Wading Boots - Buyers Guide
Wading boots are, if anything, more important than fishing waders. Without a good wading shoe - which also has a good felt sole - you are more likely to end up in the river with the fish than actually fishing for them.
If you plan on fishing in tennis shoes, sandals or general hiking boots, be sure to book in advance some emergency room time at the local hospital since using common shoes or boots are a sure fire recipe to disaster when used in many Montana rivers. The reason for this is simple. Wading boots are designed to provide traction on wet, slippery rocks. Not using a wading shoe when fly fishing in a rocky river is a good way to twist an ankle, break a leg, get carried over a waterfall, or worse.
Quick Recommendation on Wading Shoe Features to Get
1. If you'll be river fishing, it is absolutely imperative that the wading boot provide ROCK-SOLID ankle support.
2. For all but the absolute worse conditions, get a wading boot that has felt soles. You can always add on additional "gripping" accessories if needed. Studded boots are nice but aren't always the best option - stick with felt soles for general all-around fly fishing uses.
3. Read the boots specifications carefully when ordering. Some require you to order "one size up" from your regular shoe size. Other boots are already made "one size up" from your shoe size.
4. Rot resisting materials should be used in the construction of the boot - such as synthetic leather. Don't, repeat don't, get a pure leather boot!
Buyers Guide to Wading Boot
So, what separates a wading boot or wading shoe designed for fly fishing from a standard hiking boot? Wading boots, even the cheapest of them, all have felt soles. These felt soles is what allows them to grip wet, slippery rocks so well. The felt bends to the rocks contour, providing wonderful traction. The felt, since it is not hard rubber like a hiking boot, also does slip nearly as easily on wet surfaces.
The felt on wading boots and wading shoes wears down very quickly when walking on on trails and pavement. While the felt can be easily replaced, it is still a hassle. As a result, don't plan on hiking or walking long distances in wading boots
Cleats & Talons
For anglers who will be fishing in very rocky rivers with quick currents, even felt soled shoes may not be enough to provide rock-solid footing. When fly fishing these types of rivers, river talons or cleats are highly recommended. River talons and cleats fit around a standard wading shoe and have small, metal spikes on the bottom. These spikes, in combination with the metal it is attached too, provide the ultimate in footing. While this is overkill for most rivers, for those anglers who will be fishing in very rocky, fast moving water these river talons can literally
It's All About Ankle Support
When shopping for wading boots, always make sure that the boot provides solid ankle support - similar to good hiking boots. This way you don't have to worry about twisting an ankle and ruining an otherwise good fly fishing trip. Rivers are generally rocky and the rocks are frequently loose. By having a wading boot that gives solid ankle support, not only will you get better traction and balance when wading, you won't have to worry about twisting an ankle out in the middle of a river.
Wading Boot Sizing....
Wading shoes are also sized a bit differently than normal hiking shoes. Generally, they are sized 1 size up from a standard hiking boot. This is done in order to make room for the wader that the wading boot fits over. In some cases, wading boots are sized the same as shoes. When this occurs, the wading boot is always marked as such, and also has a recommendation to get a wading boot one size up in size from your standard shoe size.
Durability & Construction
Durability is also a key issue with wading boots. Cheap wading boots are made out of fabric that soon begins to break down. The constant immersion in water, followed by being stored away for long periods of time, will break down poor quality wading boots.
In short, when shopping around for wading boots or shoes, make sure that whatever you end up getting have felt soles, rock solid ankle support, are made of quality materials that won't break down and that are comfortable.