4 Simple Items for Warmer Hands

Cold water is great for trout, not so much for your hands

 Releasing a stillwater trout from Delaney Buttes Lakes, Colorado
Cold water is great for trout, not so much for your hands. Delaney Buttes Lakes, Colorado

January 2024

Layer up all you want, but if you're fishing throughout winter your hands are going to get cold. Once that mental fortitude cracks, there's no turning back.

Fortunately with the help of these everyday items, I've learned some tricks on how to stay warmer during any winter outing.

1) Nitrile/Latex Gloves

You might be used to fingerless gloves during the winter, they provide some warmth and don't compromise hand dexterity for tying knots. But to say they keep your hands comfortably warm is a bit of a stretch... If this sound like you, have you ever tried using nitrile/latex gloves underneath your usual gloves? They obviously wick water and also trap latent heat inside the glove. Plus they add a shielding layer between your hands and any howling wind. Especially when your hands are wet, wind can really kill your winter stamina. I’ve been hesitant to use these gloves in the past, skeptical of the dexterity for tying flies and managing thin tippet, but I’m surprised to report that they feel pretty comfortable for tying knots. On their own, they might still leave you with a little chill (depending on your tolerance), so they pair really nicely with fingerless gloves over the top. Fish handling rules still apply though, so be sure to remove any outer glove and wet your hands or nitrile gloves before handling fish. I'd also suggest taking the nitrile gloves off before handling and releasing any fish when you need to dunk your hands past the rim of the glove, to keep the inside of the gloves as dry as possible. Best of all, they are reusable and easily pack into jacket pockets, and waders!

releasing a streamer chasing brown trout from the Arkansas River near Leadville, Colorado

2) Absorbent Towel

Catching and releasing fish presents a new issue. Cold, wet hands. After fish handling or any other time you need to deeply plunge your hands into icy winter water, the next thing you should do is to dry your hands as much as possible. Though many don't think about carrying an absorbent towel with them in their pack, the ability to quickly and fully dry your hands will really keep your hands warmer longer. A simple absorbent hand towel shouldn't take up too much space, and is well worth it.

AvidMax: PackTowl Luxe Towel

3) Handwarmers on the Radial Arteries

You've likely used or seen the chemical handwarmers like HotHands, but one thing you can do to improve their effectiveness is place them up against the underside of your wrists, where the radial arteries deliver blood to the hand. You can use a glove to hold it in place, but if they don't stay put try using a wrist band to keep the HotHands in optimal placement. Rumor is this came from an old Ski Patrol tip.

4) Insulating Vest

The last line of defense to keeping your hands warm is to keep your entire body warm. If you have warm blood continually pumping to your extremities you have a better chance of warding off the effects of bitter elements. By adding an extra layer, specifically an insulating vest under your outer jacket, you can keep your core warm and continually pump that sweet, sweet warmth to your finger-tips.