February 18, 2010
Should Felt Soles Be Banned?
By Kirk Deeter
The fly fishing industry has been moving away from felt soles on wading boots for several years, because felt is known to facilitate the transport of aquatic invasive species like didymo (rock snot), mud snails, and other nasty things that negatively impact trout fisheries. Simms, for example, has said it will stop manufacturing felt-soled boots after this year, and Trout Unlimited has also asked for tighter anti-felt regulations. Many manufacturers are suggesting that anglers steer clear of felt.
But a bill introduced in the Vermont State legislature would actually prohibit the manufacture and sale of felt-soled wading boots. The bill was introduced by Representative David Deen (D-Westminster), who is the chair of the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources committee in Vermont. Deen sees the potential impact of aquatic invasive species up close as a steward with the Connecticut River Watershed Council. He is also owner of Strictly Trout guide service, and an Orvis-endorsed guide.
I'm on record for supporting anti-felt initiatives, and I'm done with wearing felt personally. (But I also understand that rubber soles alone are not a cure-all for these issues, and that washing all equipment should be instilled in every angler's ethic.) The question is, is advocating for anglers to make responsible choices enough, or do we need laws to regulate this issue in Vermont and beyond? Mr. Merwin brought up the lead issue in the Honest Angler blog several days ago, and wondered (I think rightfully) why switching from lead is such a big deal. Are felt and lead similar issues, which should be handled similarly, or is this an apples and oranges comparison?