When Yellowstone National Park announced that felt soled wading boots would be banned starting this season, it marked the beginning of a new era in our region for fly shops and anglers alike.  Every fly shop in the region has started to stock multiple non-felt soled options, and our rental fleet had a complete overhaul.  While many of us at Big Sky Anglers have used non-felt soled wading boots confidently for many years, there are still plenty of anglers who have continued using their felt soled boots out of confidence, or simply because they were waiting for them to wear out before switching to a non-felt option.  Well, for those holdouts who love fishing the Park, the time to switch is now.  We recommend that you embrace the change.  Like barbless hooks, they are a change that creates new challenges in angling that may ultimately benefit the resource.  The altered traction may take some getting used to, but in the long run you’ll be wading and fishing like you always have.  In fact, there are some situations where non-felt soled boots offer far BETTER traction than felt ever did.

If you are thinking about a new pair of non-felt soled wading boots this year, we’ve decided to do a bit of a writeup on a couple of the options that we sell from Simms to help you in your decision.  We carry a full lineup of the Vaportread (Men’s and Women’s) and Freestone a the shop currently, and are able to special order any other boots from Simms, including the new G3 Guide Boot.  Hopefully you find this little review helpful.

Have Fun and Wade On,

The BSA Crew

VAPORTREAD (Men’s) – Vibram Soles

MSRP $179.95

From Simms:

From high-elevation rivulets to coring into no-man’s land with nothing but bear mace and Ramen noodle rations, Simms’ new VaporTread® Boot gets you into the thick of it – faster. Its lightweight, minimalist design is maximized by a VaporTread® platform/4.0mm Vibram® Megagrip rubber outsole that effectively bridges the worlds of superior hiking speeds and traction-enhanced wading performance. Features include a synthetic leather, textile, and scratch rubber upper that, combined with an anatomical top collar, work with your feet for all-day, blister-free trailblazing. Internals are precision lined with plush neoprene where it counts, generating warmth, redefining comfort, and guaranteeing on/off ease whether it’s time to rally – or rest – your dogs.

  • Waterproof synthetic leather, rip‐stop nylon & scratch rubber upper
  • Partial neoprene lining  & anatomical collar
  • ESS plates for improved cleat retention & proprioception
  • Dual‐density midsole for shock absorption
  • APPROX. WEIGHT: 52.8 oz.

Our Take:

These are indeed a nice, light weight wading boot option that is super comfy.  If you feel like standard wading boots are just too beefy, stiff, and heavy for your liking, this is a superb option.  We joke that these are the basketball sneakers of the wading boot world, but in reality they are more like a nice hiking boot.  They will work great if you are looking for a boot that can do double duty.  Wear them over your waders on the roadside runs of the Madison in the Park in June and October and then swap to a set of wet-wading socks and quick dry pants and hike them deep into the Yellowstone backcountry for August!

If you are looking for a boot to screw metal studs into for added traction, this is probably not the boot for you.  Check out the Freestone, below.

VAPORTREAD (Women’s) – Vibram Soles

MSRP $179.95

From Simms:

Lightweight, high-output boots meet all day comfort Wade confidently in Simms’ award-winning Women’s VaporTread® Boot, powered by a hiker-inspired design and the always-agile VaporTread™ underfoot platform. Features include the unmatched durability of a synthetic leather, textile and scratch-rubber upper. Partially-lined neoprene internals add appreciated wading warmth, cushioning, and easy-on/easy-off performance. And Simms’ precision women’s fit – that works with your feet for bolstered support from bottom to top – puts a long haul to feeding fish within easy reach.

  • Waterproof synthetic leather, rip‐stop nylon & scratch rubber upper
  • Partial neoprene lining & anatomical collar
  • ESS plates for improved cleat retention & proprioception
  • APPROX. WEIGHT: 44.9 oz.

