This weekend it finally became clear that the warm fall we’ve had in the Northeast is giving way to winter. I suddenly had to bust out the wool hat and gloves to make fishing tolerable. Now, I’m no stranger to fishing in the cold. In fact, I rather enjoy it. A few years ago I even braved the Niagara River in February for steelhead. It was 6 degrees, and I took my glove off for five minutes to film and ended up with a genuine first-degree frostbite on my thumb.
First it was numb. Then once warm, it felt like someone smashed my thumb with a hammer. A few days later, all the skin peeled off. Neat-O! Anyway, I’ve got more thermal base layers than I know what to do with and have never had a problem keeping my legs, upper body and head warm. But it seems no matter what I try, I can’t keep my hands and feet comfy.
The problem with my hands is that I’ve never found a pair of gloves that are both warm and thin enough to feel the line. I actually hate fishing with gloves, so I end up taking breaks to warm my hands. For my feet, I’ve tried every sock out there (I think), including battery-heated boot socks. Some seem to stay warmer longer than others, but in the end I’m not sure any socks can keep feet submerged (and standing still) in a cold river toasty.
One thing I do is put on all my layers and waders before driving to the river. I’ll blast the heat on the way there and literally make myself uncomfortably hot. That way all the heat is locked in when I get out. So what do you winter anglers do to keep warm? I’m open to new suggestions, especially for hands and feet. – JC