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Chris Fournier Landing Nets: The Work of a Fine Craftsman
Imagine buying a fish net that you can expect to last through years of hard fishing, that as it ages it gains character, that has been made through the meticulous lens of a true craftsman. Well, that is what you get with Chris Fournier Landing Nets.
In this interview Chris details his perspective and process on building these quality nets. I don't own one of these nets, yet! I think you will be like me and put these on your "must have" list after reading this fantastic interview.
GFN: So how did you get into producing landing nets?
I got into fly fishing in my late twenties and of course poured my money into it. It was not lost on me, even at that time that there was a lot of very fine gear out there but what seemed to be missing was a landing net that could match a rod or reel for beauty and craftsmanship. I was a guitar maker at the time and thought that making my own landing net would be fun. Turns out I was right. I made a batch of 8 I think, I kept one, I gave one to a pal and sold the rest. My local fishing shop was interested in selling them – the beginning.
GFN: How long have you been making and selling the nets?
22 years or a bit longer. As I mentioned I sold nets from my first run.
GFN: The end product looks so gorgeous and much more like art then a landing net. You detail the process of making a net but how long does it take you to make a net?
I am a bit tricky when it comes to the whole “art” word. I have never described myself as an artist and truthfully I have striven to be a craftsman. Craft can certainly contain good design and an eye for resolved curves, shapes, and proportions. I know that it is always meant as a compliment, and I am grateful when folks say that they think my nets are art. I just want to know that they will jam the net into the river bottom to seine insects and put as many fish in their nets as possible, these nets are meant to be used! Some are hung on walls in my clients homes, I made them a net, they made them art.
Over the years I have really enjoyed streamlining my production process to become more efficient in the shop and to produce a better net. I have modern woodworking machinery as well as old school hand tools and I use both when they suit the task at hand. I also am a big fan of jigs, fixtures, and forms. I make nets in batches. Once the steam chamber is hot and ready, or a saw is set up, or I have my carving tools out, it is time to make a bunch at once!
I haven’t done a time study of a net run in some time but the last time I did each net (The Grand model and it was a run of three dozen) took an hour and six minutes from lumber to finished net ready for sale. Bigger nets take longer of course. Like I said, once I’m making steam to bend hoop strips I try to make it worth my while. I could have made a net in the time that it took me to answer this simple question. Sorry.
GFN: What was the trial and error process like in the beginning of making the nets?
I got very lucky in this regard and my first nets looked like my current nets although I did subtly change a handle profile a few years ago and have moved from high gloss to a more mat finish. Coming from guitar making I was very comfortable drafting to scale and using French curves to get the smooth transitions that I like. I drafted that first net run and made templates and forms right off the bat. Most all of my trials and errors were in pencil, just how I like it.
What I learned after my first run was that it was a false economy to try and glue up net blanks that were close to finished thickness to save material as you need some slop factor in the glue up. This was likely the closest to error that I came to. Not every creation in my shop has been this trouble free.
GFN: Nets often take a lot of wear and tear for hardcore fishermen. How do you make sure your nets hold up over time?
Well I’m a fisherman and I guided for several years as well. I use gear and have a feeling for what will hold up over time. As a woodworker I knew which species would be suitable, what glues were waterproof and best for laminating, what finish would hold up in a river environment. As a fisherman I knew, or had an opinion, of what kind of bag would be best on the fish – not splitting fins or catching mandibles etc. I know of a few guys that are still using my nets from that first run over twenty two years ago! I use spar varnish and this finish can be touched up or completely re-applied as needed.
I also stress test and scrutinize the quality of my net blanks at each stage in the build process. If they fail there then no customer will ever know! I did have one fisherman come back one day after buying my net and complaining that it was broken. Of course this was in the busy fly shop where we were guiding him for a couple of days. We all love an audience. As it turned out he had bought my net but was too thrifty to purchase a lanyard for it at the same time. Turns out that when a 230 pound fisherman shoves one of my nets down the back of his waders and then goes for a tumble down a steep bank that my nets are not in any way like airbags! I’m still working on this short coming and have some patent applications for a landing net with airbag technology. To date trout over 20 inches set off the airbags and I don’t see this new fully featured net coming to market for a while…
GFN: What are your future goals for CF Landing Nets?
I am not a sophisticated guy when it comes to business so I guess I’ll just say that I would like sales to increase. I am trying to use the power of the internet to help me with this and as a newb I have done a pretty poor job to date. My wife and a good friend have really helped me with this most important task. Thanks Sheilah and Ian!
GFN: Lastly, let's talk about your own fishing. I see from your website that you are a brook trout chaser. What are some of your favorite brook trout waters and what's make them your favorite?
Truthfully I am fishing a lot less these days. It seems that there are so many other great activities that interest me and when I get home and see my dog Greta looking pretty excited about going for a walk by the river it is hard to say no! Less time less fishing I guess.
Over the years I have made some good friends and two in particular turned out to be avid fisherman and happen to be two of my favourite people on Earth. I have spent months fishing with these two guys. My friend Gord lives in Thunder Bay Ontario and the Nipigon is in his backyard. Gord has shown me what a really big Brookie looks like. No joke those Nipigon Specks are gorgeous brutes. Gord has shared his keen enjoyment of simply “being out there” when the fishing is tough or the weather is nasty. Gord is almost thirty years my senior he can fish from sunrise to sunset. He can also fall asleep in two minutes in a mosquito infested tent. Good for him. This spring on the North Shore of Superior weather and timing lined up so that with a one day window we were able to both land some spring Steelhead. I used a fly rod of course! Gord is generous to a fault and enjoys every fish caught even the ones on my line.
My other favourite fishing friend is Mike, we both live in Southern Ontario. Mike and I have gone to some extreme lengths chasing fish. Geographically extreme would be Labrador, physically extreme would be deep into Algonquin Park. The tops of our heads are now shaped like a canoe. We have paddled into the Heart of Darkness to chase Specks. We’ve made money guiding international clients on the Grand river for Brown trout. We have laughed ourselves sick float tubing for backyard large mouth bass. One of our specialties was the bike and fish where we would rip up to the river on our motorbikes. Mike and I are planning a fall trip one of our favourite lakes in Algonquin Park. Mike is the kind of guy that fishes your water while you tie on a new fly. Not a generous fishing partner but he makes great camp coffee, that’ll have to do I guess!
GFN: Everyone needs to check out Chris' nets at CFLandingNets.com. He has four different models: The Brookie, The Grand, The Steelhead and The Boat Net. You can also follow Chris on Twitter.
Thank you Chris for doing the interview and keep up the great work and craftsmanship.