Maintaining Your Wading Shoes

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Maintaining Your Wading Shoes
Your wading shoes are the foundation of every step and every cast.
The nice lady showed up with her husband at a Summer Steelhead Spey School on the Deschutes River. After the customary PowerPoint presentation in the dining tent, the students took to the camp water so I could analyze their casting skills. The lady and I walked several hundred yards upstream where I thought the bottom rubble was smaller and wading would be easier for her. I confidently waded out about ten feet from the bank, and pointed at a spot alongside as a place for her to station up so I could watch her. A look of horror crossed her face, but she complied in a game like fashion. Even with a wading staff, she found the terrain very difficult. It was later that her new pair of top brand wading shoes were examined, and we found some of the reasons why wading was so difficult for her.

The shop who sold her the wading shoes obviously had little experience with steelhead fishing in big western rivers. There were tungsten carbide studs installed around the parameter of the Vibram soles, but the interior was barren rubber, a recipe for disaster and an extremely uncomfortable steelhead trip for a gal who really wanted to learn. Secondly, these shoes were equipped with a Boa tightening system and with full tension; I could pinch a full inch of slack in the tongue of her shoes when they were on her feet. If you are slipping around inside your wading shoes, you might as well be wearing snow shoes while wading. Laces are the only system for wading shoes used for steelhead fishing, because laces are the only system that enables you to distribute tension where you need it. Boas, Velcro, and zippers don’t enable you to control the way your shoes fit your feet and ankles.
Wash and inspect your wading shoe soles every time you are done fishing for the day. Studs and Star Cleats take a lot of abuse. Screws sometimes come loose. Sometimes they are ripped out of the soles completely and even the screw holes are ruined. To replace studs where the threads have been ruined, dry the shoes, and then coat the treads of the new screws with Aqua Seal before installation, and allow the installed screws to cure completely.
For repair of wading shoe soles in camp, carry a puck of Studs and Star Cleats in your repair kit. A Phillips screw driver will be necessary for the installation of Star Cleats. If it is the kind with replaceable bits, they usually fit the 1/4" hex head hard Bite Studs.
Steelhead Spey fishing is big boy/big girl stuff. Every move you make while wading or casting is dependent on how well your shoes fit and how well they are maintained. A full set of studs is necessary for all steelhead rivers. Your safety is at stake, and maybe even your life. In most places a slip means you get wet, in others it could mean that you will drown.

Traction devices wear out with time on the water. I replace some studs and star cleats multiple times per season. Life is hard where rubber meets the river bottom. Some traction devices get kicked loose and are lost. Every once in a while, you want to examine the soles of your wading shoes and replace warn or lost cleats. The better you maintain your wading shoes, the safer and more comfortable you will be. Don’t hesitate to bring your clean wading shoes to us for maintenance of your cleats.
Not many things will give you more confidence that being in full control of your footing.
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