ply, and would be about 1/4”-3/8” (6mm-8mm) thick, with another lamination on each side of Walnut, Mahogany, or other hardwood that is about 1/8”-1/4” (3mm-6mm) thick.

       Handles can be as wide and as thick as desired, to comfortably fit the hand. They could be as be narrow 1 1/4” x 1 1/4”  (30mmx30mm), or up to about 1 3/4” (40mm) thick by 2 1/2” (60mm) wide (at the waist) and long enough to reach the fish you are trying to land. If you are a former NFL lineman, you may need something a little wider and longer. Handles can also be inlaid with abalone, paua, mother of pearl, jade, ivory, scrimshaw, etc… Exotic woods, and burls are frequently used for the handles, and because only a small amount of wood is needed, cost for premium material is very small when compared to the labor put in. Many woodworking catalogs and internet wood suppliers offer small sections of premium wood suitable for knife handles, pens, and other hobby type projects that can be incorporated into the handle. Local furniture makers and cabinet makers usually have short sections of really nice woods perfectly suited for landing net handles. Laser engraving for monogramming and logos can be done now days by many trophy shops and local engraving businesses, which can be found in the phonebook or on-line. Gunstock checkering and coach whipping are other handle treatments that add beauty and function because of their non-slip qualities. You will see many examples in the  “Fly Fishing Landing Nets”  pages that have handles constructed of several smaller pieces of different woods glued together in decorative patterns and designs, and other handles made from a single piece of wood. A couple of my nets have been made without separate wood pieces for the handles, with the frame coming together to form the handle, although this requires either many laminations, or a very thick single section to get adequate thickness at the handle.

      

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I will be adding to this as time permits, please check back soon.

These pages were last updated 3 April 2008

Please contact me if you need more specific information

Image of a custom fly fishing landing netImage of a jig and the c-lamps used for gluing the custom fly fishing landing net frame laminations.Image of a custom fly fishing landing net

       These pages have information about how to make a wood landing net for use in fly fishing. You probably won’t save any money by doing this yourself, unless you have access to the equipment needed to mill the wood. There are several fine makers of wooden landing nets for trout, salmon, and steelhead fishing that you can locate using the “List of Custom Wood Fly Fishing Landing Net Builders and Makers”, and they are very reasonably priced. If however, you are determined to make your own custom wood landing net then, this information may help. The process is not difficult or complicated, and your success will be a lot like the “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? ….practice, practice, practice.”

       If you have limited access to the resources and facilities necessary to mill wood, bend, and glue the landing net, and lack the materials, you might consider ordering an blank unfinished landing net frame from me, in order to shape and finish it yourself, or for the more adventurous, order the cut, but unbent wood strips for the frame, and also handle pieces, netting, and lacing to build one yourself.

       This information is NOT copyrighted and free to share with anyone who’s interested. More pictures to come soon.

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