There’s a moment, very brief, between wading majestically through the stream like a Gore-tex-clad giraffe god and lying flat on my back flailing in the icy cold water where I remember what exactly it is I don’t like about cheap rubber-soled wading boots.
I ended up with the cheap rubber-soled boots for my first trip to the south island of New Zealand where I couldn’t wear my normal Simms felt soled boots because of then-new regulations to stop the spread of the aquatic weed pest Didymo. The brilliant idea was to save some money as they probably would not be worn back in Australia instead of my felt-soled boots. Did I say ‘brilliant’?
Having never worn the then new rubber soles, I found myself skating on small cobbles and the first patch of bedrock took me straight out. I was a Ferrari on cheap and nasty Chinese tires.
Morsie, sharing in my brilliant idea with his own pair, was having the same problems and suggested we hit a hardware store and find some screws to fix the problem.
A few small brass screws in each sole later, we were back on the water and fishing more vertical than horizontal with the only problem being the do-it-yourself-tightass-bloody-idiot screws gave us sore feet after big walks for being just that little bit too long. No, neither of us started crying or following soccer and the rest of the trip was brilliant, but a lesson was learned—the hard way as usual.
For my last trip to the south island, I loosened my steely grip on the old wallet and bought a pair of Simms Guide boots with rubber soles and a pack of ‘HardBite’ star cleats, figuring I was already spending a fair amount on the trip so I might as well avoid swimming, shrinkage and have comfortable feet.
Maybe I could just spent $20 a day less on beer? (LOL)
I chose the ‘HardBite’ star cleats because I like the way they fit in and around the lugs of the sole and their large, rough grip area. They cost more than many of the other stud options, but seem to wear well and are easily replaced and adjusted with the flat-bottom screws that hold them in place.
On the trip we walked a lot—as you do in NZ—and fished all sorts of water from small streams in flat agricultural country to epic raging braided rivers where you’re on cobbles all day. We hiked over hill and dale and scrambled up and down the hills and I couldn’t have had happier feet if nothing else. The cleated rubber soles worked a treat so money well spent in my book.
The Guide boots, unlike a lot of wading boots I’ve owned over the years, are solid and rigid enough to protect your feet from pretty much anything and I know they last. They’re also supremely comfortable, have great ankle support and are quite light, even in canoe sizes.
This last couple of seasons, I’ve done more fishing than at any other point in my life and eventually my old felts needed replacing so I ordered a new pair of the upgraded G3 Guide boots. While waiting for them to arrive, I got out the rubber-soled version for the first time on Australian water and thought it might be interesting to compare the two soles.
First up, let me say that I don’t think there’s any real replacement for the traction offered by felt soles over almost any surface under the water that I regularly fish. That’s mostly small streams with varying sizes of gravel from pebbles to footballs and occasional sections of bedrock—sometimes quite steep—that can be as hard and smooth as a baseball bat and do similar damage to you.
The felt soles flex nicely, even on the solid G3 Guide boots and probably absorb more of the impacts than rubber and make for comfortable wading even day after long day.
That said, the cleated rubber soles offer much better grip on the bank and make for a more relaxed cross country walk when fighting up or down hill to the stream—especially if it’s wet and muddy or steep. On the stream, they seem to grip about 90% as well as felt on most surfaces, but more care is required on some bedrock.
This is the real point of difference and where I would base a decision. If you’re walking lots go with the rubber soles and cleats or studs, and if you more often drive to the stream, and pretty much get straight in, go with felts. If you only want one pair of wading boots and spend any time in NZ, the choice is made for you, but I would recommend looking into the various stud/cleat options on both the Simms website and around the web in general to find the best set-up for where you fish.
If you go with spikes other than the Simms stuff, make sure they’re not too long and hammer the bottoms of your feet!
Simms is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by The Manic Tackle Project: