Many Americans are screaming about the level of personal invasion by our government. Whether it is airport security, eaves dropping phone calls, mandatory health care, or food labeling-most of us will have a complaint of some kind. Surprisingly, you may want the government to choose your shoes, when it comes to your wading boots.
There is an epidemic in North American Trout and Salmon fishing areas called Whirling Disease. My salt water brethren are saying “ whaaaaa?,” but any of our western trout friends know about the devastating impact to their fisheries. There is a parasite that attacks the equilibrium organs of most trout and salmon, particularly our Rainbows and Cuthroat trout. They are infected in the fingerling stage and eventually they loose their ability to control their bodies, making feeding difficult, and increasing their vulnerability to predators.
Ironically, the people that care the most about the fisheries are the ones most likely to spread the disease. Boats can transfer it on the hull. Clothing and waders can spread the disease. But the major focus has been on the classic felt soled wading boot. It is easy for the felt soles to absorb the spores, and transport the whirling disease from river to river. There are ways to prevent the transport of the disease, like disinfectant and allowing the “carrier” to dry, but felt soles are likely to disintegrate from repeated exposure to chemicals.
If you have never waded a trout stream, usually the bottom is covered with a mixture of rock of various sizes from pebbles to baseballs to bowling balls to boulders. Most of these rocks are covered in a delightful layer of slime that is slicker than Vaseline. Add moving water and limited bottom visibility, and wade fishing is rather challenging. Felt soled waders to the rescue. The felt bottom is surprisingly sticky. It greatly increases safety that makes wade fishing practical and fun. But now whirling disease!
Fly fishermen are an industrious group of conservationist. A wading boot was invented that would grip the slimy bottom with a rubber sole. It works by piercing the slime all the way to the rocks, similar to studded golf shoes or baseball cleats. This type of boot dries quickly (minutes rather than days) and is a huge asset in fighting the microbe. It is also more resistant to disinfectants. (It would be remiss to omit that every part of gear that touches the water should be cleansed and dried before changing to another river and spreading the disease.) This also makes the wading boots much friendlier to any saltwater wading.
There is great resistance to changing from our beloved and reliable felt soles. The issue is even more pronounced if your state is not affected by the disease. However; there is no doubt that whirling disease is coming to a river near you. A fellow fisher from out of state may unknowingly bring it to your waters, or you may unknowingly bring it home with you. And there is no doubt that using these new rubber soled boots will slow the spread of the disease but will not stop it. The irony is that they appear to be superior to in traction. And while a fisherman will jump on the newest fly and embrace new technology in fly rods, there is huge resistance to changing boots. It is ironic that that there will likely be legislation by the government to choose your wading shoes in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. The new rubber soled boots are also becoming a badge of conservation. Some companies that promoted the new soles subtly promoted the product as a symbol of conservation; that who-so-ever wore rubber soled boots was most conscientious about their environment. And they are.