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Fishing boots make difference for waters

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado

Most anglers don’t wake up for a day of fishing and worry about their wardrobe. Although, recent studies show that what a fisherman wears in rivers and streams could affect the waters for years.

It’s all about boots, or rather, what’s under them.

“Basically, all departments of wildlife in the western United States and even some in the East have been doing studies on aquatic nuisance species transporting from rivershed to rivershed, and felt is the main transporter,” said Ned Parker, guide and owner of Breckenridge Outfitters.

What happens, Parker explained, is that the different aquatic species nestle into the felt on the soles of fishing boots and can then release into the next stream an angler wades into.

“Even if the felt dries up, the aquatic species still lives in there, and once they get into the watershed, they start eating the trout’s food and in turn, harm the trout,” Parker said.

The Rocky Mountain region has been better off than most, said Zeke Hersh of Blue River Anglers, in that it’s mainly been a few species of snails and the zebra mussels that have been moving from water to water.

It’s still a scary proposition for anglers who look forward to pristine rivers and streams to drop a fly into.

And this is why many shops, including those in Summit County, are discontinuing their sales of felt-soled fishing boots. Some national retailers, like Simms Fishing Products, have eliminated felt-soled boots from its product lines.

Both Hersh and Parker have taken the felt off the shelves of their stores.

“As a retailer, it’s probably stupid to do, because I could sell more boots if I sold the felt,” Hersh said. “On the other hand, it’s nice to sell a product that’s going to last and helps everything else.”

The easy alternative to the felt is a rubber-soled boot. Hersh said they can take a bit longer to break in, but the life of the boot far exceeds that of the felt. Throw in the impact the switch can make to rivers, and Hersh feels it’s a no-brainer.

“To me, I just think, ‘Why not?’ Why not make a rubber-soled boot that maybe breaks in slower,” he said. “It’ll be slippery at first, but once it breaks in, it’ll be great. You’ll get longer life out of the boot, and it’s not going to transfer the nuisances.”

As Hersh said, the rubber-soled boots can be a little slippery at first, but once they break in, there’s no difference between that and the felt.

And Parker said many rubber boots are being made with metal studs to add more traction. His shop sells a full line of Orvis products with that design.

Hersh also said that it’s a good idea to make sure to wash all your fishing gear before switching to a different river. Waders, pants and shirts can all carry aquatic species as well.

There are methods to ridding felt-soled boots of nuisance species, such as bleach and sticking them in the freezer.

“Those methods you can still use to eliminate the species in your boots – it’s not going to be anywhere near what the rubber-soled boots do,” Parker said.

Some states – including Vermont and Alaska – have already banned the felt-soled boots from its waters. Parker said Colorado will be soon to follow.

Right now, people are still finding out about the trend in fashion and river preservation. Eventually, Parker said all anglers will be making the switch, or at least should.

“We try to follow a trend of the preservation and conservation of our fisheries. It’s extremely important,” he said. “There are going to be those people who don’t do it, because they don’t want to spend the money. But, they’ll be in trouble sooner or later.”


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