View Full Version : felt or studds for rock hopping

10-31-2009, 09:12 PM
:confused: I realize that this might not be the correct forum for equipment questions but I have learned to value everyones opinion here on this site. Looking for a pair of new wader boots to use in the backcountry. Most of my flyfishing is in locations like the Chimney tops where you have large boulders to climb and hopping from rock to rock. Requiring lots of leaps of faith. Does anyone have any experience with studded wader shoes for this type fishing or would it be better to stick with felt only.
I will be looking for something lightweight but with ankle support for backcountry backpacking, any recommendations appreciated.

Thanks for your thoughts

10-31-2009, 09:24 PM

I would go with felt. Studs will slide on those slick greenback boulders on the WPLP. I have a set of studded felts, one day I tried them on another freestone stream and it wasn't a good experience. Abrams is the only stream in the Smokies that I would consider using studs on, but I haven't tried them there yet.


10-31-2009, 10:11 PM
I've used studed AquaStealth boots for years. They really help if when you walk across a log. When walking on rocks, you actually have to step heavier to engage the soles, otherwise the studs can slide. I would not recommend felt. Felt wears out much faster and retains parasitic microorganisms such as those atrributed to whirling disease.

11-01-2009, 08:15 AM
My felt soled waders dry out between trips to limit cross contamination
from one stream to another. I have also read where you can put your waders in the freezer to kill hitch hiking parasites.

Jim Casada
11-01-2009, 08:54 AM
Grampus--While we may reach a point where felt becomes illegal for the reasons you mention (although there are steps which can be taken to mitigate them and still allow one to use felt soles), I disagree with you on the felt vs. studs issue. I have yet to wear studded boots, and I've tried a lot of different types, which provide the same traction as felt. Indeed, you give a hint of one of the the problems when you mention having "to step heavier." I'm not sure how you do that (although given my personal avoirdupuis maybe it's a given). On the freestone streams of the Smokies, where slick, rounded rocks, as opposed to algae-encrusted ones are the norm, I think felt is the way to go.
I will close with one caveat--a long-time fishing friend tells me he had some new boots with rubber "teats" and that they work far better than metal cleats or studs.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

11-01-2009, 06:52 PM
Financial constraints relegate me to owning one pair of waders, which happen to be boot foot felt with studs. I use them everywhere, and have fished GSMNP, Helen GA creeks with some success. In the water they are great, getting to the water presents some problems. On dry rocks and clean rocks they can be like ice skates...nothing better for green rocks IMHO.
Another thing to consider...after a long day of careful rock hopping the feet and ankles tend to be a little sore as the studs tend to feel as though they point inside the boot. (Not fun walking on blacktop back to the vehicle either)

Rog 1
11-01-2009, 09:06 PM
Just my experience but I am sold on the regular Agua Stealth soles ..... on dry rocks they are down right sticky...do an admirable job in the water and do second duty as a hiking boot for those days when you need to walk in to some back country sites....LLB has come out with a very reasonable boot that is very light and provides more than adequate support.

11-02-2009, 09:36 AM
After wearing jungle boots with the Panama soles(which work fairly well),I progressed to felt and got lots more traction,then I bought some Simms wading boots with the new soles made by Vibram,called 360 degree traction or something like that...I took a good fall in Cataloochee on a slick rock under water,they just didn't feel near as steady as the felt...so I wore the felt soles for the rest of the trip.
As far as "rock hopping" well,I don't hop that far anymore.:biggrin:

11-02-2009, 10:00 AM
There are some orange colored rocks in the mountain streams that give no traction. I know they are in the Cataloochee and the upperpart of the North River. Watch out for them. Silvercreek

Rog 1
11-02-2009, 11:07 AM
I spoke to an original resident of Greenbrier this summer and he told me that he knew it was time to quit fishing up there when the rocks got too far apart....later that week I was fishing the WPLP up where the big boulders grow...came to a spot where it was jump or climb back down and climb up and around....after hesitating a moment I took off and Mr. Whaley's words jumped into my head....luckily I made it to fish another day.

11-02-2009, 01:07 PM
I would stay away from studs. Especially in the area in the Chimneys area. I have seen days where having the studs in was almost like having a pair of roller skates on. It can be very dangerous on those worn slick rocks.

11-02-2009, 04:27 PM
Personally, I prefer the felt over the studs any day. And for those concerned, mix up a spray bottle of a bleach solution and when you return from fishing, spray the solution on the felt while wet and again once they dry. It will kill any type of parasite present.

Jim Casada
11-02-2009, 04:35 PM
RebelSoul--Sounds like you have reached that point in your angling career where, as old mountain men used to put it, "you ain't as catty as you once were." Sadly, I too have reached that stage.

