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Physician earns acclaim for handcrafted fishing nets


04/27/07 By Howard Meyerson Press Outdoors Editor [email protected]

When Michigan's trout season opens Saturday, Dr. Sam Lacina will be out enjoying the day. He may ply the trout-laden waters of Tyler Creek, or walk its banks seeing what there is to see. Chances are, the 56-year-old pediatric cardiologist from Grand Rapids will be smiling.

On the workbench of his home woodshop is an assortment of fishing nets in different stages of development. Some are simple. Some ornate. Some also are signed and numbered.

Whatever their design, Lacina's hand is all over them. His passion for making fine, handcrafted fishing nets began as a creative outlet 12 years ago.

It was a hobby to help cope with the stress of fixing hearts of infants for a living, a way to channel his creative energy. But the same attention to fine detail that makes him successful in his medical practice also has brought approbation of the sort artisans dream of.

"We have high-priced nets from well-known netmakers who have been at it for a very long time, but they are not in his class. His are heirloom quality, museum quality," Bob Murphy, a product development specialist for the Orvis Company in Manchester Vt., said.

In August, the company commissioned Lacina to produce a limited-edition set of 30 nets.

Each will be signed and numbered, made of birds-eye maple and walnut, adorned with his own scrimshaw designs. So far, 10 have been delivered to the company.

Orvis, a brand known for its distinctive, high-quality fly-fishing gear and apparel, began developing a sporting-collectibles business almost two years ago. It features one-of-a-kind and unique sporting items for those with discerning tastes and the pocketbook to match.

Lacina's nets, which can sell for as much as $800, will be offered in its November 2007 catalog, on the company Web site, and on the floors of its two most posh venues, its flagship store in Manchester and its Fifth Avenue store in New York City.

"We put one of his nets on our sporting collectible Web site and it sold right away," Murphy said. "That got me excited. They are not inexpensive.

"Our customers like the exclusivity and the idea that things are rare. And his nets are rare. They are exquisite."

For Lacina, who makes 30 to 50 nets a year and donates several to fishing, conservation or environmental groups such the Sierra Club and Catskill Fly Fishing Center in New York, it's the ultimate cosmic seal of approval -- a big nod from the great beyond that validates his generosity.

That Orvis wants his work is a blessing, he says, but Lacina is a man equally pleased by the notice his nets get from a laid-off worker walking a sport show floor with little to spend.

"Sometimes that compliment is the only change that guy has in his pocket, but this is my connection with people," he said.

Lacina, a deeply spiritual man, has yet to make a buck building nets and may lose about $1,000 a year. But, he says net building is not about money. It's about something bigger. His company is called: Nets that Honor Fish.

"There is a tiny little part of me that says I will eventually pay back what it cost for my shop and tools," Lacina says jovially. "But how many days do you have in life? Building nets is fun and I enjoy talking to anglers. It's about passing on the heritage."

Lacina relishes that his nets may be passed from one generation to another long after he is gone. His nets can be satin-finished for fishing or high-gloss for display.

They symbolize for him the beauty and grace of fly fishing for trout, even fishing in general, but especially the ancient rituals of honoring prey.

Humans were hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, he said. They killed animals and fish to survive.

But ancient cultures also recognized the sanctity of life. Native Americans and other tribal cultures often gave something back in a ritual to honor their prey.

"We have just a thin veneer of civilization over the top of that," Lacina said, his voice growing quiet, almost a whisper.

"Stop and think about it. I am a predatory species. It's good to stop and think about what we are doing.

"My net is a thing of beauty to remind us of that, a way of remembering our hunter-gatherer past.

"I love the fact that my nets have disappeared into people's homes. They were built to honor fish, our resources, our rivers, the fishermen and the sport."

Murphy said landing nets have become popular collectors items. He expects Lacina's nets will sell very well. So much so that Orvis already is talking with Lacina about another limited edition for next year.

Lacina shrugs, both pleased and unwilling to succumb to the pressures of commercial demand. He is considering it, but says that his medical practice will come first.

"It defeats the value of what I do if I have to become frantic making nets," he said. "Then I can't do my best work in an artful manner.

"If it doesn't work then that's OK. I'll just focus on making nets, giving them away and getting compliments from people who walk by my table at the shows."

924 Posts
Good Day,

Sam is a great guy! We are proud to be able to say that he is a member of our club! It really is great fun to watch him work the wonders he does with wood!


1,074 Posts
here's his web site for those fine looking nets. flyfishingnets.net
i looked over his net site. wooow those are some nets to be proud to put a trout into. i do have to say that they are a bite out of my price. maybe my wife will buy one for me for x-mas.....yaaaaa i bet.
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