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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nets, Slings, and a Tape

In 2004 when I first started corresponding with Euro-style Carp fisherman a whole new perspective opened up to me. In 2005, after being told by a gentleman, John, from the U. K. that he was "...mistrustful of American Carp fisherman because of the way you treat the fish..." I was a little wide eyed. After exchanging numerous emails we talked on the phone several times. At that point John had fished for Carp for over 50 years. He had lived in England most of his life but was now living in eastern WA. John was pleasant but really had only passing willingness to talk with me on the phone until I answered several questions to his satisfaction. He asked how long I had fished, what kind of fish I liked to target, how long I had Carp fished, why I fly fished for Carp, what I did with fish after I got them to shore, if I weighed them, if I photographed them, how I weighed them, how I photographed them, and how I released them after "capture." (his word) John made me give him my word that I would always treat Carp with the utmost respect worthy of such a great game fish. I said, "You have my word." And he said, "You have my word, for what?" I answered, "You have my word I will always treat Carp with respect."

That first phone conversation lasted 45 minutes and it was the beginning of an education for me indeed. Truly, I felt that I handled fish carefully and treated all species with respect. After our second conversation John offered to send me some of his VHS videos and DVD's on Carp fishing. Carp fishing for John and his friends is with bait. John ended up sending me 10 different titles to watch. I was overwhelmed and thought I couldn't slog through them all and thought I would lose interest after just a few. I mean come on, it was bait fishing after all. It took me awhile; not only did I watch all 10 of them, I watched them all twice. The videos featured Mattie Hayes and Max Cottis primarily and were all set in U. K. The dry, English humor made me laugh but I was truly astounded with everything I saw. As I watched the videos I wrote down the vocabulary that was new to me along with a few comments. Here is a link to my notes from watching the videos. I read those notes a few mornings ago; I hadn't looked at them in years and they made me smile. There is so much to say that it warrants other blog posts.

It is important to me to point out that the reason I knew what a Carp weighing sling was, is because of seeing them in the videos John sent me. The ones in the video were more like cradles and they were hanging from expensive scales that were hanging from tripods. It was all very, very interesting to learn. Those slings were not at all suitable for the wading, Carp fly fisherman but seeing them got me started on tracking down a suitable alternative.

This blog post is about nets and slings so I will stay focused on that. Okay, just one diversion. A couple of the guys in the videos carried, "Carp care kits." The kits had antiseptic in them. They applied the antiseptic to the spot where the hook had been removed and on any sores on the Carp. I could hardly believe it. No wonder John thought Americans were primitive and disrespectful.

When I first talked with John my Carp fishing was about half from my Zodiac and half wading. I do more wading now.

My nets:

For decades I have had a laminated wood net that I use for Trout fishing. I still use it when I fish from my float tube or kickboat. I have attached a magnetic link and stretch cord to the net so if I drop it, well, when I drop it, it doesn't sink to the bottom of the lake. This is my oldest net and I really like it. It is not suitable for any of the Carp fishing I do.

The wood handled net:

Before I started Carp fishing I had a collapsible mesh net that I used for both Pink Salmon and Trout when I was fishing from my Zodiac. It was the net I used to net my first Carp. After just a couple more Carp trips I realized that net was just not sturdy enough to handle some of the Carp I was catching. When I fish from the Zodiac I still use this net at places like Banks Lake where pretty much all of the fish are under 10 pounds. This net is great for those situations..

Light Collapsible Net:

As a result of trying to net some larger Carp and struggling with it I ordered a new Solvkroken net that was much more stout. The handle and frame were great but the bag was not satisfactory. The holes in the net were too big which caused the dorsal rays of the Carp to get tangled in the material if the fish was large. I did some research and found a guy who makes nets for aqua-culturists. He agreed to make me a soft nylon mesh bag for my net to replace the cord bag that the net came with. Since then that net has been perfect for netting Carp when I am in my boat. The bag material is great and the net has performed well with fish just over 20 pounds. The fish can still be in the net, I can attach the scale to the frame, lift the net, and have a weight in just seconds.

The Solvkroken Net:

Just a couple years ago I purchased the Measure-Net for my Trout fishing. I replaced the mesh bag with a rubber bag and am very happy with this net. I am using it in my Zodiac and I carry it with me when I fish Monkey Forks Creek. I point this out because even if I do a lot of walking on Monkey Forks it is still not nearly as much walking as I do when I am Carp fishing. Also, you cannot get in the water at Monkey Forks; you have to fish from the bank. Monkey Forks is a spring fed creek with cut banks. When I am Carp fishing I am almost always in the water. Though I have done it at times, I don't often cast from shore when I am Carp fishing. That said, there is no where to set a net when I'm in the water stalking and casting to a tailing Carp.

If a person was fishing only from the bank and the fish were not too large this could be a good Carp net for smaller Carp.

