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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wading Boots--Past and Present

Good grief, with the best of intentions I maintain a long list of topics for future blog posts.  For some of them I have just a title and a few thoughts on content written down.  For others I have pictures and most of the post composed.  Aren't you just dying to read the post, "The Beer Bitch"?  Not only do I have pictures I even have video of her.  I took the darn video in 2011.   I still plan to make that post; I guess I am not in much of a rush.  Either that or my life is very busy.  Actually, I like being so busy.

This post on wading boots was started last summer.  I took this picture in early September on a nice warm day.  Here I am on a cold February day and I'm finishing the post.  (I think)

#1 gravel guards,  #2 wading sandals, #3 first pair of boots with Hard Bite Star Cleats, #4 boots with  Aluminum Cleats, #5 boot inserts, #6 boots with felt soles, #7 boots with felt and studs, #8 boots with Hard Bite Star Cleats, #9  Flats Booties.

I wear the sandals kayaking.  While Carp fishing, I thought I would wear the sandals in the Zodiac and then get out and wade.  That was a VERY bad idea.  The first and last time all happened the same day.   I never wear the flats boots Carp fishing.

Number three was my original pair of Freestones in 2009.  This past summer it felt like I was always getting the wading sock or the boot insert bunched up under my toes on my right foot.  Slow to learn and understand, I tried putting the socks, insert, and boot on again several times.  Finally I reached inside the boot to see if something was stuck in there.  Good grief, the insole had curled under my toes and was causing the blisters.  I retired those boots from service but still kept them for this picture.

Each of has our own challenges with the venues where we Carp fish and with the venues where we chase any other species of fish  for that matter.  It gets too easy to be dogmatic about certain aspects of something technical like fly fishing for Carp.  I think we are all more prone to make dogmatic statements about fishing when we have the shacknasties.  My point is that there is no ONE correct answer for what is the best boot or the best type of sole and cleat combination for Carp fishing.  I use what works best for me in the venues I fish.

If you fish still water with a hard, sandy bottom you could probably wear tennis shoes and be fine.  If you wade where there a lot of weeds and just a few rocks you may want wading boots if for no other reason than the ankle support.  Ty, formerly from Fine Water and now from Carp Aficianado, said to me in an email he has to be very careful of the, "Georgia red mud because it will suck the boots off your feet".  He needs boots and they need to be laced tightly.  John Montana is young and spry.   Like me, he fishes water with lots of uneven rocks.  Even though he is young and spry he wears boots with Star Cleats.  Different settings, different needs, different solutions.

I started fly fishing in 1971 and purchased my first pair of Hodgman rubber hip boots then.  The boots had rubber, lug soles.  The next year I discovered felt sole kits in the store.  They cost $9.95 and included a tube of Barge Cement.  You had to grind the lugs off the sole to make it smooth enough to take the cement and the felts.  The felts were, "one size fits all" which really meant, "one size fits none".  The felts had to be trimmed to fit the boot.  For that first pair I took them to a cobbler and paid him to grind the lugs down.  Does anyone know what a cobbler is anymore?  (Not the blackberry kind)  A few years later when that pair leaked too much I bought a new pair and ground the lugs down my self with a drill and grinding wheel.  There weren't a lot of choices for boots and for traction.  It probably sounds like I rode to my fishing spots in a covered wagon but I didn't; I drove a slant six, three on the tree, Dodge Dart.

When I started Steelheading in 1978 I purchased a pair of boot foot, chest waders.  They actually came with felt already on the sole.  Dang I thought was so deluxe!  Previously, when I glued the felt on myself it tended to curl off the toe with walking and use.  I had to re-glue it.  The felt on those new chest waders stayed glued on.  That next winter that I started Steelheading in the colder months.  I purchased a pair of neoprene, stocking foot waders for that and a pair of felt soled wading boots.  

I also purchased a pair of thin, neoprene, stocking foot waders called Seal-Dries for summer Steelheading and I wore them with the felt soled boots.

I don't remember exactly when I purchased my first pair of breathable waders from L. L. Bean; it was the 90's sometime.  I liked them  for summer Steelheading and for fishing from the float tube.  My second pair of breathable waders were Simms.  Yikes, were they a step up in terms of comfort and breatheability.  When I purchased those waders I also purchased a pair of Simms Freestone boots with studs.  Once again, wow, what a step up in terms of traction compared to just felt.  In time I wore the felt down to nothing and some of the studs fell out.

In the fall of 2009 when Simms discontinued their felt soles I got an early pair of their new Stream Tread boots with Hard Bite Star Cleats.  I did a field test of them and posted it on YouTube.  Once again, wow, what an improvement those Star Cleats were.  The Stream Tread soles without the cleats were fine but the river I was in is not as slippery as some of the water where I Carp fish.  (Simms has since started selling felt sole boots again)

My first pair of Stream Tread boots with tungsten carbide Hard Bite Star Cleats.  
I put on 8 cleats per boot then.  Now I put on 11.


The same pair of boots after 3 1/2 years of use.    The second set of cleats was wearing down.

I loved this pair of boots.  The insole lifted and curled.  I was happy to purchase a new pair.  

Today I wear breathable Simms waders some of the time when I Carp fish.  Most of the time I am wet wading.  I have light polypropylene pants, wading socks, boot inserts, and boots.  (Wading socks are soft on the inside and rougher on the outside.)

Most of the water I wade and fish for Carp has an uneven, rocky, bottom.  Some of those rocks are "slipperier than greased snot".  Just trust me on this; those slimy rocks are darn slippery!  Since 2009 I have used the Stream Tread with Hard Bite Star Cleats.  I fish a lot so I don't complain when the cleats wear out.

When I went to the fly shop this past summer to purchase new boots, Michael, the owner, suggested I try the Aluminum Star Cleats.   The aluminum cleats didn't look like they would grip as well but he assured me they would grip as well or better.  I tried them and I'm glad I did.  They grip every bit as well as the Hard Bite Star Cleats and I think they will likely last longer.

I am currently wearing Simms Freestone boots with Aluminum Star Cleats

When I fish where I know there is only going to be a soft bottom and no rocks I wear my felts.  That is hardly ever these days.  I recognize that the Hard Bite Star Cleats and the Aluminum Star Cleats click on the rocks and probably scare some fish.  But here's the thing, better the Star Cleats clicking on the rocks than my butt clicking on the rocks!

The cleats work best for me given the water I fish.  That doesn't mean they will work best for you.  See, even in the winter I can avoid be dogmatic.


  1. Great point about using different shoes for different scenarios. I prefer to use sandals when I can get away with it, which isn't often. Typically it's the boots laced hard to the top. And yes, I want to read about The Beer Bitch.

  2. Great thoughts and write up Jim! Those cleats look awesome. I just barely realized your blog somehow came off my blogroll. I've been missing your posts and now I know why!!!