Argument for no felt soled wading boots

By Chuck Hammerstad


Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) have been invading our waters throughout the world at an alarmingly rapid rate.  There is major concern regarding the spread of AIS as States have begun to ban the use of felt soles on wading boots.  Felt soles, which have long been hailed for their anti-slipping, sure-footed properties, have been found to offer a mode of transport for aquatic invasive species like Didymo (rock snot or slime), New Zealand mud snails, whirling disease and zebra and quagga mussels from one body of water to another.  There are other ways of transport of AIS from one body of water to another, though there is sound scientific evidence which demonstrates that felt soled waders provide the means of transport by imbedding themselves in the felt bottoms.  It has been proven that felt is the biggest culprit as shown in the following reference:  Research has shown “that felt trapped 100% of the whirling disease spores that it was exposed to while rubber trapped none.  This is dramatic evidence that felt soles present a much greater risk of transport than rubber soles.”

 Although felt soles are known to be a major culprit, it is important that anglers clean their wading gear after spending a day in the water.  Scientific evidence has demonstrated that anglers move large amounts of sediment between waters every year.  A study by Kiza Gates at Montana State University in 2007, “revealed that anglers’ boots were responsible for moving over 6000 pounds of sediment between access sites in SW Montana alone and that non-resident fisherman carried more than 1600 pounds of sediment out of Montana.”   As a result of these studies, there became a focus on cleaning fishing equipment after use to avoid the spread of aquatic invasive species.  Felt is much harder to clean than rubber materials and even after disinfecting felt, which is difficult to do, felt still spreads aquatic invasive species.

Tips for Careful Cleaning

Many fishermen understand how important cleaning is and are taking these three simple steps:  Inspect, Clean and Dry. 

Inspect waders, boots and other equipment.  Separate all individual components such as insoles, sock, booties, gravel guards, and laces.  Look for plants and other visible substances.

Clean.  Wash all components inside and out with water.  Make sure you remove all dirt, plants and other visible substances and be sure the boot treads, seams, and any creases or crevasses are completely clean.  Use a small brush.

Dry.  If possible, thoroughly dry everything before you reassemble the components.

Other equipment such as reels, landing nets, lines, gear bags, etc. need to be thoroughly washed to remove dirt, plants and other visible substances.  Ideally, completely dry them in the sun on a hot day.

Heat and cold can kill many invasives and can be used to supplement careful inspection and cleaning.  Drying kills most invasives.  High temperatures and low humidity are deadly to most AIS.   Do everything possible to expose your equipment to hot and dry conditions for as long as possible.

Where to Clean is just as important as how to clean.  If possible, clean your gear on-site at the end of your trip.  If you wash off any invasives at the water you have been fishing, you will just be leaving them where you got them.  Don’t’ let them hitchhike away from the site.  Never clean at the launch point for a new trip.  Chemicals are not recommended.

For more detailed information and information on cleaning pets, boats and trailers go to:  

In 2008, Trout Unlimited requested the elimination of felt by 2011.  The response to this requested was varied.  Many companies such as Simms Fishing Products came out with new non-felt rubber soled wading boots.  In New Zealand, Didymo was discovered where it had never been found before and it was determined that it had been spread by felt soled waders.  Since 2008, New Zealand has banned felt on waders.  Thus far, Maryland and Vermont have banned felt soled waders and Alaska is soon to follow.  Montana will inevitably be joining other states in outlawing felt.

 Although boot manufacturers are still making felt soled boots, most have curtailed the manufacturing of felt soled waders.  Some fly fishing shops have stopped selling felt soled waders.  “Many anglers are embracing the new rubber soled boots and believe if protection of our waters means giving up felt, they are fine with the trade.  Others are not so accepting, citing cost and the belief that the new wadeing boots don’t work as well in certain water types as reason they oppose the switch.”  Companies have recently offered new materials and sole designs, such as adding studs, to increase the efficacy of non-felt soles so that there are more options out there.

 For more information on felt-soled waders, the debate and their ramifications, visit: and

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