Footloose and Heading In

Footloose and Heading In

Paul Arden | Monday, 3 August 2020

Been a another hectic day for me, chasing around town picking up provisions and tackle for the Sungai Tiang Orang Asli (although, rather smartly last week I gave them cash to do their own food shopping, which has saved me a couple of hours trying to fulfil a weird - and rather sweet - shopping list!). Anyway the river is respectably clear again, I have screwed and glued some felt to my boots and I feel ready to rock and roll.

Talking about boots for wading, there is a good discussion on the Board regards boots. It appears that we all have different ideas as to how the ideal wading boot should perform.


Well for me, it has to have the function to act primarily as a hiking boot but with a sole that allows me to cross swift rivers safely, often while carrying a heavy pack. Typically when I was spending half my year in NZ I would fish a minimum of 10km or river but often 15 and sometimes more. The longest and hardest day for me is Mystery River X which is a 35km round trip back to the truck with something like 100 technical river crossings - I never actually counted them! But I did measure the distance.


Now these are not the sort of rivers you can shuffle over. There is no “get both boots anchored before taking a step”. The only way to cross them is to get upstream of the tail end of the pool, and run and bounce your way over. You can use your spare hand to sweep the current to get you across. If there are two of you, you can cross heavier water by linking arms - but don’t stop half way, because then you will both end up swimming, and believe me, missing some of those crossings doesn’t bear thinking about.


I have been washed down rivers in the past and let me tell you it’s bloody painful! Looking back I’m surprised we never wore crash helmets, still even then I’m not sure anyone would survive if you missed some of these crossings.


The problem however with hiking boots one is that they do not have the correct sole for crossing slippery rocks. Once again, slipping over can be incredibly painful, often more so next to the water than actually in it. Anyway my answer to the problem back then, and again now (although Sungai Tiang is nothing like a backcountry Nz river!), is to cut away 2/3rds of the front sole and replace it with felt.


This allows me to use the heel and toe sections of the boots when climbing muddy tracks and the ball of the foot for dancing across river crossings.


It’s not perfect - I don’t think there is a perfect boot yet, or if there is then I have yet to try them. One issue with leather boots is that after a full season of being wet for six months straight they start to fall apart. Eyelets pop out. The stitching goes and holes appear in the leather. And this is good quality boots we are talking about. Cheap ones will fall apart in one or two trips.


I also had a problem getting felt soles this time around and purchased 1mx1/2m of industrial felt for approx £50 here in Malaysia. Enough to last several lifetimes!


I think it’s a very important point to make, that while felt is IMO the very best material for slippery rocks, it is also a carrier of algae and other things that we don’t want to move from waterway to waterway. Didymo in NZ was transported, in a large part, it is believed, by felt soles. Consequently it has been banned for NZ fishing. In this case however I am only using the boots in one waterway only - is Sungai Tiang. So this is not a problem.


Right - time for me to get organised for tomorrow. Thank you everyone who has kindly contributed to this project so far. We have hit or minimum cash requirement and we have plenty of fishing tackle now. I believe we have 12 rods and more than enough reels and bits and bobs. Of course we will still gladly accept donations.  At some point we are going to need cash for camping and guiding gear but we are in an excellent position now for this Orang Asli / Mahseer project. Thank you all so much!!!


Have a great week!


Cheers, Paul


PS As always you can email me on I always answer, I’m just a bit slow sometimes when I’m the Jungle!