If you believe in luck, then you believe in lucky items. A rabbit’s foot, a lucky hat, maybe even a lucky fly. But how about a lucky net?
I recently obtained a hand-crafted, 22-inch wooden handled net from Jennings Net Co in Mercer County, PA. The 22-inch handle is important here because, without it, I’m not sure I’d have landed the biggest trout of my life.
Carl Gravatt, the artisan behind these exquisite products, makes these nets himself using a seven layer laminate that results in a net that is practically unbreakable. I’ll take his word for it, though. No way on God’s green Earth would I ever subject this work of art to anything that could possibly damage it. I mean, I’m hard enough on gear just by being me, so there’s no need to get crazy!
Gravatt has worked in architectural design and woodworking for 33 years and a fishing junky for much longer than that. Ironically, Gravatt says he was never really a net guy and just landed his fish by hand. That changed one day when he decided to have a little fun in the woodshop, where he began experimenting with net designs and hoop sizes. After a lot of field testing, he developed a series of nets that are both beautiful and functional.
“I always use the best materials I can find,” says Gravatt. “The hoops are a combination of curly maple and walnut. They’re strong and durable, but also thin and light to carry.”
One of the signature features of a Jennings net is a small engraving near the juncture of the handle and hoop that reads “Redeem the Time.” As a teenager, Gravatt was in a car accident that has led to multiple hip replacements over the past 30 years. Later in life, he says, “I came into some faith things on my own and was having trouble explaining what was going on, so I put that phrase on each net, and if people want to find out what it means, they can look it up, or they can take it at face value. The whole concept is just to enjoy your day and pursue the things you love.”
When I got home from work one evening, this net was waiting for me on my doorstep. I opened it outside where the sunlight could help me view and appreciate the finish and fiddleback throughout the wood. I had no choice but to go fishing and test it out…in the name of science!
The evening started out a little slow, but then I got two stocked trout on a size 16 nymph. And then I hooked into an absolute monster wild brown. A dream trout. I fought the fish for a solid eight minutes before finally coaxing it close enough to scoop. Due to the length of my leader and the bend in the rod from the weight of the fish, I just couldn’t quite reach the trout to net it. In a last ditch effort, I pulled the fly line-leader junction through the top two guides of the fly rod, steered the fish closer, and that long handle of my Jennings net gave me just enough reach to land the wild brown of a lifetime!
Yes, I have video of this amazing catch, and that is forthcoming. But I truly believe I wouldn’t have landed that trout if not for the Jennings net that arrived on my doorstep at just the right time.
Are there cheaper nets on the market? Yes. But for me, at least, I’m not sure there are luckier nets. Each time on the water with this net has been a pleasure.
For many people, cheap nets bought from a box store are good enough. But if you want to support a small, local business while purchasing hand-crafted, quality products that will last a lifetime — not to mention are works of art — then check out Jennings Net Co.
Jennings Net Co offers nets in a variety of colors and sizes. I’m sure you will find one that you’d be proud to carry. Since packing around this net, I’ve actually had people on the stream comment on its beauty and want to inspect it closer. It’s an excellent conversation starter.
I can’t promise this net will help you hook more fish or even land more fish. But I can tell you from personal experience that, even as you’re staring down at the fish of a lifetime, in the back of your mind you’ll still hear these words: “Dang, that’s a beautiful net!”
Hand-crafted Jennings nets can be purchased on site in Pennsylvania at the Neshannock Creek Fly Shop in Volant and The Feathered Hook in Coburn, and at Annika Rod and Fly in Brewer, Maine.
Or you can visit their website at www.jenningsnetco.com or call or text Carl at 724-992-0127.
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