Gear Review - Mittens for Winter Fly Fishing

Protection from the winter cold when fly fishing

· Gear Reviews

One of the great things about living in Upper Peninsula is the fantastic fly fishing. In the summer we chase trout and smallmouth on the local rivers. And when Fall arrives and the leaves turn we start chasing bigger game -- steelhead and lake run browns. One thing is for sure, the weather gets downright nasty as we go from Fall to Winter. But you'll still find us out on the water chipping ice out of our guides and trying to get a few more "casts" before we become human popsicles. Winter fishing can be some of the most rewarding, it's quite (there's fewer people, if any, on the water) and the fish are concentrated in winter holes -- which I love to go after with indicators, smaller nymphs and beads.

upper peninsula steelhead river in winter

Over many, many winter seasons I've tried just about every different glove there is to keep my hands warm and dry.

I've tried every different materials: gore-tex, neoprene, wool, fleece, etc. I've tried different styles: gloves, mittens, half fingers, etc. I've different brands: expensive and cheap. I was working at Grainger for a time and I even started experimenting with different industrial gloves.

You name it I tried it. I probably tried 20-30 different gloves and mittens. But no dice.

I could not find a glove that provided both warmth and dexterity. I was searching for the holy grail of fishing gloves -- but nothing I tried could keep me warm, provide some dexterity and be OK getting a little wet. I wanted something that would let me fish without feeling like I'm wearing boxing gloves...something that I could wear while changing a fly, picking ice out of my guides or adding some split shot...and I wanted something that would not totally go to sh*t if I got em a bit wet.

upper peninsula steelhead fly fishing

Finally, eureka! The discovery happened as an act of desperation. I was digging through the closet one day getting ready to head out for some winter steelhead when I spied my wife's stretchy knit gloves. You know, those crappy, thin little knit polyester/acrylic gloves that cost all of 2 bucks. We'll I wound up fishing with them the whole day and could not believe how perfect they were.

warm mittens for winter steelheading

Here's why these little knit gloves rock for fishing:

  • They keep your hands warm. I don't know how or why. It's like their stretchy tightness somehow traps body heat next to the skin. Amazon calls them "Magic" gloves for a reason.
  • They are thin. I don't feel any bulkiness. I can hold a thin fly rod grip and hardly notice. The typical "Magic" gloves don't have a lot of grip against a cork handle. But now if you go on Amazon you'll find this type of glove with grippy dots on them - problem solved.
  • You can do stuff with these gloves on. You can change a fly (not super easy but doable). You can add a split shot (easy). You can pick ice out of your guides. You can answer your phone and use your touch screen.
  • They can get wet. Sure they soak up water. But like fleece when it gets wet you wring it out, fluff it a bit, put it back on, and it gets it's warming properties back.
  • You can throw them away. When they get nasty (and they will because you're going to love tailing a huge fish with these because they grip awesome), just chuck 'em and get a new pair.

Here's the downsides:

  • On the gnarliest of days (when we're down around 10-20 degrees F) I don't care what you're wearing your fingers are going to get cold. I carry hand warmers in my pockets to keep my digits thawed and extend my time on the water.
  • You will get the occasional hook stuck in these and it will drive you nuts. I've found a quick clip with the nippers and I'm back in action and the gloves are fine.
  • Dudes will think you've been shopping in the women's section at Target instead of Cabela's.
  • Your wife will steal them.
Here's my favorite picks on Amazon:

These are my favorites for colder winter fishing. They have some wool mixed in and are incredibly warm -- but they are a bit thicker.

thicker winter mittens for steelhead fly fishing

These are my go to for fall fishing and what I stock up on in bulk. They are warm, very thin and dirt cheap.

thinner mittens for winter steelhead fly fishing in the up

Hope this helps you brave the colder fishing ahead! If you've found some gloves that totally rock for winter fishing drop us some suggestions in your comments below.

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Caddis Shack Guide Service

Guiding Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Since 2002​

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Tight lines,

Jason Brownewell