Our Take:

Ladies rejoice.  Light weight, comfy, and shaped for your feet. Beyond that, our take on these matches our take on the Men’s Vaportread.  These are indeed a nice, light weight wading boot option that is super comfy.  If you feel like standard wading boots are just too beefy, stiff, and heavy for your liking, this is a superb option.  We joke that these are the basketball sneakers of the wading boot world, but in reality they are more like a nice hiking boot.  They will work great if you are looking for a boot that can do double duty.  Wear them over your waders on the roadside runs of the Madison in the Park in June and October and then swap to a set of wet-wading socks and quick dry pants and hike them deep into the Yellowstone backcountry for August!

If you are looking for a boot to screw metal studs into for added traction, this is probably not the boot for you.  Check out the Freestone, below.

FREESTONE – Rubber Soles

MSRP $149.95

From Simms:

Navigating strong currents and slippery rock river beds is part of the experience. Our Freestone® Boot has a proven record of durability and traction in rocky rivers around the world. It provides the support underfoot and at the ankle for negotiating slick, unseen river bottoms. The synthetic uppers take the abuse of brush, rock and water in stride, while a cushioned midsole and partial neoprene lining provide all-day cushioning and warmth.

  • Waterproof synthetic leather & scratch rubber upper
  • Partial neoprene lining
  • Dual‐density EVA midsole for shock absorption

Our Take:

The Freestone has always been a classic boot from Simms.  The combination of rugged design, comfortable fit, and wallet friendly price point has made it a top choice for our customers and guides for years.  The Freestone is a burlier boot than the Vaportread, so if your fishing style requires more aggressive wading,a bit less hiking, or you just like a taller upper with more ankle support, this might be a good boot for you.

According to Matt, who has fished in both of these boots and spent a lot of hours on the steelhead rivers of the PNW, the Freestone is also a better choice if you intend to add screw in studs for the extra traction you might need on basalt rivers like the Deschutes or North Umpqua.  Another tip on the Freestone:  If you have a low volume foot or simply like the comfort offered by Superfeet footbed liners, the freestone will accept those aftermarket footbeds with ease, while the Vaportread generally will not.

Ladies, unfortunately the Freestone is a unisex boot.  But fear not, as many of the women we know fish in these.  Just drop down one or 1.5 sizes from your women’s street shoe size and try those on first. 

G3 GUIDE BOOT – Vibram Soles

MSRP $229.95

From Simms:

Time spent on the river is knowledge. And the more time you spend on the river, the more your gear needs to perform at a high level. Our G3 Guide™ Wading Boot is designed with working guides in mind. This means the support, traction and durability that 200-plus days on the river demand. The boot features big-time ankle support and an enhanced feel underfoot to help you get to hard-to-reach places. Our Rivertread® build gives you more feeling under your boot, so the unseen becomes easier to navigate without compromising on the overall support or traction of the boot. With proven durability to handle the wear and tear of hiking and wading day in and day out, the G3 Guide™ Boot gives you confidence to move across rocky river bottoms anywhere in the world.

  • Waterproof nubuck leather & lace‐to‐toe upper
  • High abrasion textile with full scratch rubber rand
  • Molded external TPU heel counter & heel clip
  • Dual‐density midsole for shock absorption
  • ESS plates for improved cleat retention & proprioception
  • APPROX. WEIGHT: 62.4 oz.

Our Take:

While we aren’t carrying a full line of these at the flyshop yet, a couple of our guides have been wearing these, and if their feelings on them are accurate we may need to carry them for the fall. These are beefy, burly boots that are rugged but comfortable.  If you are/were a fan of the discontinued Simms Rivershed boot, you might recognize a lot of that legendary workhorse’s genetics in the new G3.  Virtually 360 degree rubber rand for durability and minimal leather to eliminate stiffening and shrinking when dry.  Like the Freestone, these are great option for anglers who intend to add screw in studs or aftermarket footbeds.

These boots follow typical Simms sizing, so if you’d like a pair of these, just give us a call and we’d be happy to order them for you.