Banning felt soled-wading boots from our waters isn’t the clear-cut concept some would suggest, or at least you’d believe so given the storm of comments spawned by my last post on the subject (See: Bans on Felt Soled Wading Boots Gathering Steam: How Long Until You’re Wearing Rubber (And Practicing Safe Wading)?)
Now – with Alaska already on board, and both Montana and Oregon weighing legislation that would ban felt soles – I’d suggest the arguing may soon be over – or at best, about to fall into the fait accompli category (Latin for The Fat Lady Has Sung).
Like my post forecasting the eventual demise of felt soles, the post on the Headhunter Fly Shop blog about Montana’s proposed ban generated a fair number of comments, suggesting fly fishermen hold strong opinions about an issue that some feel is clear cut, but then, that’s not exactly news these days.
I can’t help but notice my reasons for switching to rubber (longevity, better dry-rock grip on small streams, better in winter) aren’t much in evidence during these discussions, suggesting I’m either a man ahead of my time, or just way cheaper than my readers.
Either way, it appears the clock’s ticking on felt, and while I’ve grown tired of the accusatory emails I receive every time an angler slips while wearing any of the studded rubber soles I’ve reviewed, I stick by my latest assessment: studded rubber offers pretty good grip; should last a long time; doesn’t load up with mud or snow; and should be easier to disinfect than felt.
Since my last review, manufacturers haven’t been standing still. While I don’t track the industry like I once did, I have seen a few wading boot improvements come over the transom; here are the handful I remember. (What’s the second thing that goes with old age?)
Patagonia has announced a new wading boot with what appears to be a more aggressively treaded – and heavily studded – rubber sole.
They aren’t discontinuing their soft-rubber Riverwalker boots (sigh of relief), but they are clearly getting serious about grip, and suggested in an email that they’re still using a soft rubber for good dry land grip.
The new Korkers “Chrome” boot won raves from dealers, and I’ve noticed they’re now selling their aggressively designed Predator screw-in studs (which offer a bladed design similar to the very effective Orvis studs).
In simple terms, the old Korkers kind a sucked, but the new ones are pretty damned nice. These are worth a look.
Orvis has spread its “Eco-Trax” studded rubber sole (the grippiest studded rubber sole during my test) across its line, and also – in a nod to those how don’t mind looking goofy – now offer wading boot “stud covers” which you wear outside your wading boot (like giant sandals).
They’re unlikely to help you score heavy with the babes (or the hunks), but they might save your floor.
In addition to its aggressive-looking HardBite Star cleats, Simms released its AlumiBite cleat, which is designed to offer grip without chewing the hell out of your car, drift boat or floor into something unpretty (note that the Simms site doesn’t actually say that last bit; it’s just what I was told at the Headhunters fly shop).
Crowded, Fast-Evolving Marketplace
I first started testing rubber-soled wading boots more than two years ago, and in the short interval since then, wading boot sole technology has advanced a great deal.
I originally suggested felt’s replacement with newer rubber soles was inevitable for reasons of longevity, convenience and all-around performance.
Given enough time, I still suspect I’m right, but with states seemingly anxious to legislate felt out of existence (once Alaska & Montana go, others will follow), the switch is coming – and faster than you might expect.
See you with feet planted firmly on the bottom, Tom Chandler.