But the closer we got to our scheduled departure date, the more it looked like our intended glory was going to be gloomy. When the forecast predicted temps in the upper 20s, winds upwards of 30 mph and rain mixed with sleet turning to snow I knew it was time for a back-up plan. Cancel a fishing trip? Never!
Fly-fishing requires a certain degree of dexterity and offers a lot more challenges to keeping your hands warm than trolling for walleye. You can't stand around with your hands in your pockets, waiting for a strike. Stripping line wearing mittens, or gloves with fingers for that matter is nearly impossible.
I've always had a problem keeping my hands warm, and was a bit dubious about paying good money for gloves with the fingers cut off. However, I'm open to innovation and considering the distance we were driving, I wasn't going to leave any possibility unexplored when it came to staying on the water.
On advice of council (my fishing buddy who is crazy enough to fly-fish in January) I picked up two pairs of Glacier® Kenai™ gloves, and considered several other pairs, including the same brand with a really nifty neoprene mitten that folded back with a Velcro retainer. But when the weather turned foul, I found myself using the fingerless gloves and actually feeling pretty warm.
Let's face it, when your hands are wet, the wind's howling and flesh is exposed, you're not going to be toasty with anything that doesn't involve flames, but with Glacier gloves I was able to fish and that's was all that was important at the time.
These gloves are made with a durable windproof fleece, designed to protect the hands from that bone-chilling wind, while still allowing you to use your exposed fingers for delicate tasks like tying on very small #24 dries with a 7x tippet. The dexterity that is achievable was very good, and even with my fingers exposed, the cold was very manageable. Even on the coldest day, which started out at 28-degrees, I was able to fish in relative comfort. I tried the mitten version, but found that even with the mitten folded back, there were too many opportunities to tangle up line while stripping and casting. For spin casting, or fishing other techniques I think they would be more applicable.
I actually removed the gloves for half an hour, to see how much difference they made, and soon came to regret it. My theory is that the gloves keep the palms, and most of the fingers warm, which maintains the temperature of the blood coursing through the veins and helps keep your fingertips warmer.
Even after dipping my fingers into the 40-degree river water to release a fish or two, I was amazed at how well I was able to recover and keep on fishing. After washing off the fish slime, they dried quickly and the dampness didn't have a significant impact. I bought two pairs, so that I'd have a dry pair all the time, but wound up using only one pair each day.
Another key to keeping your hands warm on days like this is to maintain your body's core temperature. When I dressed for a day on the river, I used a base layer of Polartec, Flats Wear fishing shirt, a windproof mid-layer, Cabela's Dry-Plus River Guide jacket and on most days Cabela's Backcountry wading jacket to shed the moisture. My body was plenty warm, and I actually had to vent my torso several times to keep from sweating. That's when the Flats Wear shirt came in handy. This shirt is designed for hot weather saltwater fishing, but the vents really came in handy on this trip.
In the afternoons, when the sun finally made an appearance, I still kept the Kenai gloves on. When you're wading 40-degree water, even with Polartec and liner pants, a little wind goes a long way toward chilling you down. Four days of fly-fishing on the Green made me a believer in fingerless gloves, and Glacier® Kenai™ in particular.
If you struggle with cold hands and like to fish when others stay home, give the Kenai a try.