It begins with the handle. The handle tells Mike Avery owner of Snake River Net Company what kind of wood to choose. The handle dictates the size, style and color of the hoop.
Custom made fishing nets by Mike always begin with the handle.
In 2002 a friend gifted Mike a handmade net. He liked the net, but not the shape. After using it on the water he decided to try to make his own.
He wanted a flat top so he could get under a fish with a net large enough to land the big one, but not so cumbersome it would snag on the willows as he made is his way to the water. He added a flared handle so he could feel for it without looking. It took him almost nine months to create the shape and size he thought was just right.
He figured if he was going to make a net anyway, he might as well make it beautiful with specialty woods that complimented each other in color.
The finished net was always at his side when fishing and people began to notice. In 2010 he started making nets for friends. As demand increased he decided to make a business of it and in 2012 began Snake River Net Company out of a workshop in his Ammon, Idaho home. After a year, the business was a full-time job.
Mike creates three different styled nets: the Snake River net, perfect for a boat fisherman; the Silver Creek for wade-style fishing; and the Henry’s Lake net for pontoon boat fishing. All three models come in different woods, like cherry, maple or padauk. Each is hand crafted and Avery emphasizes functionality as well as aesthetic.
He can spend hours picking out woods, first for the handle and then accent pieces for the hoop. He sells the nets at fishing supply stores as well as art fairs.
He gives each net he makes a serial number and when someone orders from the website, the net they see online is the exact one they get, Mike said.
Mike spent his summers growing up on the McKenzie River in Oregon where his grandfather ran a blueberry farm. His grandfather taught him the importance of hard work and rewarding it with play. Mike worked on the farm all day and then every night they’d go fishing. Mike’s grandfather built his own rods and tied his own flies. He was an early influence on Mike’s appreciation of craftsmanship.
Mike went on to spend 30 years in the flooring industry where he developed a greater appreciation for blending functionality with beauty, for instance by inlaying an image of the Tetons in a tile floor. He also made some wood furniture and found he liked working with wood.
“It’s just every piece of wood is unique, even though it comes out of the same tree,” he said. “It’s fascinating.”
Mike makes each net he sells. He can’t imagine ever hiring someone else to do the work for him, no matter how big demand gets. It would be a bit like an artist hiring someone to help him paint portraits to sell.
Each net is a three day process. He’ll cut hundreds of hoops and handles all on one day. Then he’ll start assembling, attaching handle to hoop and then adding in the netting he orders pre-cut.
Some people say the finished custom fishing nets are too beautiful to use. That isn’t true, Mike said. The last thing he does is add a lanyard on each net because the best thing you can do with any wooden net is hang it up after you’re done fishing.