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March 30, 2011Straight Shooting you: Rubber soled wading boots

Agent Mulder, of X-Files fame, had a poster in his office that said, “I WANT TO BELIEVE.” Well, I wanted to believe too. Unfortunately, belief only gets you so far when pitted against truth and hard facts.

Last year, I replaced my felt-bottom Simms wading boots with their new and improved rubber-soled boots, not because of a burning desire to be politically/environmentally correct, but because after several years of heavy use, my felt-bottom boots had simply worn out and I was in need of a new pair. Leading up to my purchase, rubber-soled boots had really come into their own. Glowing reviews touting rubber’s superiority to felt graced the pages of every fly fishing magazine, website and catalog I came across. Throw in the environmental benefits, and I had to wonder how I could go wrong. Sure, there were occasional complaints from frustrated anglers, but clearly these complainers were unpatriotic, anti- environmental Americans, that would slip no matter what footware they were wearing. In the end, the glowing reviews, combined with the fact that most manufactures didn’t even offer felt-bottom boots anymore, got the best of me. I bought the rubber-soled boots.

My boots arrived and looked great. I wondered aloud to a friend how anyone could complain about them. I mean, it’s not like felt was the greatest thing in the world. I’d slipped in my old boots countless times, especially when scrambling down damp, grass covered hills. And felt's horrible performance in the snow; bring on the rubber! I couldn’t wait to wear my new boots and see what the new world of wading technology had to offer me.

Unfortunately, the new technology didn’t live up to the hype. I quickly realized the negative comments WERE justified. In my new boots, I might as well been walking on polished ice; slipping and sliding along in the streams and rivers I used to wade with ease. Wading in these boots gave me all the consequences of heavy whiskey drinking without any of the fun. To put it bluntly, my rubber-soled boots were horrible!

And things haven’t changed. The soles haven’t softened or broken in and made wading easier. I still slip and stumble along the river bottom. Word seems to be getting out and the industry has responded, recommending that carbon-tipped studs be put in the rubber-soles. They claim that with such improvements, the boots work great. Now, it seems to me that if you have to implant metal spikes into your boots (boots that cost good money) to make them functional, then your boots are no good. I could make a lot of footwear appropriate for wading if all that is required is putting metal spikes through their soles!

In the end, I don’t want to put metal spikes into my boots. I don’t want to walk around with carbon-tips tearing into the ground, my car and my boat! I just want my felt back. Surely in this day in age, someone can make a fishing boot that works slightly better than any pair of worn out, grass stained sneakers!

I wanted to believe, but I don’t

wading boots

March 30, 2011I am STILL using my felt, treating them as needed to prevent the transfer of unwanted bugs and such. The reason for the stubbornness is just "what He Said"! I am a wade fishing guide, getting people from point A to point B daily (mostly in the water), the ease with witch we travel with felt soles as compared to rubber is an issue, not only of comfort but SAFETY! Keep us informed as to the best method of keeping felt sanitary, but PLEASE don't take it away. Leon Sanderson
Leon Sanderson
March 31, 2011I'm compelled to offer a heart-felt THANK YOU to Nate. Several months ago, I purchased a pair of rubber soled boots with metal spikes amid rampant fears of rock snot in the Delaware River, and the like. The fly shop guy assuaged my fears, listing most of the "major" trout rivers in North America, proclaiming he had fished them all in rubber with and without spikes and never slipped... How could I argue? Before I wetted the new boots, I consulted my fishing guru. He said "Take 'em back," so I did, on the grounds that either he or the other guy was lying. I'll be honest, it felt good to slap them on the counter, tell the fly shop guy that I had it on good first-hand word that his boots were not as advertised, and exchange them for felt bottoms as my last transaction in that store. Since then, I've noticed that the "vibram" rubber on the bottom of those wading boots was identical to the vibram rubber on my hiking boots... And as far as the spikes go, let's have a side-by-side test. For comparison, I'll run some drywall screws through my reeboks.
March 31, 2011Good to hear you guys tellin' it like it is. I'm in Leon's boat and have not yet made the switch from felt. I'd like to say it's because I called B.S. on another commercial attempt to tell me what I need to buy, but in reality it probably had a lot more to do with spending that particular $100 on overpriced grizzly hackle (read "Hackle in Hair" post). Granted, we have certain responsibilities as anglers and stewards of our environment to make all mitigating efforts to thwart zebra snails from wiping out wild fisheries and all mankind (as the boot salesman would imply) but I think I'll just continue to use some detergent and a scrub brush. One of the 'snootier' fly shops I visited in CO not too long ago actually went as far as having a ten foot tall plexiglass dump bin in front of the shop filled to overflowing with felt bottomed boots that patrons had responsibly 'turned in' either out of some sense of duty or beneath the crushing guilt likely dealt out in bucket loads by someone with a monthly sales quota to meet. I can only assume that the whole exhibit was emplaced to promote the shop as some trailblazing bastion of conservation. The manager looked absolutely disgusted when I offered him $20 bucks for a brand new looking pair of Simms near the top of the pile. So I guess I'm the big a-hole for trying to keep it real. Stay strong, Gents!


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