I guess for as long as there have been anglers; there have been those who simply have to wade out into the current to better catch fish.
There is a special closeness you feel with the stream when you are actually standing out in it as you seek your piscatorial quarry. You can feel the pulse of the water as it flows against your legs. You feel more a part of nature than if you were simply sitting on the bank. Just as long as anglers have waded into the water to seek their fish, they have also sought the perfect wading shoe. Unfortunately trying to walk across slick rocks that have been worn smooth by eons of water pressure is a lot more difficult than walking across a dry surface. Even the most cautious wader will find his footing slipping sooner or later and will take an unexpected bath.
If you are lucky when you take your inevitable spill, all you will do is get soaked and perhaps embarrassed. If you are not so lucky, you may end up dead. Consequently, for those of you crazy enough to wade as you fish, the search for the perfect fishing shoe is of great importance. There are several approaches to wading gear and each has its advantages and drawbacks. There are waders that come complete with boots attached, called boot foot waders. There are waders that you slip a separate wading shoe over called stocking foot waders. Finally there are those hardy souls who simply wear their shorts or Levis and wade wet. In the dead of winter wading in an icy steelhead stream definitely calls for waders of some type, preferably insulated waders. Personally I prefer a neoprene stocking foot wader under cold water conditions. I then wear a specialized anglers wading shoe over the stocking foot wader. I simply find the massive boot foot wader too bulky and cumbersome.
In warmer summer fishing conditions, I prefer to simply wear my regular blue jeans and use a wading shoe for better traction. To me, the perfect wading shoe has leather uppers that come up just above the ankle, and cork soles that will grip those slippery rocks and help prevent you from slipping. The downside to the cork soled wading shoe is that the while soft cork does indeed grip the rocks, it also wears out quite rapidly. The tradeoff is that you have to regularly get your soles replaced to keep from falling on your duff. In some streams where moss is rampant even cork won’t grip the mossy rocks, then you have to go a step further and have your shoemaker glue and even stitch a layer of felt onto the cork sole. It is expensive and felt wears out even faster than cork, so you’ve got to do it more often.
Another option that some anglers use are hip waders that as the name indicates come up to mid thigh and are less restrictive that full length chest waders. Unfortunately, it always seemed to me that the big ones were just another step or two further out in the stream an if you’re not paying attention, you wade just a little too deep and fill your waders with ice water. Hip waders are almost entirely a phenomenon found on the eastern half of the country. You almost never see hippers on the big waters of the West.
So what’s the perfect wading shoe? Like everything else it depends on you, on when and where you like to fish. For me wading in my blue jeans on a summer day into a trout stream is probably as close to heaven as I’m going to get without actually dying. For you? ¿Quien sabe?
Until Next week,