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Yikes Thats Cold! Photo by Louis Cahill

Kent’s eight weight is bent double, the big steelhead finally within range of the net.

We’re in a tough spot. This fish has taken us downstream as far as we can go. We’re backed up against a bridge with a deep hole on one side and a concrete wall on the other. Kent has managed to bring this big fish back upstream and whatever happens is going to happen here and now. The temperature is about zero and the wind is howling. My numb fingers grip the net and I lean forward, waiting for my shot. The fish’s head comes up and I scoop. Holy crap it’s a big fish! Less than half the fish is in the net and I’m losing him. Only one thing to do, I plunge my right hand into the water and tail the fish. He’s landed but my fleece glove is soaked. We manage the fish and I get a few photos but my right hand, now out of the glove, feels like it’s on fire. By the time I get my glove out of my pocket it’s a block of ice. If I hadn’t brought a second pair my day would be over. I’d have frostbite in minutes without a glove on that wet hand.

OK, that’s a happy ending. We landed the fish and I had spare gloves, but let’s look at it from the fishes perspective. The fish is like that bare hand. He’s wet and exposed, out in that cold wind. What’s worse is that a fish is cold blooded. He doesn’t have an internal source of heat like I do. The only thing keeping him warm is that water. Have you ever noticed how fast your guides freeze over on a day like that? That fish has little more internal heat than your rod and out of the water he is going to freeze too. The air is an alien environment for a fish. When you lift him from the water he can’t breath and starts gasping. What he doesn’t know is that he is now exposing his fragile gills to deadly subfreezing temperatures. If those gills freeze, he’s dead and you won’t see it happen. He’ll swim off like he’s fine and slowly suffocate because his injured gills can’t process enough oxygen.

Everybody wants to land that big fish and everybody wants a photo with him, but please be careful and treat him with respect. Keep that fish in the water while you figure out your exposure and camera angle. Have everything ready to go and only keep him in the air a few seconds at a time. Never, ever put him on the bank in the snow for a photo. Every fish you’ve ever seen in a photo like that is now dead. When you see my photos of a fish in this kind of weather there are several shots you don’t see of the angler holding the fish in the water while I figure out my shot. Take a few test shots and look at them before your angler lifts the fish. It may just save that fish’s life.

I won’t find myself with a wet glove again. I now have a pair of Kast waterproof gloves. You can put your hand completely under water in them with no fear. They are awesome and the fit is excellent. Best of all the material on the palms is fish friendly and won’t remove the protective slime like fleece. I love them!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Fishsicles

    • Thanks Lewis, I don’t have experience with the Patagonia gloves. Patagonia does not claim them to be fish friendly. They are neoprene so my guess is they would be better than fleece but not as good as the Kast which are very slick.

      • The Kast gloves have a killer look. They are 100% fish friendly. If you own a pair of them but need just a little grip for a photo just use 1 medium size rubber band around your hand. This will give you just enough grip to safely manage a fish without removing much to any slime. Put the rubber band around the hand that will be gripping the tail of the fish.

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