Photo of the Month: Bycatch

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Staying Warm

One of the challenges of fishing in the cooler months is staying warm, especially if you are catching a lot of fish and have to constantly be dealing with unhooking them. I have wanted to share my system for staying warm and almost waited too long. The warm months stretch ahead of us now, but hopefully this will help you plan for next winter. A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by David French from about doing a product review on their hand warmers. It was a great opportunity to pick up a few handwarmers as well as motivate me to write this post that I have been planning for awhile.

First of all, I personally feel that handwarmers are crucial to my happiness when winter fishing. I always have at least one in a pocket and sometimes have two ready, one for each hand. My indicator that tells me I am too cold is simply this: if I can't tie knots then I'm too cold and it is time to spend a couple of minutes warming my hands. If I'm cold enough that I can't get warm using handwarmers, then I have a more serious problem and either need to return to my car or build a small fire.

To delay the inevitable, I highly recommend wearing a good pair of fishing gloves, at least on the really cold days. I prefer to fish without them but solved that problem by wearing it on just one hand. The main reason I have discovered to wear gloves is because they keep your hands dry. The exertion of casting otherwise keeps you sufficiently warm. However, constantly stripping line is a good way to get both cold and wet. Wearing a glove on whichever hand you hold the rold with solves this problem. I prefer to strip line with a bare hand. If I keep the line running between the fingures of my casting hand, the material of the glove soaks up all the moisture and my line hand stays dry. Naturally, when it is really cold outside the best method is to just wear gloves on both hands, and if they don't really bother you, I would wear them on both hands anyway. I just don't like the bulk...

Next, you need a way to stay dry. I never touch fish with gloves and don't recommend doing it unless you have a pair with a rubber finish to minimize the damage to the fish. There are two alternatives: either carry a net and simply never touch the fish or remove your glove each time you land the fish. I have used both and any time I want a picture of a particularly good fish I remove my gloves. Afterwords, the water on your hands and the cold air temperatures will have your hands miserable in no time. So I have started carrying a small hand towel or even a washcloth. I just keep it tucked in my wading belt so it is always there when I want to dry my hands.

After drying your hands, you need to warm them back up, and this is where the handwarmers come in. Using the handwarmer a couple of minutes on each hand is the perfect way to keep fishing for hours with minimal discomfort. I fish with this system even when air temperatures are in the teens and twenties which is about as bad as I have to worry about here in Tennessee. If you live somewhere where it is colder, then I'm sure you have to use some additional measures on occasion. One other thing I like to do is have a small fire going on shore if it is legal. Everyone has there own method, and I would be interested to hear any other ideas you may have on keeping warm in the winter...


  1. Hi David. I use the exact same system to keep the hands warm. The only difference is, I use two towels. One on each side, one for each hand. Hand warmers are kept in one of the vest pockets for easy access.


  2. David,
    I wear a pair of fleece gloves while winter fishing. They have a mitten cover that I can flip over when needed. When I don't need it, a magnet holds it back exposing my fingers. These have kept me warm when fishing down into the single digits and don't bother me to wear while fishing. Even keep me warm when they're wet. When things are really desperate, I put a handwarmer right down inside the glove to help me warm up, and it's even possible to fish this way. As far as handling fish, I never catch any in winter anyway, so no worries there...


  3. Nathan, do you feel that you have good flexibility while wearing the gloves? My main complaint about any gloves is that they restrict movement and I don't have as good of control with my line hand especially but also with my rod hand...

  4. David,
    I haven't noticed any problems with flexibility, but then again everyone has their own way of doing things. Something might bother you that doesn't me, and vice versa. The gloves I use allow all my fingers and thumb to be exposed, which is all I need to get the proper "feel". If you need to feel with your palm, the gloves wouldn't work for you. What I use is similar to this glove found after a quick internet search: Glomitts, but mine are a cheap off brand purchased at the local retail store in the hunting department. Sometimes I will catch my fly line on the flipped back mitten, which is annoying but bearable. Looks like we won't have to worry with gloves for awhile which is nice...

    Take care,