Last weekend I tested the new Patagonia Aluminum Bar Wading Boots on the Olympic Peninsula. These new non-felt boots feature a tank-tread sole and stick like glue to rocks. I spent two days ranging all over the Queets and Quinault systems, looking for early returning winter steelhead.
Our original plan literally dried up. Last year we fished a tribal hatchery stream in a bacchanalian frenzy. I’ll admit it was a little gross, but we caught some really good looking fish and boosted our confidence for the rest of the winter steelhead season.
We tried to recreate the experience, but low water weather pattern is affecting the OP as well, and while lots of steelhead stacked up in the river, there wasn’t enough current to even drift a fly through the water. So after a couple hours of watching the steelhead watching us, we felt too bad to continue harassing them, paid the guides and set out on our own path to find fresher fish.
Unfortunately, we mostly struck out. But we did cover a staggering amount of river miles, and in that time I developed the following impressions:
-As far as river safety is concerned, these boots stand up to felt. That’s it. Achievement.
-Comfort? Eh… after two days of hard wandering with a hangover and few fish, what wading boots are going to seem comfortable? The soreness in the legs after a couple days wading is different – I felt it in my hamstrings, a strain from stepping and sticking to every single stone. And there’s something of the sensation of nails on chalkboard about it. Average.
-Weight. Ugh… weight. I’m not sure if these boots are heavier than other boots, but if they seem like they are, well – that might be what matters. Even Patagonia’s marketing spin calls out the “Heavy Metal” aspect of these things (see Moldy Chum post).
-Durability? I can’t judge this solely on two days wear, but based on the feel and flex points of the material, these boots really seem to hold up better than the average Patagonia wading product. For whatever reason, wading boots are a lightning rod for people to bitch about product durability, and Patagonia gets a lot of grief from Simms fans, but I think these will be solid.
A word of warning, these boots eat fly lines. For a sloppy line manager like me, they’re just not financially practical.
If you fish the North Umpqua, try these boots. If you’re morally opposed to felt, but have hated all the rubber-stud alternatives, try these boots. If you want to stick it to Simms, try these boots.