The Measure-Net:

All of the nets together to give size perspective:

The Sling:

I have tried carrying a net a couple times when I am wading and fishing for Carp. I had it fastened to my hip pack. I found this to be very cumbersome and damn annoying. Lacking a net in which to weigh fish that I have caught when I am wading, I looked hard for an alternative. As a result of watching the videos John had sent me I was aware of weighing slings and looked for a "fly fishing version". There was no such thing anywhere. Again, because of John's videos I had become aware of other "kit" that the Carp bait fisherman use. One of the things they do is "sack" a fish. I looked at various sacks and finally ordered one from a shop in the UK. I knew it would be too big for a weigh sling but I also knew I could get it altered. The cleaner we use is also a tailor. He does alternations and he got a good laugh out of what I was using the sack for.

I have weighed fish over 20 pounds in this sling. It works for me as a fly fisherman who usually covers miles of water in a session. It fits in a zip lock bag and the bag fits in my pants pocket. Mr. Diep, the tailor, sewed cords on the sling to accommodate the scale. After a fish takes a ride in the sling I rinse it out before putting it back in the ziplock bag.

Okay, I have to confess that sometimes I don't bother putting the sling back in the plastic bag, I just stuff the sling in my pants pocket. That means that my pants smell fishy but once I'm catching fish I kinda don't care if I stink like Carp. I might even like it. Yeah I do. So what.

It was 28 degrees out when my wife took this picture in our family room. These are the clothes I wear most of the time when I am Carp fishing. The weighing sling is in my pocket in this picture.

My patient wife is holding the sling.

Here is the sling on the floor. There is a size 12 running shoe to give size perspective. It's my shoe. My joints no longer tolerate running very well. I walk briskly and sort of alternate walking with some shuffling. More accurately, there is a size 12 shuffling shoe next to the sling.

I hooked and played a beautiful 15-16# Mirror into the shallows this summer. It was such a wonderful fish. I was going to photograph him in the water and then send him home. I let the line go slack while I reached in my shirt pocket to get the camera. Just like that the fly just fell out and the Carp slowly swam away. I swore. It was a time when momentarily I wished I had a net. I still think about carrying one when I'm wading but I haven't found one that I feel is worth the hassle at this point. I did see a new one (new to me) online a few weeks ago that I might consider. Time will tell.

The tape:

Sometimes I just can't be bothered weighing fish even when they are large and I have the sling with me. I just measure them and call it good. I do this with several species actually. Here is the vinyl coated tape measure that is always in the pack I wear when I'm stalking Carp. In fact sometimes I can't be bothered measuring them or even taking a picture regardless of how big the fish is. I just say thanks and release them.

Tape measure:


John and I continued our conversations over a period of a few years. He invited me to go Carp fishing with him. He was absolutely convinced that if I experienced Euro-style Carp fishing with him I would never go back to fly fishing for Carp. He said, "Why on earth would you use flies when bait is so much more effective?" I told him that I would fish with him and do what he did but he should know I would always be a fly fisherman. I was very respectful of him and his methods and anxious as heck to watch it all work. We scheduled a trip several summers ago. Three or four weeks before the trip John called to say that he had a brain tumor and was going to have to cancel the trip. He moved to California for treatment. He survived the treatment and took a new job there.


  1. Good article! Very useful for novice anglers.

    A greeting from Spain

  2. Thanks Alfonso. The Internet makes the world a small world indeed. Do you fly fish for Carp?

  3. Yes I do. I fish barb and carp on fly in Spain. My blog is http://apeloypluma.blogspot.com/ you can see in it the way we fish carp and barb.

  4. Look at this http://apeloypluma.blogspot.com/2011/06/big-carp-in-dark-water.html

  5. Hi Mr. P,
    Thanks for posting this and your other writings. I have to agree that many anglers don't treat their fish very respectfully. You can see it on the river as well as on TV and online videos. Bass get slung onto the astroturf of bass boats, stuffed in plastic bags at bass tournaments, and levered by their jaw to show to the camera. Lots of other species get barbed single and treble hooks ripped out of them. They're held vertically by the head or tail (their organs aren't designed for that). They're held out of the water way too long (I don't have the citation but a study has found that gills are permanently damaged after 15 seconds out of the water, and the damage is greater in cold weather). They're allowed to flop around in the rocks before they are released. Obviously, nobody's perfect but we anglers all need to educate ourselves on how to handle fish so that they have a high survival and low injury rate.

  6. Thanks Mr P! I think I need to find a tailor too. I am going to have to think long and hard about this and the CAG discussion. Lots of ways we could all do a little bit better, lots of directions you can go.

  7. Alfonso, thanks for sharing your blog with me. You have some wonderful pictures there. I agree with you from one of your posts; sometimes the only answer is, "stealth and patience."

    Matt, thanks for the props; I appreciate them. Certainly a lesson for me in talking to John was that no matter how well I thought I already handled fish I still had room for improvement. You are right; we can all do better.

    McTage, you are welcome. Thanks for starting the discussion. As I explained I use a net in the boat but the sling really works for me when I am wading. For me it is the perfect blend of a small package that is easy to carry, being able to weigh a large fish, and protecting the fish.