Wading boots have been a gong show the last few years, what with the felt ban, rumored felt bans, mfrs stopping the production of felt, then watching people slip all over the place and going back to felt or at least offering a felt option once again. From an environmental standpoint as it related to the transfer of nuisance species, I've always been of the opinion that getting rid of felt probably helps, but not enough to really matter. Birds, boats, and bodies move around drainages and carry all that crap around too, so while banning felt may reduce the amount of crap overall, its not going to be a cure all. Personally, I like rubber soles better than felt, but I spend most of my time fishing out of a boat where super traction just isn't that big of a deal and not having 4 " of ice on my boots in the winter is worth the trade off of felt vs. rubber.
I tested some new wading boot sole material this year in New Zealand for Orvis and it was honestly grippy as hell without studs and uber comfortable to walk with. The boot design was not so great, but that was all in the developmental stage back then. I think they are hoping to release boots with these soles sometime in the next 6 months, so my current opinion could swing that way. I'm just saying that so that it doesn't look like I'm backtracking a year from now.
Right now though, I've been wearing the Rock Grip Bar Boots from Patagonia for the last couple of months and they have been awesome. Comfortable, plenty of ankle support but not too stiff and far grippier than any boot I've ever owned. The sole is rubber with a series of aluminum bars running across the soles. They give incredible traction while wading, but don't tear up the boat or make you feel like your walking on ice with a pair of leather soled loafers. I get the comfort of knowing that I'm not tracking gobs of didymo, millfoil, and mudsnails around while feeling secure in the heaviest, boulder-filled water around. The boots have about 40 days on them and you can see some wear on the aluminum bars, but I suspect they'll make it at least a season or two before the wear becomes an issue. When it does, I can buy a replacement kit for $30 or so and just swap out the old bars for new ones. They are expensive at $239 but assuming that they hold up in terms of the boot construction, I'll be able to use them until something better comes along without worry and if these are as good as it gets, it suits me just fine as they really are the best wading boots I've ever worn.
Funny thing is, we've got 'em in the shop and for sale online as well. Check them out the next time you're in the market for new boots.
|40 days of wading bliss and plenty of room to go.|