Tracy&James | Thursday, 24 January 2019

In a spare moment I was looking through an internet fly fishing forum this week and a particular thread caught my attention; a simple request for some advice on which wading boots to purchase. What followed the opening post was pages, and I mean several pages, of people complaining about how their boots had fallen apart after X number of trips. This resonated with me as my own wading boots are currently banished to an out of the way cubby hole, minus the felt soles which detached themselves mid-stream sometime back. I’ve since replaced these with rubber waders with built in boots, these are holding up well so far.

What I don’t get is why such poor products are marketed at such inflated prices.  Actually I do get it, it happens because us ‘mug punters’ allow the manufacturers to get away with it.  It’s almost like we now have an ingrained expectation that a pair of boots or waders should only last for ~100 hours and we should be grateful for anything that goes past this.  We accept that we’ll purchase new boots every season, because apparently it’s not possible to design a pair that will last longer given the harsh environment that they’ll be exposed to.  The manufacturers are very happy with this, after all why make a robust product when they can sell a disposable item for an inflated price and then cash in again on some repeat custom?

The first time I went on a dedicated saltwater flats fishing holiday, a 3 week DiY trip to Eleuthera, I went equipped with an old pair of running shoes.  I’ve never been a slave to fashion (in fact I think the whole fashion industry operates by trying to make you feel ugly – but’s that’s another story) so I’ve rarely been one for purchasing expensive footwear.  Not that price has anything to do with quality; I’m sure my cheap high street trainers cost the same to produce as anything with a Reebok, Nike, Adidas etc. label.  At the time these trainers were purchased for running, I used to run quite often, not huge distances but at least twice a week.  They were eventually retired due to the soles wearing thin in places and were subsequently ‘retired’ to serve as gardening shoes – until I re-purposed them for flats fishing.

One of the compromises a DiY flats fisher has to make is to accept that part of the day is taken actually getting to a fishing spot.  If you’re not prepared to accept this then I’d suggest you go guided and get ‘chauffeured’ to the flats, sat down on a cushioned seat whilst swigging the drink of your choice.  Meanwhile the DiY’er could well be slogging through some pretty rough ground – crinkle rock, mangrove swamps, dry shifting sands etc. are all energy sapping terrains that will be routinely encountered.  As such, my already ‘worn-out’ trainers got a fair amount of abuse on the way to the flats, not to mention the hours of wading when I got there.  They performed just fine, so much so that I took them on my next saltwater trip, another long jaunt to the Bahamas.  Again they were fine, so I did a third trip in them – after this holiday I did bin them though, not because they’d fallen apart, the glue failed or the stitching rotted – nope it was because we (Tracy) felt they were just too smelly to go back in the case with us.

So a cheap pair of trainers which had been used until the soles were worn thin by cross country running, subsequently lasted 12 weeks of flats fishing without issue.  After the last holiday mentioned, Tracy and I decided that flats fishing was definitely ‘our thing’ and we’d be doing a lot more of it.  As such, we have both invested in purpose designed, engineered footwear – and this is where the rot (both figuratively speaking and a genuine reflection of what’s has happened to some pairs) set in! I treated Tracy to a pair of sturdy wading boots, expensive but allegedly good, however on the first trip they rubbed her ankles (leaving permanent scarring), were uncomfortable to wear and by the second trip (so just 6 weeks wading) started to disintegrate. For last year’s trip we both bought the same wading boots, though mine survived and will be used again, Tracy’s disintegrated half way through the holiday.

Personally I don’t think it’s beyond the manufacturers of fishing boots to use adhesives that don’t dissolve in water.  I also don’t think it’s prohibitively expensive to select materials that survive many, many cycles of immersion followed by drying, even if they are dried in intense sunlight.  After all if my old, cheap trainers can survive then an expensive, custom designed product should also.  But then the manufacturers don’t want that do they?

All the best, James 


[This reminds me of a page from the past... (ironically the Bahamas, which Sean mentions, is exactly where James and Tracy fish!) written way back in the history of Sexyloops - http://www.sexyloops.com/fishmail/boots.shtml - which just goes to show; the problem still hasn't been solved!]