8. MAKING THE NETTING & NET MATERIAL
Netting for the fly fishing landing nets is available from many fishing net manufacturers as after market replacement nets, or they can be made at home using traditional knotted line netting or sewing pre-made netting or mesh material. Netting for landing nets was traditionally a knotted cotton construction and is still available from some sources, and usually found on imported wooden nets. It’s main advantage other than low cost is that it will rot away and will not continue to catch fish should the landing net be lost in the water, which also means it’s not very durable and must be stored dry to prevent mold and rot. Most knotted netting is commonly available in nylon, polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene fibers which are much more durable. The main disadvantage of knotted style nets are the knots, and large openings that can entangle and damage the fins and surfaces of fish that are meant to be released. Nylon mesh and rubber coated nets have become popular for catch and release use in the past few years. Rubber (urethane) coated large mesh net bags have become popular lately, because they are supposed to be less likely to harm the fish and very resistant to having hooks snag in the net; they are quite stiff and slightly heavier than other types of netting.
Different styles of replacement net bags may be available from some of the makers in the “List of Custom Wood Fly Fishing Landing Net Builders and Makers” page, and replacement rubber nets are available from Promar and from Cabela’s, or on-line direct from Charkbait; also a Stowmaster or Frabill dealer and several other on line sources can supply these. Jann’s Netcraft offers inexpensive replacement bags, but I‘ve never used them, and don’t know what they’re like
I primarily use a white 1/4” (6mm) mesh nylon material that I can hand dye to achieve a wide range of colors and effects. A good source that I use for mesh netting and replacement knotted netting is Ed Cumings Scientific, and there are several other landing net manufacturers and commercial fishing net sources that can be found on line for replacement net bags, or bulk netting. There are many sizes of replacement net bags offered and it should not be too difficult to find a ready made net to fit your frame. Using a sewn mesh bag allows me to size nets to a customer’s preference, whether a shallow catch and release style is desired, medium depth, or deep net is wanted. I have used an old $20.00 Singer sewing machine (like Grandma’s) that does only straight stitching for some of the nets and it does OK, but a zig-zag sewing machine is much easier to use, and makes for a very secure seam. Use a high quality polyester thread for sewing because it’s more durable then the nylon threads, and is readily available in many colors. I use trash bag twist ties to temporarily secure the netting to the frame through the lacing holes, when measuring to determine the exact net diameter, and then to hold the finished sewn net bag to the frame in order to lace it on. You can space these by skipping some holes without doing every one. I usually fold the mesh material in half at the front, and sew the resulting back and bottom seams. I typically cut the bottom as a curve, with shallow arcs for cradle style catch and release nets, and the deeper net bags are usually more circular. The edge that will be laced to the frame is folded over about 1/4” (6mm-7mm) and sewn (basted) with a straight stitch set for the least number of stitches your machine will do (if adjustable), and then folded again and re-sewn with the straight stitch to hold the folds in place. You can elect to resew this seam with a zigzag stitch, but the straight stitch used for basting is usually sufficient to hold the folds in position until it is laced to the frame; then the lacing will adequately secure it in place until (if ever) it needs replacement. Take the mesh, which should be measured to the correct length of the frame you are using, and fold it in half and tack just the ends of the edge to be laced together. Lay the folded mesh on a flat surface like a table top, so you can cut both halves at the same time, and trim to the desired shape. Big sweeping curves are easier to sew than small radius corners. Baste the two halves together with a straight stitch, using at least two passes over the entire seam; then Trim off the excess mesh material on the side that is away from the inside of the net, very closely (to about 1/8” (3mm), so that it won’t bunch up when you change to using a zig-zag stitch. Set the zigzag stitch to the widest setting and fewest number of stitches per inch. Now the zig-zag stitching should be done with the net mesh material spread apart, so you will end up with a flat seam. I make at least 6 passes and reverse stitch at each end of the seam to help lock the thread. Increasing the number of stitches per inch after each pass will make for a smooth, attractive, and secure seam.
Dye the mesh material before you sew it. Dyeing nylon or cotton is fairly simple, but other fibers like polyester and polypropylene are difficult. Rit dye works pretty well, for many fabrics, because it contains several types of dyes for different fibers, and is readily available at the supermarket or fabric store in a wide range of colors, but it’s more costly because you pay for dye that you may not use. “Acid” (vinegar) type dyes work best for nylon and the type of mesh material that I use, and they are available in a wide range of colors. Dharma Trading is a good source for the Jacquard acid dyes with which, I have had very good results . The 2 oz. size dye container will dye several net bags. Some colors do more fabric, others exhaust their dye sooner. You typically need very hot water (not boiling), and although you can use the washing machine method, the stove top procedure is more practical for very small batches of material. I use a stainless steel pot and tongs, or utensils (not aluminum) that will never be used for food, to dye in, and please be very careful handling this stuff because the dye powder will get everywhere…...really!...., and of course “may cause irritation, allergic reactions, brain damage, birth defects, hallucinations”, and all the other stuff they put on those labels (but mostly your fingers will be green, blue, or red for a long time if you are not careful). A small amount of white vinegar (1/4 cup per gallon of dye) will help to fix the color when using acid dyes, and I would recommend getting a small amount of the recommended special fabric detergent used to pre-wash, and post-wash the dyed material to get the best results and remove the excess dye. Very hot water and 30 - 60 minutes soaking is sometimes required to get deep rich colors. I normally will dye the 1/16” - 1/8” (1.5mm-3mm) braided nylon cord to be used for lacing on the landing net at the same time I do the netting, in order to get the closest color match.if you want matching colors.
If you wish to make a knotted netting, “The Morrow Guide to Knots“ has excellent illustrations, also “The Ashley’s Book of Knots”, and “The Marlinespike Sailor” are sources that can be found at the library, bookstores, and several on-line sources. More information on Knotting can also be found through links at the “International Guild of Knot Tyers” website, They are also a good starting point for learning about making plaited, braided, or knotted sennits, and decorative knots for creating fiber and leather lanyards, and they offer “The Handbook of Knots” by Des Pawson, another great book on knotting with good illustrations. Other online source for knotted netting instruction are an excerpt from “Knotcraft by Stuart Grainger”, “Basic Net Making” and “Learn to Net” . Personally, after having done one of these type of nets, I think I would find an old fisherman, or someone that likes to macramé, to make knotted netting, if someone asked for this style net bag, because of the increased amount of time it takes to construct a knotted net. When doing traditional knotted netting you may want to reduce the size of the diamonds as you near the bottom portion of the net with progressively smaller gauges, and it can then be closed by lacing the bottom diamonds together, similar to how a mesh net bag is sewn together.
You can use a variety of lacing schemes to attach the netting, using holes in the frame, or without holes and by wrapping the frame. Lacing material can be recycled fly line, fishing line, cotton, nylon, or polyester cord, even leather. Leather will tend to stretch when wet, and if the frame is wrapped wet and left to dry, it will make for a tight lacing, and can then be treated with a number of after market leather waterproofing products like silicone, and neat's-foot or mink oil, to prevent it from loosening when in use. Nylon sash cord used for Venetian blinds is readily available, is typically 1/16” (1.5mm), and is a good size for lacing. Braided cord is easier to handle than 3-strand or layed line, and cotton and nylon cord can easily be dyed to get a desired color. Craft stores and marine chandleries are good sources for lacing and lanyard materials.
I will be adding to this as time permits, please check back soon.
These pages were last updated 3 April 2008
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How to build a custom wood fly fishing landing net
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