Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Real Deal with Rubber Soles

This boot needs more studs closer to the edge.

It was a sad day when Simms announced they were no longer building wading boots with felt soles.  I understood why they did it.  Simms has worked extensively with the University of Montana researching how wading boots spread invasive species.  While invasive hitchhikers can get a ride in other parts of the boot, the felt soles account for the majority of the crimes.  Many guides and fly shop owners have begged Simms to bring back felt.  However, Simms has made a stand against invasive species and their not about to back down because of a few whiney steelhead guides.  The rubber soles are here to stay.

I got my first pair of rubber soles last summer.  I drilled a set of the new Alumibite cleats into my new boots and headed for the river.  I hated the new soles from the moment I stepped into the river.  It felt like ice skating on greased bowling balls.  After fishing the boots for a few weeks, I got so fed up with falling I belt sanded of the Stream Tread soles, glued new felt to the bottoms and drilled in some burly studs.  Life was good again… Good and dry.

My good friend Eric Nuefeld, (the Simms rep. for the northwest) saw my little craft project and wasn’t impressed.  Eric is a steelheader and understands just how difficult the wading can be on our rivers.  He gave me a couple of tips that have made me reconsider the new rubber soles.  First, most folks aren’t using enough studs per boot.  On the old felt soles with factory studs, each boot had sixteen studs per boot.  Most anglers are putting only ten Hardbite Studs per boot into their new soles.  Put fifteen to twenty studs on each boot and it dramatically improves the traction.  The second tip is even more important.  Make sure you have at least half of your studs placed as close to the edge of the sole as possible.  The bottoms have a pattern for stud placement.  Screw the pattern!  Get those studs as close to the edge as you can.  You still want a good number of studs in the middle of the boot, but having studs near the edge really improves the stick factor.

The last thing to consider is what type of cleat you’re going to use.  I’ve had good luck with the Hardbite Studs but they do wear down over time.  You’ll probably need to replace them once a year if you fish a lot.  I really like the Alumibite studs for really stick wading conditions.  The aluminum sticks so well you won’t need as many studs as the Hardbites.  The last cleat in the Simms family is the star cleat.  In my experience, they work great for the first couple of weeks then rapidly wear out.  Not a big fan. 

Safe wading!
-Tom Larimer


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  2. great report. where can we, i buy these studs?

  3. You can purchase the studs at any Simms dealer. Some dealers will install the studs for you. If you have any trouble finding them, check out the Gorge Fly Shop or The Fly Fishing Shop in Welches,