August 12, 2012

Handy Pak Net Co. Insta-Net -- Review

I have used a couple of landing nets since beginning my tenkara adventure. I never did get around to buying a Tenkara USA tamo although they are about the most beautiful nets I have ever seen! As of today they are not available on the Tenkara USA website. Hopefully they are just out of stock and will again be available when supplies are replenished. I would like to add one to my collection!

Tenkara USA tamo net

In the meantime I'll tell you about other nets I have used. The first was my regular "western"-style net that I have had for years. It is a robust wooden net that has been faithful. Then I got  and modified an American Tenkara net from Sam Lacina at Nets that Honor the Fish. This is a beautiful net but I didn't like the netting material so I replaced it with Tenkara USA mesh (no longer on their website -- as of the posting of this entry). I use it when I am on larger waters. I love using it with a Smith Creek Net Holster. This great product makes retrieving and re-holstering the net a breeze. It is simple, but very effective (hmmm, just like tenkara!).

Sam Lacina net with replaced mesh
Smith Creek Net Holster

More recently I bought a Ti Tenkara Net from TrailLite Designs. I have the angled version. It is very light and capable, even though the hoop diameter looks smallish. I have netted 18+ inch fish in it without issues. This is my second of these nets. I lost my first one while walking through very heavy brush. I suspect a tree just plucked it out of my belt while I was cursing and flailing around like a mad man :)  Oh, and no, I didn't have it tethered!

Mine has a white mesh
So now we come to it. I just got another net. You guys are probably rolling your eyes (as does my wife), but hey, I am a gear-head. I freely admit it. When I see something that looks intriguing I say to myself: "I gotta try that!".

The net I got is a Insta-Net, Vintage Series from the Handy Pak Net Company of Ashland, PA.  This net has been around in one form or another since the early 1960's, but no new nets were being made in recent years due to the retirement of the previous owner. In January 2011 Andrew Walker purchased the company and started making new nets with the original design and equipment.  The new version has been improved with a stainless steel hoop, so corrosion issues of original nets have been resolved.

I wanted a net that would allow me to move through heavy brush or timber without getting snagged. I know that Chris Stewart of TenkaraBum sells a collapsible net from Daiwa, but I decided to try the Insta-Net because I was curious about how it looked and worked, and I wanted to try the American made product.

My Insta-Net comes with a cherry handle and a leather pouch. The pouch has two slits in the back so it can be slipped over a belt. The net dimensions are 11.5" W x 15" L x 19" D when deployed, but only 5.75" W x 12" L  x 1.75" D when folded.

Compressed: Front view

Back view

I did not like the original netting material that came with the Insta-Net (even though I got the Catch & Release Trout Bag option). So, I replaced the original netting material with a medium sized nylon Measure Net replacement mesh. This net mesh is shallower and has a built-in fish measuring ruler. After unscrewing the Insta-Net handle halves and sliding the metal hoop off the original netting, you reinstall the metal hoop in the handle, tighten the screws and then zipper on the Measure Net replacement netting. To hold the Measure Net in place I drilled a small hole in the wood handle and secured the mesh with a small UV-stable zip tie. This process takes about 10 minutes total.

Deployed with Measure Net in place

Measure Net up close. Read the number at the fish's head and tail, and add them to get the fish's length -- easy!

UV-stable zip tie securing the mesh to the handle

I have now used the Insta-Net quite a few times. I have hiked with it for miles and even descended/ascended a 1000 foot canyon wall with it on my belt. The pouch holds tightly to your side but is not uncomfortable. You really don't even know its there until you need it. The net has not yet to date been snagged by branches (and I have crawled and scraped through some pretty tight, brushy places with it on).

Using the net is easy. Just grasp the handle and pull the net out of the constraining pouch. The compressed stainless steel loop immediately springs into position, forming the net hoop. The zip tie keeps the net from riding forwards up the hoop. The net is large enough to accommodate a very large fish.

This fish measures 6 (head) + 9 (tail) = 15 inches. There is plenty of room for a larger fish.

After releasing the fish, re-constraining the net is also easy, but takes a little practice. Start with the handle in your right hand and the top of the hoop in your left hand. Begin rotating the handle clockwise, while at the same time rotating the top of the hoop counterclockwise. Also bring your two hands towards each other. This will cause the steel loop to form three tight loops but without bending the steel. At this point just push the net and loops back into the pouch. It is now ready to be used again at a moments notice!

To aid in visualizing the re-constraining motion, take a look at this video on YouTube:

 I'd recommend not storing the net in the compressed position while wet. I let mine dry over night before storing it in the pouch.

I like this net so far. It easily goes through brush without getting caught like my first Ti Tenkara Net did. OK, it doesn't look like a tenkara tamo net and it is not nearly as pretty as the Tenkara USA net (of which I really need to get one!) but it is awfully handy when you are in brushy streams.


  1. You met Paul Gibson of at the summit, didn't you? He sells a net that is just what you are looking for. Everything but the テ.

    1. I didn't know that, Chris! Thanks for the info.!


  2. Tom, We do have a some of the beautiful wooden Tamo's (net) in stock and more coming in about a week. Our source is quick to get them to us so even should we run out they are no more than about 3 days to get here from Japan.

    Maybe I could convince the wife that I need to drive over and deliver it....would need to wet a line as long as I'm in the area. ;)



    1. Hi Paul,

      Hey, I need to get one of those nets. More importantly, we need to get together and fish. Maybe we could fish the Big Wood this fall or winter. That would make the distance equal for both of us!


  3. That would be great Tom. The Big Wood would be great. I fished it for a couple hours last week, the big guys are holding in the pools and hammered Kebari even with all the pressure they see.

    Even better would be to take the drive on further up and fish the N.F. of the Big L. The cuts are fishing great up there.

    I know how you like them wild cuts ;)
    I do too.


  4. Tom,

    Could you verify for us the size of the belt loop slots in the pouch?
    I'm wondering what the max width belt that would fit through to see if it would work with my wader belt. Thanks in advance!


    1. Hi Phil,

      Sorry for the late reply -- I was out of internet range for a few days.

      The belt slots are 1 and 5/8ths inches long. I'm sure they could be enlarged with a sharp knife though.