Felt soles on wading boots have long been an industry standard. Originally patented by famous Catskill fly fisher Edward Hewitt, the felt sole has undergone some changes but still retains the basic design of Hewitt. Today high density felt is the norm for wading shoe soles.
Felt offers the advantages of maintaining traction on slippery mossy rocks, dry round round rock stream beds, or stepping over fallen trees. But felt soles have some major disadvantages too. In winter, they build up with ice and add about 2 pounds of weight to each boot. They are not built for hiking long distances over dry ground to reach your fishing spot. They must often be combined with carbide studs for maximum traction on mossy roundish rocky stream beds. Felt with studs can be downright dangerous navigating certain types of dry rocks.
But the worst disadvantage is they are hard to clean and prone to transport aquatic invasive species like didymo, whirling disease, the New Zealand mud snail and the newest critter, the Zebra Mussel. The Zebra Mussel is one nasty species which is a prolific breeder. (a single adult female may lay 30,000 to 1,000,000 eggs a year). They grow in colonies that clog water plant intake pipes, water flow meters, river locks, boat anchors and similar mechanisms. More Info
Zebra mussels are filtration feeders. This means they feed by filtering out food from the water column increasing the water clarity. Often increased bottom alge growth is a result with the loss of the normal food organisms trout may feed upon. Zebra mussels will attach them selves to other types of mussels resulting in the dissappearance of some species from rivers and lakes. Crayfish, some bottom feeders like carp, catfish, roach, waterfowl will eat them. But predatation is not in quantities large enough to keep the Zebra colonies under control.
New Zealand is proposing a ban on felt soled waders and wading boots begining Oct 1, 2008. The reason is the transportation of invasive species especially didymo. I would expect to start seeing similar bans on felt soles in the U.S. some time in the next couple of years.
That said enter several new types of soles. Choata Boots is using a high density felt sole combined with black rubber and impregnated with anti-fungal agents. Simms has developed a new Vibram hard rubber wading boot sole which will be released in late 2008 for the 2009 line.
However, the main new sole material is aquastealth rubber aka sticky rubber. Core advantages of Aquastealth rubber are it doesn’t absorb water, dries quickly, has much less tendancy to transport nasties from one fishing spot to another and offers traction properties similar to felt. This is a sole designed for traction on those algae covered rocks, dry rocks, round rocks or just about any other surface you would encounter wading. Sole designs vary from round buttons for traction to siped soles. Aquastealth soles also come with studded versions for those really nasty wading situations.
Simms Rivershed or Simms Headwater boots, Cloudveil Stealth boot, LL Bean’s River Treads II and Ultralight II, the Orvis Clearwater Navigator and of course Korkers Wading Boots with covertible aquastealth soles are just some of the current offerings available.
Who knows maybe Crocs will come out with some wading boots since their roots are water oriented and they have just released 3 new boat shoes.
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