Chances are you’ve heard that most wading boot manufacturers are working hard to develop wading boot soles that are less likely to transmit invasive species like the New Zealand mud snail from one piece of water to another.
Simms’ main solution to the problem is their StreamTread soles, which they developed together with Vibram. StreamTread soles are really easy to clean, and compared to felt have far fewer nooks and crannies where invasive species can hide. In fact, Simms has committed to stop selling felt-soled boots in 2010, due to the fact that felt is a major contributor to issues with invasive species.
If you’re wading in mellow waters in Montana or rivers like the Kanektok that are nothing but a whole bunch of gravel bars, StreamTread soles provide plenty of traction. On rivers that have more technical wading, StreadTread needs a little more help than felt did – you need to add cleats or studs.
For most wading situations, adding Simms HardBite Star Cleats to your StreadTread soles will give you the traction you need. Star Cleats are three-pronged studs covered with chips of carbide that fit into the StreamTread pattern on your sole. They’re really easy to install – you just screw them in with a Phillips head screwdriver (use a drill if you’re lazy like us).
If you’re on a river with challenging wading – the Deschutes comes to mind – adding HardBite Boot Studs will help provide ultimate traction. HardBite studs stick out further than Star Cleats, and they also screw easily into StreamTread soles with a socket.
Our experience so far has shown that the specific pattern that you use to install your cleats and studs doesn’t matter too much – go for a uniform distribution across your sole. As you’d think, more metal gives more traction (up to a reasonable point, of course). We fished the lower Deschutes this month with 9 Star Cleats and 12 HardBite Boot Studs in each sole, and the traction was fantastic.
Yes, these new soles are a little more fidgety than felt. However, if you care about keeping nasty critters out of the rivers you love, you’ll probably agree that getting up to speed on Vibram and carbide is worth the effort.