Simms, the market-leading maker of high-end waders and related gear, has announced they will stop offering felt-soled waders and wading boots in 2010. Felt soles have been implicated in transporting and spreading various microscopic invasive species and fish-disease agents. The footwear has already been banned in New Zealand, and a ban in Iceland may be happening very soon. Trout Unlimited has called for all wader-makers to stop using felt entirely.
Simms has worked with Vibram in developing a new sticky-rubber sole for 2009 with a special tread said to work well on slimy rocks. Metal studs are also an option. I talked with both Simms and Vibram at a recent flyfishing trade show in Denver and checked out the new footwear, which looks good but there are as yet no samples available for testing. Stay tuned.
L.L. Bean, meanwhile, which already has a sticky-rubber “AquaStealth” wading-boot sole, has developed a new wading boot with smooth exterior surfaces designed to be more easily cleaned, thereby trapping and transporting less river gunk.
Those companies represent only the high end of the wader market, which extends far beyond just flyfishing. I think that as long as there’s a demand for felt-soled waders, that at least some market- driven companies will continue to offer them. How about you—ready to give up your felts?