Cold finger defense
There’s only one thing worse than fishing while wearing gloves and that’s fishing with hands and fingers so cold you can’t grip a zipper tang tight enough to unzip whatever it is needing unzipped. Anglers fishing in cold weather, whether through the ice, on a steelhead stream, or in the earliest of spring know this and know there’s only one defense to the chill – gloves.
They also know fishing is a wet business. The water is wet, the fish are wet, the lures are wet, the bait is often wet and wet cold is 10 times worse than dry cold.
Cold weather anglers also know many fishing activities are impossible to do when wearing gloves. Try reaching into a tackle box full of hooks and fish out one hook, jig, or lure while wearing gloves. Try to reach down inside a perch’s mouth to remove a hook, or grab a new minnow and re-bait the hook with fingers swaddled inside a warm mitt. Try to tie a good fishing knot, or even a poor fishing knot, while wearing gloves.
My cold finger defense is threefold. First, there’s no such thing as having nice warm hands (and feet) if the rest of me is cold. When a human’s core temperature drops a fraction of a degree and the body switches to survival mode, warm blood diverts from the extremities to the keep your vitals warm. Dress warmly all over, then give special attention to your hands.
Next, I have two pairs of gloves with me. One pair is my “dry” pair. I wear them when I’m doing non-fishing things, like driving the boat or drilling ice holes. They are warm and purposely bulky so I’m not tempted to do fishing things while wearing them. They are also waterproof to keep them dry when I forget and try to do wet-work fishing things.
The third line of defense is a pair of fingertip-less gloves. I was skeptical when I first tried these half-gloves.
With regular gloves, the cold always starts at the fingertips and then works it’s way down towards the palm. That didn’t happen! Seemingly working against all natural laws, I was able to do the fishing things I normally did with bare hands and my fingers stayed comfortably warm. I think it’s similar to how keeping your core warm, keeps your hands and feet warm. Keep the palm warm and the finger tips do pretty good fishing, tying lines, snapping swivels, and gripping reel handles and freshly caught fish.
My first exposed-tip gloves were generic rag-wool models, but I gave up the woolies when I tried a pair built on a neoprene base, much like a wetsuit material, and which have a layer of fleece covering all but the palm of the glove. The rubberized palm is textured, helping get a firm grip on flopping fish. The neoprene offers enough stretch my hands never feel bulked up and most important, my hands and fingertips stay warm.