January 4th, 1999
Build Your Own Trout Net
You'll have the best looking net on the stream!
By Clive Schaupmeyer
Note: This is not an instruction on how to build a fly-fishing
net, but an overview of the process. If you are interested, get together
with some friends and track down a local net builder to work with you.
If you have detailed questions send them to
me and I will try to get an answer back to you.
There is something about wooden nets that we all
like. They fit the 'organic' outdoorsy view we have of ourselves. Which
works provided we ignore the SUVs, graphite rods, space-aged waders, and
all the other tackle. No matter, wooden nets are a nice touch.
Building a fancy wooden net seemed mysterious to
me, but with the expert instruction we received it was not difficult. That's
not to say you can't build one on your own either, but having a guide was
a help. Here's how several club members and I got into building a net.
About two years ago a new member, Alan Kloepper,
showed up at our local fly-fishing club meeting with a handmade net. The
gorgeous net was passed around and fondled by drooling club members. Alan
was clearly a fine craftsman, but the obvious questions were: Could we
do that too, and would he show us how?
Late last winter several club members gathered in
the local school division maintenance shops on a couple of Saturdays and
Alan guided us through the construction of hand-made nets.
Our nets are made from four wood parts: three clear
(knotless) hardwood strips to form the frame, and a handle insert. Our
group used combinations of dark walnut and light birch strips. Other woods
like maple are also suitable. I used the walnut on the outsides of the
frame and placed the lighter birch in the middle, like a rye and cheese
sandwich. I also decided on the darker walnut for the handle insert. Others
used the reverse combination.
Following is a summary of the basic materials and
steps for one net:
A net shaping jig is made from two rectangles of strong 3/4-inch particle
board. Plywood could also be used. (Details on request.)
One rectangle of particle board remains uncut and is the base of the jig.
(Jig sheet A in the diagram.)
A 1/2-inch strip of wood is cut from the second piece of particle
board (Jig sheet B) in the desired shape of the net. We used a traditional
teardrop shape. The veneer wood strips that will become the frame will
eventually be formed in this opening.
The top is then cut into seven sections. Five outside sections and two
Inside section #6 is permanently screwed to the uncut base section of particle
Three thin strips of wood about 6 feet long and 1/8 inch thick are cut
on a table saw.
The strips are soaked in hot/warm water for 3 hours in an upright 4-inch
plastic PVC tube that has been capped on the bottom.
To pre-form the wood strips (prior to gluing), the soaked strips are hand
formed around jig section #6 (screwed to the jig base rectangle), and jig
sections 1 to 5 are clamped and then screwed into placed around the veneer
The strips are allowed to set (preferably) overnight, although we were
on a tight schedule and waited no more than 2 hours. In damper climates
overnight would be better.
A handle insert is cut from a solid board of either the light or dark wood.
The pre-formed wood strips are removed from the jig.
The wood strips and handle insert are coated with carpenter's glue on all
All four pieces are set into the jig which is again secured with screws.
This is tricky. (Section #7 is removed prior to this stage and set aside.
The wood insert handle replaces section #7 during the gluing process.)
The whole affair is allowed to dry for 24 hours, then the net frame is
removed and sanded.
A thin shallow groove is routered into the outside of the frame where the
webbing is to be stitched. (This is tricky.)
Two or three coats of Spar varnish is applied to the net frame.
Holes are drilled at about 1 1/4- inch spacing in the grove around the
Nylon cargo netting is cut to shape and sewn with a serger.
The webbing basket is hand laced to the frame with vinyl lacing. Manufactured
net webbings can also be used.
The whole process took something like 10 hours for each
net. There are several tasks that require two or three sets of hands so
it would be a good idea to work with others. I have also left out some
of the trickier details of construction, but hopefully you get the idea
of what is involved. Alan's experience was a boon to us novice net builders.
For the group project we all used a teardrop-shaped
frame copied from an old wooden net. Since then club member Ken Zorn has
drawn patterns for several frame shapes using a computer drafting program.
Alan Kloepper has now completed twenty handmade trout nets of several shapes
including standard teardrop, triangle and narrow catch-and-release. Nice
We'll likely have another net-building bee again
this winter. I hope so because I gave my net to my fishing partner John.
The net was baptized in October when John and I were out. So now I have
to build one for myself.
Closing thought for the week is credited to Edward
R. Murrow (1908-1965): Anyone who isn't confused
really doesn't understand the situation.
~ Clive Schaupmeyer
Our Man In Canada Archives
Bio on Our Man In Canada
Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and
photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to
Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly
anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor
picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers
of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and
mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks,
For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of
Clive's book, Click here!
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