“These boots are made for Walking”
Well, actually they’re made for wading and will be one of the best investments you can make. A good quality pair of wading boots can make or break your day out on the river, we’ve seen it countless times. Picture this, you’ve travelled 13 hours for a week long trip on the lower reaches of the Orange River, with excitement building as your guides go through and setup your gear for the week of fishing that lies ahead, you decide to head down to the home pool for a quick nymphing session to dust off the cobwebs and bring a few slabs of gold to the net. Forty-five minutes into your session, wading waste deep in the middle of the Orange River, one of your wading boot soles comes off and gets washed downstream never to be seen again.
With so many options on the market, there are a couple of things to consider and questions to ask yourself when choosing the right pair of wading boots.
Felt vs Vibram.
These are the two categories to look at when choosing a pair of freshwater wading boots. Keep in mind that very few wading boots are designed for both fresh and saltwater and that the soles on a pair of saltwater boots are made from different materials designed for the salt specifically. Vibram is the term we use when looking at rubber soles. Different brands use different types of rubber and treads, much like different types of tyres, and have different advantages.
Vibram is going to be your more versatile option that is going to handle being out of the water as well as it will being in the water. This is important to note, because if the majority of your fishing requires long hikes or mainly fishing from the bank, then look no further.
Felt really comes into its own when you look at rivers like the Vaal and Orange. Warm water systems with large algae-cover rocks can be incredibly challenging to wade in. Felt sticks to these rocks much better than Vibram. For extreme tropical environments like the Amazon, fishing for Golden Dorado in Bolivia for example felt soles are a must. With the additional hiking that is guaranteed in these jungle environments, screw-in metal studs can be very helpful for added grip. However, be mindful of these if you get into someone's boat or raft these will damage the deck and flooring of any boat or raft and see you tossed, unceremoniously onto the shore by the guide! The drawback to felt is when you need to walk through a lot of mud, wet grass, and possibly even snow, as the smooth felt soles offer very little grip in these situations. Regardless of the grip you’re looking for to meet your needs, there are additional factors to consider.
Comfort, Support, and Fit.
Wading boot technology has improved vastly when it comes to comfort nowadays. Your better-quality boots incorporate inner soles that are anatomically correct over a flat inner sole option, which provides much more comfort for a long day out on the water. Over and above comfort, a good wading boot focuses on good support, especially around your ankle as this will be the most common injury while wading if not using the appropriate footwear. You want your boot to still feel comfortable while reducing the movement of your ankle inside the boot. A good lacing system goes hand in hand with how effective the ankle support is. Lastly, you have fit, our biggest advice we can give you is to try on a pair of wading boots before you buy, but make sure you try them on with either a pair of neoprene guard socks or a pair of waders. These neoprene socks and wader booties range between 2mm and 4mm thick, which means you’ll most likely need to go up either one or two shoe sizes to accommodate the sock.
If you only plan on using your boots in South Africa, this won’t be applicable, but if you plan on fishing abroad it’s imperative that you check whether that country will allow you to bring in felt sole wading boots. Countries like New Zealand implemented a ban on felt boots since 2008 due to the high risk of transferring and spreading invasive aquatic species from one river system to another. Since then, more countries have started implementing the same restrictions, including certain states in the US like Alaska.
Our parting advice when looking to buy a pair of wading boots is to invest in the best quality your budget will allow for. Regardless of brand, you will get what you pay for, and at the expense of potentially ruining a trip of a lifetime due to an uncomfortable or broken pair of boots, getting a decent pair that will not only suit your fishing needs but last a long time, is worth every penny.