As for the orange colored rocks someone mentioned, they are fairly widespread. There's a major seam of them which runs through the Luftee drainage and can readily be seen in the stream at the point where Toe String Branch enters. There is a geological name for them, one which I disremember, but verily they are are slick as a mole's hind quarters.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

11-02-2009, 05:36 PM
Personally, I prefer the felt over the studs any day. And for those concerned, mix up a spray bottle of a bleach solution and when you return from fishing, spray the solution on the felt while wet and again once they dry. It will kill any type of parasite present.

I've also heard of mixing some bleach and water and putting it in a tub and placing your boots in it for a minute or two.

11-02-2009, 05:58 PM
Hey Mac, I think we have strayed a bit from your original question. While the felt soles can cross-contaminate if you don't take proper precautions, I think they are your best way to go in the backcountry. I fish all up and down the WPLP and Upper Deep Creek areas and am a BIG fan of Korkers boots.

If you are not familiar with them, they are excellent boots that allow you to change out the soles, as needed. Typically I use the rubber lug soles to hike in a few miles (ie Upper Deep Creek or above Elkmont) and then when I get to the stream, I swap out the lug soles for felt soles and start fishing. They are awesome. I have a couple of pairs (a pair I use when I wear waders and another that it is one size down for wet wading). The best part is that you can purchase several different types of soles and switch them out based on the conditions you will be going to (rather than buy separate boots for each situation).

I have the Streamborn model (http://littleriveroutfitters.com/store/product.php?productid=18161&cat=1140&page=1) and find them to be very good hiking boots, as well. They are lightweight, yet have excellent ankle support. I've been very happy with them...

11-02-2009, 09:07 PM
I have a pair of Patagonia River Walkers with their sticky rubber soles and absolutely love them especially for fishing mountain streams. They are much better than felt on the trail, better on dry rocks and logs, and almost as good on slick wet rocks. They are extremely light and I would recommend that you give them a look, they are however a bit pricey. I bought mine just before the Viabram soled Simms boots came out, but I like the sticky rubber. I have only had one complaint with them. I've always noticed that they were a little stiff and seemed to sort-of cut into my lower leg, just above the ankle at the top of the boot. This never caused any problems or discomfort, till I spent several days wearing them in Yellowstone this summer. My lower legged seemed to be swelling and the feeling of cutting into my leg was really beginning to get painful. I decided to try not lacing them to the top and this fixed "the problem". I mention this because up until that point I would have recommended these boots to anyone without reservations, However this experience would cause me to say "try before you buy". I still think this is the best boot out there for hiking-in and rock-hopping on mountain streams. Just my opinion.


11-03-2009, 12:46 AM
Like Pete, i too use Korkers. Unfortunately this summer after an outing i left my Chota's out on the front porch to dry in the sun the next day. when i woke up one was out in the front yard and the other was 3 doors down in their front yard, with most of the felt chewed off and tongue ripped out. So after much research on this site and across the web i decided on the Korkers. You only have to have one pair of boots as you can switch out the soles. With that being said, Korkers have a new line of soles out called Kling Ons. I got to try them out on my trip to the smoky's back in october. The words spider man came to mind after using them. Especially for rock hopping. They grip those boulders like crazy. In the water, i couldn't tell any difference between them and felt. My first day I used each of them for half the day to see. Lets face it, those rocks are slick, i don't care what you have on your feet. Out of the water, the Kling ons grip twice as good as the felts, especially when your having to climb on the banks and boulders. You can wear them to hike in too and not even have to worry about changing soles.

On a side note, I wear a size 13 street shoe, and a 14 in wading shoes, and i have a narrow foot. I had to get a 15 in the korkers because they have a small toe box. If i don't put my waders on, such as for a hike in, i have to wear my neo booties to fill out the extra space, which isn't a big problem for me. I strongly suggest going to a store and trying them on before you buy to get the right fit. I also suggest walkin down an incline to see how they fit in a real world situation.

all that said, ill be wearing the Kling On soles indefinately.

11-03-2009, 01:03 AM
Sorry its off topic a little bit but I called Korkers and the few places I could find that carried the Kling Ons (because they just came out) and asked about how well they performed on freestone mtn streams and here's what i heard from both Korkers and another shop that carried them (Kling Ons). They said that the Kling Ons worked so well that they are thinking about phasing out their felt soles entirely. So all you Korker wearers that like the felt you might want to think about buying a few pair to have as replacements if this is true. I dont know if they will, just wanted to pass on the info so that you are aware.

11-03-2009, 08:23 AM
Like Pete, i too use Korkers. .....all that said, ill be wearing the Kling On soles indefinately.
Like Pete, I also wear Korkers in the mountains. Thanks for the report on the Kling On soles. I was wondering how the preformed. I'll just have to get a set.

