The felt-versus-rubber-sole wading-gear debate continues to heat up, now having garnered more national attention via a New York Times article published yesterday. The newspaper cites “… fly fishers who pride themselves on a conservationist ethic…” as being concerned about invasive-species transport via fabric-soled wading boots.
First, this kind of stereotyping is really dumb. As if spin fishermen and baitcasters, who also sometimes wear felt-soled wading gear, have no conservation ethic. That’s ridiculous. Please, it’s not just fly anglers, although the fly-fishing community has certainly made the most noise on this issue.
As I and others have reported much earlier in various blogs and also in our print edition, there are increasingly good rubber-soled wading boots becoming more widely available. Most work fine but only as long as they have metal-studded soles. Unless you’re wading on nothing other than clean sand or fine gravel, plain rubber soles don’t work nearly as well as studded versions.
The rubber-versus-felt choice is also becoming not just an ethical issue but also a legal one. Vermont has banned the use of felt soles statewide starting in 2011. An Alaskan ban starts in 2012. By all reports, Maryland is expected to enact a similar ban very soon. Other states will inevitably follow. In some areas, at least, you’re going to be wearing rubber soles, like them or not.
One interesting problem at this point is the lack of studdable rubber soles on any boot-foot style waders. So far, the development of studdable rubber has been confined to wading shoes for stocking-foot waders. But I think by next spring you can expect to find studdable boot-foots. I know that Simms is working on this, for example, and surely there will be other manufacturers heading here as well.
Otherwise, those of us who sometimes wear boot-foot chest waders or hippers face an odd problem. Our felt-soles are banned and there’s no studded-rubber alternative. So then what?