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Merwin: Get Studs for Rubber-Soled Wading Boots

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September 14, 2009

Merwin: Get Studs for Rubber-Soled Wading Boots

By John Merwin

Rubber, rubber everywhere. That’s one impression I brought home from last week’s Fly-Fishing Retailer trade show, where rubber-soled wading gear was shown as newly available from a wide variety of boot makers.

The impetus comes from groups such as Trout Unlimited that are trying to get wading-apparel makers to abandon traditional felt (or woven polypropylene) soles completely. Such fabric-based soles are implicated in the transfer of various invasive species between river systems because small organisms get imbedded in the fabric, which is difficult to clean.

The problem with switching to rubber soles is traction. Some new rubber-sole designs such as Simms’ StreamTread can perform as well as felt on slippery rocks (from my own testing). By and large, though, anglers seem distrustful of the new-rubber trend when it comes to not slipping and falling in a river.

Here’s the answer: Use studded rubber soles. Most makers either are or soon will be offering hard-metal studs with rubber wading soles. These sharp metal points combine with rubber-sole lugs to give traction substantially better than felt on just about any wet surface. And they are considerably easier to clean.

You can’t wear such studded soles in a driftboat, for example--well, you can, but the studs will chew up the boat bottom. So you’ll want a second pair of non-studded boots if doing any drift fishing. Or you can use wading boots with interchangeable soles made by Korkers that allow you to switch sole types as need be.

The remaining problem is that as rubber soles evolve, some anglers seem to believe that rubber-soled gear doesn’t need to be cleaned. Wrong! You’ll still have to hit the boots with a garden hose and scrub brush to remove accumulated mud and river-bottom gunk. Many newer boot models are streamlined for easier cleaning.

Rubber soles are truly a major conservation advance for anglers who want to do the right thing. Just repeat after me: Get studs!

Comments (10)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Wags wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

So John, did you find any of the vendors at the show highlighting their new boots that are environmentaly friendly AND priced comparatively to felt boots. I'm guessing not. No, to do the right thing (by the environment) costs big time. We only put our new river saving soles on our most expensive line of wading boot (and likely the one with the highest profit margin), then we guilt you into ponying up by telling everybody that if they don't do this, well.....obviously you just don't care about your children and their future.

Look, I'm all for it actually. It just bothers me that I have to go out and drop a load on new boots (especially when I've been out of work for 5 months) and that if I don't I'm made to be the bad guy. If it is truly important and everyone is only concerned about the spread of rock snot et. al., then over some low end models with the river saving sole. Or a trade in program, a "cash for clunkers" so to speak for felt soled boots.

Oh, and I also realize this isn't on you. You are just reporting and I appreciate that. You do a fine job and I really enjoy your work, so please don't take the rant as a shot at John Merwin. I actually would like to spend some time on the water with you someday, should our paths ever cross!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

I've never liked felt anyway. I've been kicking around getting studded boots for steelhead but I haven't fallen hard enough to motivate me. Yet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

I blew out my old felt boots early this season. Picked up a pair of Simms Freestones for $130. More than I wanted to spend but not much more. So far so good in the stream. Only complaints are that the boots take longer to dry out because of the solid construction of the upper, and they seems to be harder to pull out of the muck.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from nick@korkers.com wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

First off, I think it's great that we're all talking about the issue of invasive species. This is an issue that's not going away and we need to do our best to educate everyone about how we can prevent the spread of invasive species. Bottom line is that switching to rubber soles isn't going to solve all our problems. If you are going to make the switch from felt to rubber, keep in mind that you'll still have to inspect, clean and dry your equipment to prevent transporting invasive species. This is the only foolproof solution at this time.

Korkers‘ unique OmniTrax™ Interchangeable Sole System aids in the prevention of the spread of invasive species while enhancing angler safety and performance. Only Korkers high performance wading boots allow anglers to choose the right traction sole, from felt to sticky rubber, for the fishing conditions presented. By changing the soles without changing their boots, anglers can approach, and fish without compromising the river itself.

Also, we offer Kling-On sticky rubber in a plain sole option as well as a studded version. www.korkers.com.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from j-johnson17 wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes - I bought a new pair of Simms G4 boots - and the studs are an absolute necessity. I didn't think the boots would be as bad as the "old" rubber bottom boots, but they are.

Vibram soles are the best of the best, but they are still rubber, in water, on slick, snotty-like surfaces and they don't stick if you don't have any studs. I figured out really quickly when I first took my boots out that my wading abilities were extremely limited when I didn't have the studs in.

