Happy New Year, hope you all had a good Xmas, here’s to 2017. Well I reckon that’s me and wading boots done and dusted. My roughly £25 Dunlop safety boots have lasted the three months that I told myself they needed to last before I would wholeheartedly adopt them as my wading boots of choice (check here, and yes, I know, they aren’t actually wading boots), and I am now really keen to see how long they will last before falling apart. But that’s kinda the point here for me - I don’t care if these Dunlop things fall apart tomorrow, because for the price they are firstly an absolute steal with how I’ve been using and abusing them, and secondly and arguably more importantly, these £25 boots have rather effectively highlighted to me just how badly made far too many of the “proper” wading boots are that I have tried over a bunch of years now……….
Unless you come from the world of fly fishing and were wearing breathable chest waders and separate wading boots anyway, I reckon I’ve been using this gear more than almost anybody within the sort of UK and Irish saltwater fishing that so many of us do. I was introduced to the gear many moons ago by my (fly fishing guide/instructor) mate Nick Hart, way before I ever seriously got into lure fishing, indeed for a long time I was using what is actually fly fishing kit for regular bait fishing from the shore. I distinctly remember walking into the waters of the Bristol Channel to grab a mate’s thornback ray and having anglers looking at me like I was mad because surely I was getting soaking wet? Look at that tit Henry Gilbey, he thinks he can walk on water ‘cos he’s on the box.
Without a doubt it’s lure fishing and what it demands of us that puts this wading stuff through a living hell. Sure, bait fishing can have its moments on waders and wading boots, but it wasn’t really until bass fishing started to take me over almost completely that I began to realise firstly just how frigging vital this gear is to my fishing and indeed a lot of my photography, and secondly just how little time some of the stuff lasts with the kind of abuse I put it through.
Waders aside then because try as I might I can’t find a viable alternative to them for year round fishing, it’s wading boots that really wind me up. If Simms still made either their Rivershed or older Guide wading boots then this blog post would most likely not exist, but the US based company annoyingly stopped making a couple of pairs of wading boots that actually did a damn good job in saltwater. Yep, it annoyed me how much those boots cost, but at least a year and a half or more of decent use kinda sat ok with me. Sure, they were heavy, the laces were beyond crap, and the soles wore down with constant use on rocks, but as a boot that was used in water for all their working lives they held up pretty well and the eyelets didn’t rust at all. But we’re talking about pairs of boots here that were costing close to £200 in the UK, and that’s a serious lump of cash when combined with the waders you’re going to need to buy as well.
I have tried using hiking boots before as wading boots, but I kept going back to those Simms boots I mentioned above because I suppose I was so used to them - this all changed though when Simms in their infinite wisdom discontinued the Rivershed and Guide boots and instead brought out far worse wading boots that cost just as much but were in fact completely crap for what I needed. I got pretty excited about their “lighter weight” Vapor boots but they started to come apart on me within a few weeks and were also very uncomfortable to stand around in and fish, and my woes with the pile of poo Simms G3 Guide boots and their disappearing (rusting) eyelets have been documented on here before, as have my similar woes with the just as crap Patagonia Ultralight II (my arse) wading boots and their similarly disappearing (rusting) eyelets.
And rest assured that I have tried a bunch of other so called wading boots as well over the years, and these have ranged from stuff that lasted pretty well in my early days of wearing this sort of gear (pre intensive lure fishing days though) through to me wondering why on earth whichever company had even bothered to put such crap on the market. All of which brought about me trying out these cheap as chips Dunlop safety boots from Sports Direct……..
What do we want from a pair of wading boots though? What do we actually need as opposed to what a fishing tackle company tells us we need? I simply want a tough pair of walking style boots that can be worn in and around salt and freshwater without falling to pieces inside a week. I don’t see any point in drainage holes in the boots when, let’s be honest, how much water actually gets into a pair of boots once you have laced them up, and does it matter at all if you’ve got a little bit of water in there anyway? I want a half-decent pair of soles that will take some wading studs, I want the boots to be as light as possible, and in a perfect world I don’t want them to cost me very much as I know they ain’t going to last a whole heap of time however much I try to look after them.
I wish it wasn’t the case, but the only wading boots that have ever lasted me what I would call a decent amount of time have cost a lot of money, and annoying though it is, “cheap” wading boots that in fact still cost a lot of dosh (let’s say up to and around the £100 mark) simply can’t take the sort of use I give them - which at the end of the day frustrates the hell out of me when I go and buy a pair of Dunlop safety boots for the princely sum of £25 and after three months of hard use, living outside and never actually being dry at any point in their life so far, aside from some rusting around the eyelets the boots look almost as good as new (and unlike on the Simms and Patagonia boots that failed on me, the rusting eyelets on these Dunlops aren’t being eaten away and they aren’t chewing up laces). These Dunlops sure as hell aren’t designed for what I have been using them for, yet they are holding up incredibly well.
OK, so as I said a while ago (check here), I can’t put those Orvis studs in the soles, but I don’t need to worry one bit because these (cheaper) SupaTracks 1100 studs haven’t moved at all in the soles - which to be honest I thought they might - the grip they give together with the Dunlop soles have been absolutely perfect, and as far as I can tell the tips on the SupaTracks studs haven’t worn down at all - so as and when these cheap as chips Dunlop boots fall apart I’ll take the SupaTracks studs out and put them into the soles on the next pair of boots I buy - which will of course be another pair of these Dunlop safety boots.
I’ll report back, but I said to myself from the start that £25 for at least three months of hard use would cause me to stop buying “proper” wading boots. After lots of fishing over all kinds of terrains I can’t for the life of me think of one single way in which I could possibly be missing out by wearing these Dunlop boots as opposed to wading boots. OK, so if I am fishing on a beach I’ll get some sand inside the boots, but I’d expect that in a pair of regular wading boots anyway, and all I do when I get home is rinse the sand out and then leave the boots sitting outside until the next time I go fishing. As I said further above, these Dunlops have never been dry since I bought them.
I am interested to see how the Simms Freestone wading boots might last for me because they’ve lasted so well for John Quinlan who I do my guiding work with over in Kerry, but then I ask myself what’s the point? I am sure there are loads more hiking style boots like these Dunlop ones out there that would work just as well, but if it’s any help, from my limited experiences of going outside of the conventional wading boot world as such, I need to go two shoe sizes up to comfortably allow for wearing waders, and for a lot of boots I’d have liked to try aren’t for sale in a size 13 (I take a UK size 11, then +2 sizes for the waders).
So there you have it. Unless something amazing comes along that is going to give me a massively better experience than these Dunlops, my time with “proper” wading boots is done. I wonder how long this first pair will last, but I am also quite looking forward to buying a new pair because it’s a weird kind of thrill that a £25 pair of boots has done me so proud. Farewell to wading boots, and I have to say, good riddance as well. Happy New Year to that!