Cold finger defense

TheExposure Tip gloves are comfortable for cold weather fishing. (Photo by Mike Schoonveld)

There’s only one thing worse than fishing with gloves on, and that’s fishing with hands and fingers so cold you can’t grip the zipper hard enough to open it without unzipping it. Anglers who fish in cold weather, whether on ice, on a steelhead creek or in early spring, know this and know that there is only one protection against the cold: Gloves.

They also know that fishing is a wet business. The water is wet, the fish are wet, the bait is wet, the bait is often wet, and the wet cold is 10 times worse than the dry cold.

Anglers who fish in cold weather also know that many types of fishing are not possible when wearing gloves. Try reaching into a tackle box full of hooks with gloves on and pulling a fish on a hook, jig or lure. Try reaching into the mouth of a bass to remove the hook, or take a new minnow and poach the hook with your braided fingers in a warm glove. Try to tie a good or even a bad fish knot while wearing gloves.

My defense of the cold finger is threefold. First: There are no nice warm hands (and feet) when the rest of us are cold. When a person’s core temperature drops a fraction of a degree and the body goes into survival mode, warm blood is drained from the limbs to keep vital signs warm. Dress warmly, and then pay special attention to your arms.

Before I know it, I’m wearing two pairs of gloves. A pair is my dry pair. I wear them for all activities except fishing, for example. For example, sailing or drilling holes in the ice. They’re hot and intentionally clunky, so I’m not tempted to fish with them. They are also waterproof so they stay dry if I forget them and still try to fish wet.

The third line of defense is a pair of fingerless gloves. I was skeptical when I first tried these half marathons.

With normal gloves, the cold always starts under the fingertips and then moves to the palm. That’s not what happened! Seemingly against all laws of nature, I could fish what I would normally do with my bare hands and my fingers stayed warm. I think it’s like keeping your heart warm, keeping your hands and feet warm. Keep your palm and fingertips warm while fishing, tying lines, swirling, gripping reel handles and catching freshly caught fish.

My open gloves were of universal rag wool, but I abandoned my preference for wool gloves when I tried a pair of neoprene gloves, which look a lot like a wetsuit and have a fleece layer that covers the entire palm except for the palm. Rubberized palm is textured for a firm grip on a swimming fish. The neoprene is stretchy enough so that your hands never swell and, more importantly, your hands and fingertips stay warm.