Fly Fishing in Gloves Gets Better with Time

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Be a better fisherman and learn how to fly fish in gloves. Photo: Louis Cahill


If you answered no, don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you tried fly fishing in gloves a couple times and couldn’t stand them, that you’ll always feel that way. Believe me, I been there, I used to be one of the haters myself. I’d rather have my fingers ice cold all day long than try to fly fish in gloves and feel awkward and terrified of losing a fish of a lifetime. These things kept me from learning to fly fish comfortably in gloves for a very long time. Now, however, I don’t think twice about putting them on if the conditions call for them.

It wasn’t until the last couple years that I’ve finally become comfortable fly fishing in gloves. In fact, it was my first steelhead trip to New York that forced me to reconsider fishing gloveless. Steelhead fishing for a week in single-digit temperatures with howling arctic winds, showed me real quick sometimes gloves are the only option. It was so miserable without gloves, the first day I almost called it quits altogether. The only thing that kept me out there fishing was Louis and Charlie giving me shit. For the first time that I could remember, I couldn’t hack it in the elements and it wasn’t a good feeling at all. I felt like the biggest tool making the decision to leave my gloves at home. Especially since we had driven 14 hours to chase steelhead on the fly. I ultimately was left with two choices. Sit inside all day long by myself, while my buddies caught massive steelhead or head to the local Walmart and purchase a pair of gloves. I think you know what decision I made, and boy was it the right decision. That trip turned out to be one I’ll never forget. Wearing gloves I was able to tolerate the weather and land a ton of steelhead and big brown trout. There’s no way I could have made it through the week without them without losing fingers to frostbite.

Here’s the thing about fly fishing in gloves that anglers need to understand. There’s definitely a learning curve fishing in them, but if you force yourself to fly fish in them, it doesn’t really take that long before you’ll start to get comfortable with them and get back your dexterity in your fingers. Taking the time to get comfortable fly fishing in gloves is very similar to making yourself learn how to cast with your left hand if you’re a right handed. It’s sucks at first, but if you press on, you’ll figure out it’s really not that big of an obstacle to overcome. After a while you won’t even realize your wearing them.

If you currently feel the way I used to about wearing gloves fly fishing, commit to one full day of fly fishing in gloves. Don’t wait for a exceptionally cold day, any winter day will do. If you do it, I’m confident you’ll change your negative outlook on gloves all together. Be prepared to deal with the awkward feeling and giant clumsy hands syndrome for a while. but I promise you this, every hour that passes with you fly fishing in gloves, the more you’ll grow fond of them. Gloves have become a piece of gear that I always have on hand during the winter months now. With two to three more cold months ahead of us, you still have time to check this off your to do list.

Below are some links to quality cold weather fishing gloves. 

Orvis Fold-Over Fleece Gloves

Kast Steelhead Gloves

Simms Windstopper Fold-Over Mitt

Glacier Bristol Bay Gloves

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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14 thoughts on “Fly Fishing in Gloves Gets Better with Time

  1. For me, fly-fishing gloves have got to keep my hands warm even when wet. That narrows my choices down. I choose Filson Marino wool fingerless gloves down to about -7*F.
    If wind is a factor then adding Simms windstoppers over the top of my Filson’s seems to keep my fingers from turning black, waxy and falling off.

  2. I steelhead in Ohio and there is a lot of the season when gloves are basically mandatory. I started with a cheap pair of neoprene gloves and they were helpful, but not great. Got the Bristol Bays this fall, love the flip off finger and thumb, kind of wish the middle finger flipped as well, holding the running line on a Skagit feels a little weird with one finger inside the glove and one out, but the gloves are a vast improvement over the last pair I had. Tried some flip open mitts, wasn’t a big fan of the big flap on the back when you had the fingers exposed, tended to catch line and make my already tenuous casting even worse.

  3. I agree that you get used to gloves, and also that they are very important to have during the cold winter months. That said, I have yet to reach the point where fishing in them is just like fishing without.

    I know that they are there, and I have to accommodate for them in both my grip and retrieve.

    I try to go fingerless whenever possible – this is generally above freezing, although you can go lower if there is no wind. In colder, windier conditions, I have been using Glacier Gloves for years. They keep you warm, have slits in fingers/thumbs for tying on flies, and won’t break the bank when you buy them.

    I have, however, been looking as some alternatives, I understand that the Kast Gloves are the best, although at $90 I am not sure I want to invest in them. I have lost way to many gloves over the years to make this purchase easily.

    Fishing year round in the Finger Lakes region of NY, you learn to use your glove, but never, I think, truly love them.

  4. So, your trip to New York for Steel, was that to Oak Orchard? Heading up there on Monday for Steel and Browns, hope it is not blizzard conditions like the last two times I was there. Fishing was great, but the driving sucked.

    • Michael,

      Yes, one of the places we usually hit is the Orchard. The only benefit of blizzard conditions is it drastically cuts down on the crowds. I feel you on the driving conditions. I had to replace my truck rear-end one year b/c I literally had to drive from VA to NY in 4wd high. It was stressful as heck.


  5. I’m someone who would have to get used to fishing with gloves. Most of my fishing is done is Ga so sub-zero conditions are just about non-existant. I’d rather fish without them, despite being a little chilly. It’s not that I mind that my dexterity is hindered so much as I hate it when gloves get wet. I feel like I might as well be wearing a pair of cold, wet socks. I can’t stand it. I know neoprene is a good alternative, I own a pair of seal skins. But a lot of these gloves on the market have fleece incorporated somewhere, and when it gets wet, it tends to stay wet, and gets heavy. Would I reconsider in 5 degree, 20mph wind, blizzard conditions? Probably. My 2 cents.

  6. I buy cheap army store surplus wool liners. 2-3 pairs with me in my pack/pockets. dry gloves are key. Also, don’t eat on the water in the winter. Your hands get cold fast as your body switches to digestion as a priority.

  7. I’ve found that a pair of latex gloves under wool fingerless gloves keeps your hands dry, while providing the insulation that wool has, even while wet. Great combo, as long as you don’t rip the tips of the latex gloves handling fish.

  8. I usually try to make do with Filson’s merino fingerless gloves, but on my last outing I got frostbite fishing in single digit weather. Not so much fun. Now I’m on the hunt for the right pair of gloves to layer over the others. Thanks for letting me know it’ll be ok 🙂

  9. Pingback: Keep warm and carry on fishing

  10. I fish the Salmon River throughout the winter for steelhead and use wool fingerless foldover mitts even though the line can get caught in the folded mitt which is a nuisance. Need my fingertips reasonably warm to control/retrieve the line, change flies, etc. But below freezing I just cannot keep my fingertips warm enough. What helps is putting fingerless “sun gloves” on first and sliding the chemical handwarmers in the palm of my hand between the sun gloves and the wool mitts. If the wool mitts get a little wet your hands are still kept warm. Haven’t found a better option but always on the lookout. Good luck out there.

    • Put the chemical handwarmers on the back of your hand. Your hands and fingers will be warmer and you won’t feel like you have a snowball in your hand all the time.

      • Thanks Jeff … will give that a try next trip. Those warmers definitely help keeping fingertips warm with temps below freezing.

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