Bottom line - If you're getting rubber-soled boots, GET SOME STUDS or you will soon wish you did...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tudave wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Good advice from John re installing studs! I worked on the wading gear policy for Trout Unlimited, and I've been using and testing several of the felt sole alternatives, and while there has been substantial improvement, there are still some conditions where rubber doesn't provide the necessary traction. I've got a couple of alternative soled boots in which I can install studs, and I am going to install them. I agree with John that rubber with studs will handle just about anything. The challenge for me is the fact that I do a fair amount of float fishing where I also stop and wade i.e. the Yellowstone, and the studs just chew up the decks of my old fiberglass drift boat. I would prefer not to have to change boots every time I stop to wade, so, I am going to search out some material that I can install or place in the bow and stern fishing postions and in front of my rowing seat like the rubber they put on the floors of horse trailers, for example, and I am going to try it.

I, too was at the Fly Fishing Retailer, and I was encouraged by the manner in which the fly fishing industry and the boot and wader manufactuers are becoming engaged in the aquatic invasive species issue. There was one thing that was apparent to me that John has pointed out in his comments and this is the need to inspect, clean, and dry our gear. I helped draft the Trout Unlimited policy, and the inspect, clean, and dry recommendation was a key aspect of the policy recommendation. There was good reason to recommend the elimination of felt, but the most important action anglers can take to help reduce the risk of spreading AIS is to inspect, clean, and dry their gear.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MCrawdad wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I think Wags will be pleased to know that Simms, and yes, I have a connection with them, will be offering a Vibram soled boot in 2010 at the $100 price point.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joseph Bishop wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I figure hosing down my gear and having it sit bone dry for weeks at a time is probably enough to keep it from transferring invasive species. That and rarely fishing different water. Who knew being too broke and busy to fish often or fish new places would be environmentally friendly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Yes, a $100 pricepoint is better. And it would seem from Mr. Deeters blog on the show that I am to look for a $100 pair of boots from Orvis as well. My question is, why not put the super sole on the bottom of your boot that is at the $60 - $80 pricepoint. Not a complete redesign of the boot, just rip off the felt and slap on the rubber (plus studs, as per Mr. Merwin). And yes, I am aware there is more to the G3, Guide, Rivershed, etc. than just a new sole. BUT, we have been told that the key factor with regards to wading boots is the felt sole. I'm simply suggesting that any boot style with the new rubber would be better than a boot with felt. As such, wouldn't it be better to offer a low/medium priced boot with the sole so more people are likely to get the felt out of the rivers? Most of us are going to wear the felts out before shelling out money for new boots. That leaves a lot of chances for invasive species transfer. And for a lot of people, a $100 price point is damn high for a pair of boots you wear every day, let alone wading boots that only get worn 10 - 20 times a year. Just my 2 pennies...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tworiverflyfisher wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

As we begin to understand the results of our actions to the environment, sometimes we must make drastic changes that effect us all. This change from a felt sole seems to be one of those in the right direction, but at what cost to those of us to claim to be middle class. TU since they are the biggest pushers of the felt sole change should have a solution for those of us who are not willing to part with our "felties" because of the satisfaction of not feeling vulnerable when in the water and the un-known performance of rubber soled boots.
Several years ago I was employed by a manufacturer out of Germany that made a rubber liquid for waterproofing wool insulation batts. Why can't this type of liquid which fills the voids of the felt bottoms with a rubberized volume. Then the vector of the void in the felt is eliminated until a more economic solution for the probably millions of boots out there can come out? How about filling our felt bottoms with rubber cement?
One solution is not necessarily the best answer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Joseph Bishop wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I figure hosing down my gear and having it sit bone dry for weeks at a time is probably enough to keep it from transferring invasive species. That and rarely fishing different water. Who knew being too broke and busy to fish often or fish new places would be environmentally friendly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

So John, did you find any of the vendors at the show highlighting their new boots that are environmentaly friendly AND priced comparatively to felt boots. I'm guessing not. No, to do the right thing (by the environment) costs big time. We only put our new river saving soles on our most expensive line of wading boot (and likely the one with the highest profit margin), then we guilt you into ponying up by telling everybody that if they don't do this, well.....obviously you just don't care about your children and their future.

Look, I'm all for it actually. It just bothers me that I have to go out and drop a load on new boots (especially when I've been out of work for 5 months) and that if I don't I'm made to be the bad guy. If it is truly important and everyone is only concerned about the spread of rock snot et. al., then over some low end models with the river saving sole. Or a trade in program, a "cash for clunkers" so to speak for felt soled boots.

