Watching the expert angler swinging small fish directly to his hand, a beginner might be misled into thinking all fish can be landed like this. A quick glance at the bankside equipment, however, should dispel the thought at once. There will certainly be a landing net made up, in position, and ready to hand. This is because the fine lines (of about 1lb b.s.) necessary to take shy fish are capable of dealing with fish up to several pounds when gently played, and while in the water. To attempt to lift them bodily places the dead weight directly on the fine line, and if this doesn’t break at once, there is every chance of a light hook hold giving way.
The beginner, already having spent large sums on the basic rod and reel, and attracted by a host of highly coloured floats and gadgets (which catch more anglers than fish) may be tempted to do without a landing net. But floats can be homemade for next to nothing and it would be wise to save money on floats and to buy a landing net, which is as essential as the rod, reel, line and hook.
A landing net comprises a baglike net; a triangular or circular metal frame, which can be folded for easy storage and transport; and a 4ft handle with a screw thread at one end for attaching frame and net.
The net and frame can usually be purchased for the price of a few days’ bait, and for both a minimum width of 18in is strongly recommended. A lin diameter cane or even a broomhandle can be fitted with a brass screw fitting at one end to provide a serviceable handle at little cost. Such a net will see the novice through several years of his apprenticeship in the art of fishing. It will cope with roach, rudd, dace, bream and tench, as well as the odd jack pike.
The extending handle
One valuable refinement is an extending handle which is very useful when fishing from banks several feet above the water’s surface, or when fishing over extensive reed fringes. These handles are usually telescopic and can be obtained in metal or glassfibre. They should be mattpainted in dark green to prevent glare, and it is essential to test the locking device to ensure that the handle will not close or extend except when needed.
Keepnets vary a great deal according to their specific function. The match angler’s net is likely to be about 8 or 10ft long, with hoops of at least 15 or 18in. His specimenhunting counterpart will probably use a far larger net which may be anything up to 12ft long with hoops up to 3ft in diameter to accommodate larger fish.
However big the net, it cannot do its job if it is badly placed in the water. If the net is not properly Qxtended, 10ft of netting is of little value, and hoops of 2ft diameter are useless in 18in of water. They are usually attached by a screw fitting to a bank stick conveniently placed to allow the angler easy access to the open end. They can also be prevented from collapsing with the aid of meshspreaders which attach to the rings and hold them apart.
The ring at the neck, into which the bankstick is mounted, is important. Many models have a very small ring, which makes it more difficult to slide a fish into the bag of the net. Choose the net with the biggest plasticcoated ring possible, so that if a fish is dropped against it there will be less risk of injury. Some rings have a dent or curve so that a rod can be rested across the net while the angler unhooks a fish—an advantage if the net is firmly fixed in the river bed.
Regular maintenance is needed if a keepnet is to remain efficient. Although mesh may be advertized as ‘rotproof it is still liable to strain, especially if a large weight of fish is lifted awkwardly. Check the base of the net for signs of fraying, and replace it at once if need be. Remember that fish naturally face the current, so the net should lie parallel to the bank, the mouth facing upstream.