Before we begin, let’s call this a gear rave, rather than a gear review, because this is not a review in the sense that I was sent a piece of gear in exchange for mass publicity on my website. Nay, I’ve no affiliation with Fishpond USA whatsoever: no pro deals, ambassadorship, no insider information, nothing like that. I’m just a customer—a customer that has long-fretted over the best way to carry a hand net while wading. And so here I am, to share with my 3 readers, my solution.
Because it’s a problem.
Early on I had a small net attached to the back of my vest using some sort of quick-release devise. This was back when it was still socially acceptable to wear a vest (you didn’t get that memo?). The weight of the over-loaded vest—heavy, because it had so many pockets and I filled every pocket until it was maxed out—plus the added weight of the wooden net dangling off the back, called for a change (at the insistence of my chiropractor). Not to mention that the vest was effectively another layer of clothing which on hot days added to increased body temperature accordingly.
So I switched, for several years, to a
fanny pack lower lumbar/waist pack. I liked the pack itself, quite a lot in fact. The problem with that system was that the there was no good way to carry a net. Yes, the net handle could be wedged between the pack and the fanny, but that left a lot to be desired. The result of this was that I nearly always went fishing without a net. If you’re catching small fish, this isn’t an issue, but on rare occasion I would hook into something that presented a challenge to land. Had I a net with me on those occasions, life would have been much better for me, and the fish. I also wanted something with a bit more carrying capacity, so the quest for a better solution ensued.
Next up was a waterproof backpack for carrying my gear. It could carry all I needed and more. It could get heavy, but because of the hip belt, the weight was kept off my shoulders. The problem remained that of how to efficiently carry a net (by this time I had come to possess a super lightweight Fishpond/Nomad Hand Net). In an attempt to remedy this I attached one end of a magnetic connection to a D-ring on the pack, the other magnetic end to my net. What I didn’t like about this was the manner in which the net would swing back and forth as I walked, more than once catching on brush and becoming detached. Fortunately I would hear the net as it separated from my pack and hit the ground. Except one time. Fortunately by the time I realized the net was gone, I hadn’t walked very far and was able to retrace my steps and recover it easily. But then there was the time I was on a particular river in Idaho, about 2 miles up from camp. Having been repeatedly shunned by a particularly antisocial fish, I sat down upon the riverside rocks to reassess my terminal tackle. Unbeknownst to me, the rim of the net contacted the ground first. As I lowered myself to a seated position, the handle of the net pushed upwards with enough force to separate the magnetic connection to my backpack. After tying up a new bug I returned to my feet and unsuccessfully attempted to entice the picky fish to accept my new offering. Without catching the fish there was certainly no need to reach back for my net (if I had, I’d have noticed it missing). For some reason I did not take notice of the fact that the net was not swinging back and forth as I hiked out, and it wasn’t until I returned to camp and removed my backpack that I noticed my net, or lack thereof. Crap. Expensive net. I had a pretty good idea of where it was and fortunately this is a pretty remote stretch of river so the likelihood of another angler stumbling upon my net, and adding it to their gear collection, was slim. The next day my net was recovered, thanks to Ranger Morris. And I began to obsess over a better way to carry the net.
I’d pondered a sling pack in the past, but like every other wearable, gear-carrying device, slings lacked a good system for carrying a net. And then I stumbled upon the Fishpond Thunderhead Sling. This pack has an integrated sleeve for the handle of a net. GENIUS! The net is tucked away in a secure manner behind me, easily reachable when it needs to be deployed; unnoticeable when not. I’ve used it several times while wet wading and I am still giddy over the ease with which I can now carry my net. And another thing I really like about the Thunderhead Sling is that all I need to do is unclip one strap, swing the pack around in front of me, and the waterproof zipper is right there, allowing for easy access to fly boxes, etc. This is a huge advantage over the backpack system where one must remove the pack to gain entry to its contents (and I don’t care for bulky front pack attachments). The Thunderhead has room for all that I need to carry, but it’s not big enough that I can carry excessive amounts of gear. It’s got a well thought-out system of external attachment points for nippers, hemostats, tippet spools, and whatnot. And because it has a fairly small footprint and breathable padding between the pack and one’s backside, it’s comfortable even on hot days.
For all the added features, however, the single best thing about the Thunderhead Sling Pack is, in my opinion, that it was designed to carry a net (for that rare occasion when I need one). I should note that my Nomad Hand Net has a very short handle, and truth be told, a longer handled net would fit the sleeve perhaps even better.
This pack is a keeper, as well it should be for what it cost. Because—remember—I paid retail just like the rest of you commoners.