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Simms Fishing Products has just informed its dealers that the company will offer three boot models with felt soles in 2012. You may remember that Simms was the company that swore off felt (after 2010) as part of its push against aquatic invasive species. (As most of you know, nasty things like whirling disease, New Zealand mud snails, didymo or “rock snot” and other threats to watersheds can be transported and spread via the boots anglers wear, and felt is a leading culprit.) In Vermont and Maryland, felt is banned, as it will be in Alaska next year. Many other states are considering banning felt boots.


But despite that, Simms claimed that felt demand from customers was too strong to ignore.

“It’s about giving customers choices, and while we are still committed to stopping the spread of AIS, we decided that giving people the right to choose and treat their boots responsibly was the right thing to do,” said Diane Bristol, director of marketing and brand management for Simms. She added that the company would amp up efforts to inform anglers about clean wading practices and proper boot treatment via product labels and other literature.

So what’s the lesson? Is there no adequate substitute for felt when it comes to gripping slippery rocks in a river? Are anglers too set in their ways to change? Is it all about money? (Remember, even as Simms swore off felt, other boot makers like Patagonia, Korkers, and Orvis kept right on rolling with felt soles.)

The real question is, will anglers ever really get the message about AIS and treating their boots responsibly?

I’m all for choices, so long as they’re backed with responsibility and accountability. Are individual anglers doing enough to stop the spread of AIS (freezing boots, treating them with bleach, hydrogen peroxide, Formula 409, etc.)? The answer is no. For many, the concern doesn’t go beyond lip service.

In some ways, I think rubber soles are an easy “out” for people. They certainly aren’t a cure-all. Maybe more felt will bring more focus to the real issue.