Many states are outlawing felt soles in an attempt to try to limit the spread of invasive species. As more and more states go felt free, more and more people are having to switch boots and there is an increasing demand for a non-felt alternative that provides traction equal to, or better than, felt. That non-felt alternative has finally arrived in the Aluminum Bar Wading Boot.
I have used rubber soles for years. Initially I made the switch away from felt in an attempt to get more traction while rafting. Anyone who has tried to fish from a raft in felt knows that felt on rubber is like trying to stand on ice. My idea at the time was I could wear the rubber soles while floating and felt when wading. However, what I found was that I liked the rubber better in almost all circumstances. That being said, I did lose probably about 20% traction in the river compared to felt, a loss I felt was made up for by the increase in traction when walking along the river and when floating. The rubber excelled for me on grass, in mud and in snow. Sounds like rubber was a good trade, right?
I certainly thought so. Then I moved to the pacific northwest. All of the sudden I wasn’t wading on the freestone streams and rivers of the Rockies; I was waist deep in the fast slippery rivers of Oregon and Washington, and I really really noticed that loss of traction. Luckily I still had my old felt boots. I made sure that they were clean and dry and went fishing. That process needed to be repeated every time I fished a new river. Easy right? Did I mention I live in the pacific northwest? Yeah, it rains for 8 months straight. Not so easy to dry stuff.
I am now looking for a non-felt boot that provides comparable traction in the river to a felt boot. I have tried studded rubber and don’t like them even though they are great in a lot of situations – moss, weeds, jagged rocks. But they are worse than non-studded rubber on flat smooth rocks. I could go with just rubber and lose about 20% traction all the time, I could go with studded rubber and lose 40% traction any time I was wading on smooth rocks or I could stay with felt (assuming it is still legal where I live) and make sure that my boots get cleaned and dried after every use. None of those options really appeal to me, luckily Patagonia has taken away the need for compromise.
Chris recently splurged on a pair of Patagonia’s Aluminum Bar Wading Boots. In developing this boot Patagonia has created the new standard in wading boots. They grip as good if not better than felt in the river. They work great on snow, mud and grass. The rocks can be smooth or jagged, it doesn’t matter at all, these boots just stick.
An example? Not long ago we were fishing the Metolius River near Sisters, Oregon. It was high, running a little over 2000 cfs on the gauge near Grandview, OR. The section that we fish is big, pushy and fast and if you don’t cross you are stuck hiking 3+ miles to get to the opposite bank. Now this normally isn’t a big deal since Chris and I cross all the time, we are both strong waders and haven’t ever had a problem (well I haven’t ever had a problem, Chris has dunked at least once), but this weekend Aimee was with us, and she is only 5’2″. Due to her shortness and wariness about crossing in chest high water we couldn’t use our normal crossing location. Luckily Chris had on his new Aluminum Bar boots. We sent him on out into the river and let him wander around a bit. In the 10 minutes of searching for the ideal location he traversed the entire river twice, he worked his way 50 yards upstream and then 50 yards downstream, he waded through raging mid-thigh deep water, fast belly button deep water and never once did he even look like he might slip. I swear that a group of hikers stopped just to watch him wade. It was very impressive. Thanks to his “research” we all crossed with no problems even with the high water.
The following week he convinced me to try to cross at a location that was fast and at least waist deep. I, being the strong wader that I am, didn’t even hesitate to try. But halfway across he was still crossing and I was tip-toeing down the river to avoid tipping my waders. I crossed successfully, just 25 yards downstream from where he did, but it took longer and the potential for a dunking was high. Again, the boots were very impressive.
All in all these boots are fantastic. They are not felt and they stick to everything. We here at Tasty-Takes definitely recommend them.