This fall I took to finding a better solution for keeping my hands warm while winter steelheading. I have previously owned some waterproof neoprene gloves that were good at keeping the river water and cold air out, but easily made my hands sweat and were hard to take on and off. Neoprene is a great water barrier and insulator, but it is not breathable. When you spend some time working to get to fish, either hiking or rowing, you are likely going to sweat. This moisture is usually the end of having warm fingers in the cold winter months. Enter the Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves.
If you google “best winter gloves for fishing” you are likely to find some hardcore anglers raving about the Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves. So when they had their Black Friday 30% off sale I quickly got out the credit card and bought a pair. Normally $100, I was really happy to try them out for a lower price. I used the sizing chart on their website and hoped for the best.
Before receiving the Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves I wasn’t really sure what to expect in regards to the material, and I was skeptical of the claim that the gloves are submersible. Durability was also a concern as usually breathable materials wear quickly in high traffic spots on your body.
When the gloves showed up I quickly tried them on and was happy with the initial feel and fit. The sizing chart worked well for me. All the fingers fit perfectly. There is a little extra length in the thumb, but nothing to be worried about, it is probably there to make sure you have the mobility needed to open and close your hand. The wrist cuff, which I believe is neoprene tightens and uses Velcro to stay snug around your forearm.
I wasn’t going to get a chance to get on the water right away, so I started testing the gloves while shoveling snow in the driveway. This is a great way to test breath-ability as it turns out. The Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves were very comfortable to work in. After an hour or so shoveling snow my hands were warm enough, but most importantly they were totally dry. If there are any non fisherman reading this its fair to point out that the Steelhead Gloves aren’t going to make your hands nice and toasty, that is not what they are designed to do. They don’t have a ton of insulation, so if you are looking for the warmest gloves for just standing around outside, they may not be for you. Get a big thick mitten style glove and save the money. For those of us who are looking to play around in and around the water in the dead of winter, I was quickly convinced this was a good purchase.
On the Water: Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves
To date I only have one day of fishing under my belt with these gloves, but it was an interesting day to say the least. I hit the Pere Marquette at around 9:30AM. It was a balmy 15 degrees outside. The first hour or two stayed in the teens, but it did eventually get close to 30 degrees. The Steelhead Gloves stayed on while preparing my gear and boat for launch, and I didn’t take them off until I broke off my line getting hung up in the shelf ice.
The gloves are dexterous enough to handle most fishing/boating tasks except for tying on new flies. So if you are someone who is constantly tying on new rigs you may want to consider gloves that can expose your fingers for such tasks. However, I was primarily swinging flies this trip, so i very rarely needed to take them off. Personally, in the dead of winter, I would still prefer to have my hands totally covered (no finger slits) and take my gloves off to quickly tie on new flies, than have openings for my fingers.
The day was filled with shelf ice and ice flow, so the fishing wasn’t great. A single grab early on was all I could manage. It was the kind of day that could be made miserable with cold hands. I was feeling good though as the Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves were doing their job. I was finding myself forgetting that the water was cold and would notice that I was actually wading with my free hand in the water like i might do in the summer. Kast Gears’ claim that the gloves are submersible looked to be true. Just head the warning below.
Unfortunately for me, about 4 hours into the trip (and probably 2-3 hours from take out) I made a mistake. I had taken my gloves off to tie on a new pattern and didn’t take the time to tighten the cuff against my wrist and then pull my jacket over it and tighten that as well. I proceeded to get focused more on my swing than where I was stepping, and tripped over a log. I fell forward into the water and caught myself with my hands, but was basically laying horizontal in the water. It took me a few seconds to get my footing and stand up. Luckily my jacket kept the water from running into my waders. I was left with totally soaked arms up past my elbows, and due to the un-tightened gloves, my brand new Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves were also totally soaked! I couldn’t continue wearing the gloves for the rest of the day, I put on my old pair of neoprene gloves so that my hands wouldn’t freeze over my last several hours on the river.
I tell that story to make a few points.
The first, in regards to the Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves, in cold weather, make sure you are tightening the gloves around your forearm properly. I am not totally convinced that in my situation, had i tightened the gloves, that I would have been totally saved from wet hands. I’m sure a few drops would have come in. But, had I worn them properly, I more than likely would have been able to continue my day without using my spare gloves.
Secondly, as a general safety tip for winter fishing, always make sure you have spare warm clothes, hats, and gloves. This is especially true on a boat where you can’t simply walk back to your car. When I fell in I had 2-3 hours left on the water regardless of comfort or safety. Had my jacket not been zipped up I would have potentially been in danger of hypothermia. I did happen to have spare clothes, so would have been fine, but the point is still valid.
Lastly, another general observation in regards to safety. I am definitely recommending these Kast Gear Steelhead Gloves for all of your winter fishing needs. But another piece of equipment that gets over looked (both in fair and cold weather) is a good wading jacket. I must admit I don’t currently own one, but after this fall it is higher on my list of things to invest in. It’s imperative that you stay dry while fishing in the winter, and many people will take the route that I went. I had layered properly and had on a good breathable “semi” hard shell jacket. I say “semi” because it is highly water resistant, but not technically water proof. Luckily, with all the layers underneath, the bottom cuff around my waist was fitting very snug, so it was acting almost like a wading jacket. It didn’t let more than a few drops in through the cuffs and zippers, so overall it did more than it was designed to do, but still made me wish I had a better shell in case I make the same mistake again. Wading jackets are just as important as your waders. Keeping the cold water off your body, and keeping water from filling your waders can very easily save your life.
In conclusion, give these gloves a try! They are very effective and keeping your hands warm and dry while out on the water. And in my opinion are much more comfortable and usable than your typical neoprene glove.
Here is the description from KastGear.com
Our Steelhead Gloves are designed to keep your hands bone-dry, give you maximum dexterity, and provide a layer of warmth when fishing in cold environments. Patented OutDry technology makes our gloves 100% waterproof/submersible, windproof, and breathable. Plus the warm fleece lining, and durable stretch shell give you the snug fit and uncompromising feel that you need in the fingertips, and an extended cuff for valuable additional coverage at the wrist. Go ahead, chase chrome in a snow squall, or tail a trophy king in frigid water, you can trust your hands will stay warm and dry.