Are you a net person or not? A lot of guides I know think using a net for landing fish is harmful to trout. It rubs off their slimy protective skin coating. Then again… what’s worse for the fish? Fumbling and bumbling around trying to grab it by the tail? Or scooping it up with a net, and gently releasing it in short order? When I guide, I use a net, with rubber mesh. People want to land the fish they hook. They don’t want to watch me punt a 20-incher by grabbing the leader. I know that.
But when I fish by myself, the old net stays in the truck more often than not. It isn’t so much a matter of conscience for me, rather, I find the ultimate connection to a wild fish happens when I bring it to my hand… slide my fingers to the fly… maybe pat the little feller (like this greenback cutthroat) on the head… and pop the hook out of his mouth, without the fish ever leaving the water. To me, that’s landing a fish, and a true test of my fish fighting skills. Of course, I’ve lost more than a few big fish by not using a net. But that’s a trade I’ll make.