With my recent experiences of wading boots, I think I should start an advisory service on what not to buy! Whilst I accept wholeheartedly that the bulk of these wading boots and lightweight, “breathable” waders are made for the freshwater fly fishing world, how bloody hard can it be to make (not sodding cheap) wading boots that might stand up to at least a decent amount of saltwater use without failing in some stupid way that could have so easily been avoided?
I am still kicking myself that I didn’t act fast enough on some advice which a couple of anglers who I know fish hard over some serious ground gave me - they have been doing really well with the original Patagonia Ultralight wading boots, but by time I got around to buying a pair to try out, they had been “upgraded” to the newer Ultralight II model. I wanted to buy the previous version but it was my bad luck that when I ordered them - the shop hadn’t yet changed their website to reflect this “upgrade”. To be fair to them, they kindly offered to refund me my money or else send me a pair of the new boots once they were in stock. OK, so I regret it now, but I said yes please, let’s try the brand new Patagonia Ultralight II wading boots, because surely the brand new version is going to be even better?
Well they’re not, or at least they are not better if you fish in saltwater as I do the bulk of the time. First off I would hardly term these wading boots “Ultralight”, as in once they are wet they feel just as heavy and cumbersome as most other wading boots I have fished in. I went one size over my UK size 11 feet to allow for socks and waders and the boots were a good fit and really comfortable to walk around in. I put those Orvis Posigrip studs in the soles as per usual and it was all fine on that front. Things were looking pretty sweet and I was really starting to like these wading boots……….
But then a lace broke on me when I was doing them up one early morning over in Kerry the other day, and as with my other bad experiences with wading boots when this happens, the alarm bell sounded straight away. I put my glasses on (it’s called getting older) and had a close look at the eyelets. Bloody sod it if they aren’t starting to rot! Check the photos out and you will see exactly what I mean. Now you might say Henry, what do you expect, you are using them in saltwater, and metal eyelets are of course going to start rotting away (I wash my wading boots in freshwater fairly regularly by the way). But I don’t agree, and it’s because my old and now pretty much knackered Simms Rivershed and previous version Simms Guide boots both had metal eyelets on them, and after heaps of use in saltwater they are still showing no sign of rotting away, so it can be done.
So why the hell would a big company like Patagonia in all their wisdom go and put piss poor quality metal eyelets on an upgraded version of a wading boot that previously came with what looks like hard nylon eyelets that from what I hear don’t fail with saltwater use? I understand that companies need to refresh their product lines, but why make something new worse? Or is it simply a case yet again of gear not being tested properly before coming to market? A few months with a prototype pair of Patagonia Ultralight II wading boots and I could have told them they had a bit of a problem with the boots if anglers were going to use them in saltwater. Am I the only unlucky sod out there who has found a problem with these new boots, or am I simply the first person to put them through some hard use in saltwater and find the fault?
It’s no different to those rubbish Simms G3 Guide boots that I had a problem with last year - their discontinued Rivershed and Guide boots were superb for hard saltwater use, but in their infinite wisdom they upgrade to the G3 Guide boots and actually made them worse than the models they were replacing! Why? Why the hell make something worse? When you’re charging what these companies do for their wading boots, why aren’t they properly tested in and around saltwater before going on the market? And if not, why not at least say in big letters on their websites that so and so models of wading boots are not designed for saltwater use, and that if the consumer chooses to use them in saltwater then their warranty is void. Not exactly rocket science is it?
Patagonia have offered me a full refund on the faulty boots - which of course they should - but there has been no explanation about why the eyelets started to rust, and whilst I did provide photographic proof of the problem (the photos that you see here), nobody has come back to me and asked my thoughts on the matter. I expect that though. Why would a big company ask the little people such as you and I what we thought of a product? Anyway, if you are looking for a pair of wading boots to use in saltwater, allow me to advise you against buying the Patagonia Ultralight II, Simms G3 Guide, and Simms Vapor wading boots. All three models have failed on me (twice with the G3 Guide boots), all three models ain’t cheap, and basically it annoys the hell out of me. What can I do? Squat, except for trying to help a few of you out by giving you my bad experiences and hoping you might benefit from them. Have a good weekend and may your wading boots see a bunch of fish and not fail on you!