Fly fishing is one of my other hobbies and like wood working, it can be very expensive. Thankfully, I’ve been fly fishing for close to 25 years and gradually acquired some really great gear that will last a lifetime. To keep costs under control, I like to tie my own flies and build as much of my own gear as possible.
I built a custom fly rod back in 1998, and it is still my favorite (a 9ft 6wt on a Winston 3-piece LT blank). I was able to save 60% off the stock rod by building it myself. I was also able to get all of the features and performance that I was looking for, without having to compromise on materials or style. I get an extra thrill out of catching a beautiful trout with a fly I tied and a rod that I built myself.
One thing I always wanted to try was building my own custom landing net.
If the plan is to just make a functional net, I realize that this is one project that will not save me any money over buying a cheap net off the shelf. I was in my local Bass Pro Shops looking for a rubber replacement net bag to use on my frame (no luck) and I noticed that they had foreign made wooden nets with cheap nylon bags for sale as low as $4.99! I’ll probably spend more on the glue to make my net!
I want a high quality net, with a rubber bag that is easier on the fish, as I tend to release almost all of the trout I catch. I plan to make mine much prettier and more durable than the cheap nets at Bass Pro Shops. I have all the materials on hand, so really, I’m making my net for the cost of a replacement net bag (I’m pretty good at convincing myself when I really want to build something).
To build a wooden net, I needed to learn steam bending, a woodworking technique that I have also wanted to try for quite a while. I checked out a few steam bending blogs here on Lumberjocks and I read all the books in my local library before working up the nerve to give it a try.
Here are some photos to show you my progress:
Here’s my steamer set up. I used my Coleman camping stove as the heat source and my “lobster pot” from my backyard grill to boil the water.
I ripped several 3/8” strips from 60” boards using my table saw. This was a little dicey because I had to remove the blade guard in order to get the fence closer to the blade. I used a long push stick to feed the wood and made sure to position myself off to the side and out of the “line of fire”. This is probably my least favorite wood working technique because it is the most dangerous.
The first two strips that I tried to bend, one cherry and one walnut, cracked and wound up in the scrap pile. I think I have this figured out now. My wood is all kiln dried and sits in my garage where the humidity is usually less than 10% and temps can get as high as 120F for weeks at a time in the summer. I decided to soak my strips in my swimming pool for 24 hours before attempting to steam them.
Once the water gets boiling, the steam rises up through the clear tubing and into the 3” ABS Pipe which serves as the “steam box”. The temperature in the steam box gets up to 210F according to my kitchen thermometer.
After about an hour of “cooking”. I took my strips of wood out of the steam box and bent them around a form that I made out of MDF secured with dowels to a Melamine base. The MDF ring is covered with clear packing tape so it won’t get stuck to the net frame during the glue up process.
Above is a 3/8” strip of alder clamped around the frame and glued to a walnut handle. I used high quality waterproof wood glue.
Above is a 3/8” strip of walnut glued and clamped around the alder.
Above is a close up of the handle. I have a lot of hand shaping and sanding to do once the glue has dried.
This first net is built on a template with a 9” diameter (I traced a dinner plate on to MDF and cut it out with my jig saw). The length of the hoop is 13.5”. The handle length is 9”. This should be big enough for most of the trout I typically catch. Now I need to find a good deal on a net bag.
I plan to plane the strips even with my block plane (the walnut is slightly taller than the alder), round the hoop on all sides using sand paper, and shape the handle using a combination of hand rasps and my orbital spindle sander. I’ll then drill the holes for stringing the net bag to match whatever net bag I decide to use (I’m leaning toward the Brodin rubber catch and release bag unless I can find a better price on a similar product). When it is ready for finishing, I will seal it with several coats of spar varnish I’m not sure if I will use any stain first or not. Once the varnish is dry, I’ll attach the net bag and add a lanyard and a retainer clip to the handle.
Stay tuned for an update showing the shaping and finishing. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments.
-- "There seems to be a black hole in my garage that swallows up pencils and tape measures as soon as I put them down."