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Should You Wear Gloves For Winter Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing in the winter can produce some great days with productive fishing. However, the elements can make it into a miserable experience if you’re not prepared.

Winter fly fishing requires it’s own set of gear to keep you protected from the cold. Since we obviously need our hands for fly fishing, keeping them warm is essential. It allows us to tie knots and handle our fly line properly. The issue with gloves is that they reduce hand dexterity. They keep your hands warm, but tying knots and line management can be a real pain.

Fortunately, there are some glove offerings that are tailored towards fly fisherman. This article will dive into how these gloves are designed, and why they can make a huge difference to your winter fly fishing.

So should you wear gloves for winter fly fishing? The answer is yes! However, not every glove will do the job. Hybrid gloves are the number 1 choice of fly fisherman. These models include foldover mittens and fingerless options. They are designed by trusted fly fishing companies and are very pleasant to use. By keeping dexterity as the #1 priority, these gloves will give any winter angler a better experience.

The Foldover Mitten / Glove

These are a hybrid glove that come in really handy during the winter months. You can pull back the mitten to reveal a fingerless glove. When you need your fingers for tying knots, just pull back the mitten and tuck it under the flap. When you’re fishing and holding your fly rod, you can use the mitten foldover to keep your entire hand warm.

This is a really smart product. We do different things when we’re out on the river. Sometimes we’re actually in the act of fishing, other times we’re messing with our flies or adjusting our rig. The foldover mitten allows for each scenario.

I find that it is quite easy to fish with mittens on. With a bit of practice, I can hold the rod and manage my line without the need for all my fingers. If I need to manage my line more, i’ll just fold the mitten to access my fingers.

My favorite foldover mitten is the Simms Freestone (pictured above). It is pretty affordable at $40, and keeps my hands warm. It repels water quite well and doesn’t take long to dry when it gets wet.

Simms does make a Gore-Tex Exstream Mitten, but it costs $100. It works well in very cold environments, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Gore-Tex is definitely my favorite material for waders and technical outerwear – but it costs a lot more than the average garment.

The Fingerless Glove

When it’s not super cold outside, fingerless gloves work well. Your finger tips are exposed all the time because they do not feature a foldover mitt. 30-40 degree temps are best for wearing the fingerless glove. When temps reach the low 20s or teens, they become less functional.

I like the Simms model because it is constructed entirely of wool. This is a great choice that withstands the cold, but I don’t recommend getting them wet. If it is snowing or sleeting a lot, these gloves get really soggy and uncomfortable. The wool will still keep you warm, but it isn’t very pleasant.

If your winters are more mild, definitely consider the fingerless glove. If you can get away with them, they are a joy to wear and offer maximum dexterity. Many great manufacturers make these fingerless gloves. Simms are often the most popular, but there are other options as well.

Wearing No Gloves

I know some anglers that choose not to wear gloves. They are hardcore and they just don’t care as much about being cold. I often don’t wear gloves as long as it’s not too cold outside.

There are some options for staying warm if you choose not to wear gloves. Hand warmers become super important for this. One of the best ways is to put the hand warmers in your wader pocket. The wader chest pocket is big enough to fit both hands in. Simply throw a couple hand warmers in there and insert your hands when they get cold.

Another way to keep your hands warm is to carry a small towel. After you handle a fish, dry your hands off immediately. This is key to preventing frostbite – remove the moisture and keep your hands bone dry. After drying your hands, warm them up with your hand warmers.

Another tactic I like is to not handle trout at all. Use barbless hooks, remove the hook with your forceps, then dip your net in the water so the fish can swim away. On really cold days, I can keep warm by never even touching the trout. If you’re really into taking photos, this will be tough. However, I often catch plenty of trout without ever handling them. It is a great winter fly fishing tactic, and the fish will appreciate it, too!


In the winter, sometimes we have to pick our fishing days strategically. If the temperatures are in the single digits, staying at home may be the best idea. There is no point in fishing if you’ll have to head back to the car after 20 minutes. Personally, I like to get out during warm spells and sunny days. By checking the weather forecast, I can plan days that will be productive. Warmer winter days are often when trout are more active.

I think most anglers will enjoy a foldover mitt like the Simms Freestone. They will offer years of use and can really save your day. Make sure to buy a few hand warmers as well. Using the combo of mittens and hand warmers will help you stay comfortable and warm – even on the colder days.

Although winter fly fishing can be tough, it is nice to catch some fish during the colder months. Even just getting out for a few hours can be a great time. The rivers are often way less crowded, and you can really get some solitude on your local water.