11-03-2009, 09:21 AM
I'm at that age where i won't take any flying leaps anymore, been wearing the Vibram rubber soles for years & Korkers rubber soles as well.
Chota is introducing some reasonably priced rubber soles this year, i will have to check them out being they have more room in the toe box than the Korkers.


11-03-2009, 09:40 AM
About what mixture should you use for the solution?

11-03-2009, 12:23 PM
Thanks everyone for your replies. I knew I would get some really good information here. I have to admit that this has been a really fun Thread. Listed below are some of my favority quotes.

"almost like having a pair of roller skates on", (I guess because I can relate.)

"Ain't as Catty anymore" (for some reason I can see you jumping those rocks, LOL)

and Rebelsoul
"I dont hop that far anymore", (It reminded me telling my brother, No way can I make that) :redface:

Thanks again everyone, some great ideas.

11-04-2009, 01:12 AM
As far as cross-stream contamination goes,a doctor showed me a neat trick.To kill ANY bad bug on something ,put it in a microwave for 30 seconds.Makes any thing sterile.So shove felts in Mama's oven and do your thing for eliminating cross-stream contam.

11-04-2009, 05:08 PM
I disagree with you on the felt vs. studs issue. I have yet to wear studded boots, and I've tried a lot of different types, which provide the same traction as felt. Indeed, you give a hint of one of the the problems when you mention having "to step heavier." I'm not sure how you do that (although given my personal avoirdupuis maybe it's a given). On the freestone streams of the Smokies, where slick, rounded rocks, as opposed to algae-encrusted ones are the norm, I think felt is the way to go. Jim Casada

Stepping heavier has more to do with balance than with one's aviordupuis, though additional weight does improve traction. Regarding felt vs AquaStealth soles, I typically went through 1 pair of felt boots every 2 years, even though I would pack my wading shoes and hike in with hiking boots. Since switching to rubber soled boots, I get 8 to 10 years now per pair. Prior to the switch, I borrowed a rubber soled boot from a friend and used 1 of my felt shoes on the other foot. I could tell no difference in the traction of the two. Hence, it came down to durability.

Boot soles, as with flies, rods, and locales, are a matter of preference. Based on many yrs of Smoky Mtn experience, I've developed my preferences on what works best for me. Ultimately, it is everyone's individual decision through trial, error, or sound advice from others. I guess we agree to disagree my friend.


Jim Casada
11-04-2009, 05:44 PM
Grampus--I'm not so "sot in my ways" as to be totally resistant to change, and the part of your argument which got my attention was the potential savings. I go through about a pair of boots a year, and the thought of any boots with really good traction lasting many years gets my attention. My reservations are two-sided--(1) Every pair of cleated boots I've ever tried left me feeling like I was on ice or a high wire the first time I got atop a rounded rock and (2) I'm reluctant to buy something I'll end up detesting or finding marginally functional. Mind you, I've done that once with felt soles. It was a boot with an elevated heel, and within 10 yards I understood why women wearing high heels walk like a barefoot boy astride a porcupine.
Still, you've got me thinking, and maybe someone will have a pair of the Aqua-Stealth boots at the WNC Fly Fishing Expo this weekend. At the very least I'll give them a look.
Incidentally, any of you forum participants who plan to attend the event, I'll be at the Hunter Banks booth all day on both Saturday and Sunday, except for the programs I'll be presenting each day with Roger Lowe.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com (http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com)

Rog 1
11-04-2009, 06:19 PM
Mr. Casada....I have been using Stealth soled boots for the last 7-8 years in the Smokies...first pair lasted 6 years without any problems....I used these boots to hike in to places like Fish Camp Prong and Ramsey Fork without any problems...I am currently fishing in the LLBean West Branch boot which is going for quite a bit less than the Patagonia....they are light weight and provide plenty of support...they are lugged soles but have small circles that seem to cling to dry rocks...personally I find that I slip a whole lot less with these than I do felt soled boots....they dry out fast and don't collect mud and dirt....they also have a progressive heel unlike some of the other lugged waders.

11-04-2009, 10:24 PM
I've been wearing the LLBean Aqua stealths for several years now also. I didn't get the studs since I fish a lot from a canoe and inflatable yak. They are good boots.

11-05-2009, 09:51 AM
After reading about the Korkers and the sole changing feature,I'm going to buy some.I have a tendency to tote too much stuff and if one pair of shoes can double more as hiking and wading shoes better than felts,can't hurt to give them a try.
hey....it's only money.:redface:

11-05-2009, 10:03 AM
A fellow could even buy a sole and experiment with his own ideas without ruining an entire boot if the idea did not work out. Years ago there was a company that made a soft aluminum "cleat" that was round and about the size of a dime. They expanded like a pop rivet when driven into the felt. That soft aluminum did not skate on hard rocks like carbide or steel does. As I recall, they worked well in the boots I put them in.