The wood is called Samak, only available in Asia, and pretty good for this type of application, and pretty too, in my opinion.
I also didn't use to use a net in the past, and first started using them for the films, it made it easier to manage the fish, but soon I just realized it's often times much easier on the fish, you net them keeping the net in the water and they stay calm, not thrashing around. Often times not handling a fish at all or trying to remove it without touching it works just fine, but sometimes the fish may keep jumping around as you do that, and I came to think the net is actually much easier on the fish, it keeps them calmer in the water. I now am a net convert
as you may have guessed
Tenkara USA, founder
打仁得流, テンカラ大使About me and Tenkara USA