Oh, and I also realize this isn't on you. You are just reporting and I appreciate that. You do a fine job and I really enjoy your work, so please don't take the rant as a shot at John Merwin. I actually would like to spend some time on the water with you someday, should our paths ever cross!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

I've never liked felt anyway. I've been kicking around getting studded boots for steelhead but I haven't fallen hard enough to motivate me. Yet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

I blew out my old felt boots early this season. Picked up a pair of Simms Freestones for $130. More than I wanted to spend but not much more. So far so good in the stream. Only complaints are that the boots take longer to dry out because of the solid construction of the upper, and they seems to be harder to pull out of the muck.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from nick@korkers.com wrote 4 years 31 weeks ago

First off, I think it's great that we're all talking about the issue of invasive species. This is an issue that's not going away and we need to do our best to educate everyone about how we can prevent the spread of invasive species. Bottom line is that switching to rubber soles isn't going to solve all our problems. If you are going to make the switch from felt to rubber, keep in mind that you'll still have to inspect, clean and dry your equipment to prevent transporting invasive species. This is the only foolproof solution at this time.

Korkers‘ unique OmniTrax™ Interchangeable Sole System aids in the prevention of the spread of invasive species while enhancing angler safety and performance. Only Korkers high performance wading boots allow anglers to choose the right traction sole, from felt to sticky rubber, for the fishing conditions presented. By changing the soles without changing their boots, anglers can approach, and fish without compromising the river itself.

Also, we offer Kling-On sticky rubber in a plain sole option as well as a studded version. www.korkers.com.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from j-johnson17 wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes - I bought a new pair of Simms G4 boots - and the studs are an absolute necessity. I didn't think the boots would be as bad as the "old" rubber bottom boots, but they are.

Vibram soles are the best of the best, but they are still rubber, in water, on slick, snotty-like surfaces and they don't stick if you don't have any studs. I figured out really quickly when I first took my boots out that my wading abilities were extremely limited when I didn't have the studs in.

Bottom line - If you're getting rubber-soled boots, GET SOME STUDS or you will soon wish you did...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Yes, a $100 pricepoint is better. And it would seem from Mr. Deeters blog on the show that I am to look for a $100 pair of boots from Orvis as well. My question is, why not put the super sole on the bottom of your boot that is at the $60 - $80 pricepoint. Not a complete redesign of the boot, just rip off the felt and slap on the rubber (plus studs, as per Mr. Merwin). And yes, I am aware there is more to the G3, Guide, Rivershed, etc. than just a new sole. BUT, we have been told that the key factor with regards to wading boots is the felt sole. I'm simply suggesting that any boot style with the new rubber would be better than a boot with felt. As such, wouldn't it be better to offer a low/medium priced boot with the sole so more people are likely to get the felt out of the rivers? Most of us are going to wear the felts out before shelling out money for new boots. That leaves a lot of chances for invasive species transfer. And for a lot of people, a $100 price point is damn high for a pair of boots you wear every day, let alone wading boots that only get worn 10 - 20 times a year. Just my 2 pennies...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tudave wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Good advice from John re installing studs! I worked on the wading gear policy for Trout Unlimited, and I've been using and testing several of the felt sole alternatives, and while there has been substantial improvement, there are still some conditions where rubber doesn't provide the necessary traction. I've got a couple of alternative soled boots in which I can install studs, and I am going to install them. I agree with John that rubber with studs will handle just about anything. The challenge for me is the fact that I do a fair amount of float fishing where I also stop and wade i.e. the Yellowstone, and the studs just chew up the decks of my old fiberglass drift boat. I would prefer not to have to change boots every time I stop to wade, so, I am going to search out some material that I can install or place in the bow and stern fishing postions and in front of my rowing seat like the rubber they put on the floors of horse trailers, for example, and I am going to try it.

I, too was at the Fly Fishing Retailer, and I was encouraged by the manner in which the fly fishing industry and the boot and wader manufactuers are becoming engaged in the aquatic invasive species issue. There was one thing that was apparent to me that John has pointed out in his comments and this is the need to inspect, clean, and dry our gear. I helped draft the Trout Unlimited policy, and the inspect, clean, and dry recommendation was a key aspect of the policy recommendation. There was good reason to recommend the elimination of felt, but the most important action anglers can take to help reduce the risk of spreading AIS is to inspect, clean, and dry their gear.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MCrawdad wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I think Wags will be pleased to know that Simms, and yes, I have a connection with them, will be offering a Vibram soled boot in 2010 at the $100 price point.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tworiverflyfisher wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

As we begin to understand the results of our actions to the environment, sometimes we must make drastic changes that effect us all. This change from a felt sole seems to be one of those in the right direction, but at what cost to those of us to claim to be middle class. TU since they are the biggest pushers of the felt sole change should have a solution for those of us who are not willing to part with our "felties" because of the satisfaction of not feeling vulnerable when in the water and the un-known performance of rubber soled boots.
Several years ago I was employed by a manufacturer out of Germany that made a rubber liquid for waterproofing wool insulation batts. Why can't this type of liquid which fills the voids of the felt bottoms with a rubberized volume. Then the vector of the void in the felt is eliminated until a more economic solution for the probably millions of boots out there can come out? How about filling our felt bottoms with rubber cement?
One solution is not necessarily the best answer.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment