korkers streamborn wading boots
You may be hearing rumblings lately about the threat of invasive species and how they can hitch rides in the moist felt of wading boots. I am fortunate enough to get to fish all over the place and live in a fairly polluted area where invasive species are prevalent...ever hear of a snakehead? Yep, right in my backyard. With this in mind I decided I had to take some steps to make sure I wasn't tracking microbes, algae and snakeheads all over North America in the soles of my wading shoes. I went on a quest to find some solution to this dilemma.
The perfect boot would give me support, protection, durability and grip on all surfaces. I spend a lot of time back country fishing and hiking in and out on felt soles is tiring and dangerous but I can't imagine walking over algae covered stream bottom with anything else. Then in the winter I have icy banks to navigate. I could try to convince the wife that three pairs of wading boots were a perfectly rational investment or I could check out some Korkers boots with the interchangeable soles.
I was pretty skeptical until I saw them being used in the flick "Trout Bum Diaries". When I saw one of the fisherman swap his soles for a long hike I was intrigued. I couldn't find any locally in my size so I contacted Korkers directly to see what they could tell me. The staff at Korkers were very helpful and I decided to try out a pair of Korkers Streamborns. They aren't Korkers top of the line boots but they are their "workhorse". I order them one shoe size larger than my street shoe and added in a studded rubber set of soles in addition to the included felt and hiking soles. (the aquastealth was currently out of stock so it will have to wait)
First thing I noticed when I took them out of box was the build of the boot. These are beasts. This is a very sturdy boot with great protection and more than enough support. Typical lace up boots; nothing fancy. They do sell a "Guide" version that has a cool lacing system from the snow boarding world but I figured interchangeable soles were unique enough. After wearing them for a couple days I can tell you these burley boots are exactly what they look like. Nice big toe box, but snug enough to keep my toes from getting jammed on steep downhill descents. They broke in very quickly and felt like an old friend in a couple of hours. They also drained much faster than I thought they would. I really didn't notice any sloshing around which is pretty unusual for a boot with such a generous toe box. I saw some small screen vents on the sides of the boots but the water must be getting out somewhere else . Very easy to go in and out of the water which is a must when fishing small streams for native brookies.
The previous version of the interchangeable sole system seemed to get mixed reviews. Some people loved them and others hated them complaining about the soles coming out unintentionally. Well it looks like the folks at Korkers were listening and they made the new OmniTrax v.2 fit much more snuggly using a deeply ridged toe piece and a special tool to pop the soles in and out. I have heard some complaints about the tool being something that could be easily lost; don't worry. They sent about 8 of them with my boots and you could use almost anything in place of the tool. I even had success with car keys. The tool looks like one of those things you fix divots with on the golf course. My first few attempts at swapping the soles didn't go so well. I was really skeptical and wondered if this was going to work. After using the boots for a day however I was able to swap out the felt soles for the hiking soles while still wearing the boots. I am not exactly Olga Korbet so I was a little surprised that I was able to change them without pulling a muscle (if you don't know who Olga Korbet is, you should be able to swap them just fine). The swapping of the insoles gets much easier as you put some miles on the boots.
Korkers offers the OmniTrax v.2. system in studded rubber, aquastealth, felt, studded felt and lugged hiking soles. The hiking soles are a godsend when trekking to and from remote brook trout waters. My first real test of these boots was in some very steep, rocky terrain on the Eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park. As you can see from the photo, the only way up is often right through the falls. Any brook trout fanatic will tell you that the longer you hike, the more fish you will catch. The park is not catch-and-release so the more easily accessed areas get picked clean on a regular basis. This means hiking in some pretty rough terrain for miles. You have a couple of choices. Pack two pairs of shoes, spend your time slipping on the wet rocks in your hiking boots or fall all over the rough hiking trails with your felt soles. With the Korkers I was able to have the best of both worlds. The felt soles were okay but lost some surface area due to the rubber rim that holds them in place. No big deal as I will not be using them as soon as the Aquastealths arrive. They did do the job much better than a non-felt hiking boot. Studded Aquastealth might be a really good idea for terrain like this (Hey Korkers! Are you listening?). After hiking up around 1200 ft. over 3 miles I was pretty pleased but I really fell in love with these things on the way back down.
Every hiker knows that going down is way more abusive than going up. Yes going uphill can wind you and make you feel your age but going down a steep descent can destroy your knees, turn your ankles and after a long day of fishing, set you up for a nasty spill on a boulder strewn trail. Having the ability to swap my water friendly soles for a trail friendly, aggressive tread, lug sole was great. Any minor drawbacks of these boots quickly vanished on the way out of the ravine. I was grinning as I rock hopped down the steep trail back to the parking area. Not a chance of slipping with these treads.
When I got home I labeled the felt soles with a big "SNP" so I know where they were used and put the boots in my fishing closet ... after I cleared a spot by putting my old favorites up in the attic.
Pros: Hiking sole is very aggressive and makes trekking in and out of remote areas much easier. Studded rubber is perfect for winter steelhead fishing, providing positive grip and eliminating the "high heels". Multiple felt soles can be purchased to prevent the spread of certain invasive species and disease. Aquastealth will not easily carry disease or invasive species. All soles mount very securely in shoe.
Cons: Rubber rim limits surface area of soles. Not as easy to swap out soles are previous versions. Care must be taken to prevent gravel from getting under rim when changing soles. Toe laces covered with strap loop which prevent hooking gravel guard to bottom-most lace (You have to be pretty picky to find fault in these things)
Summary — Killer wading boots. Truly the best of all worlds at a very fair price. Find out more at http://www.korkers.com