Felt Sole Bans

Rick Todd

Active Member
I was in New Zealand a while back and had to fish without my felts. Even with studs they don't work as well. In fact, on dry rock, the studs are dangerously slippery! We had to soak our waders and boots in a bleach solution after every days fishing. The guides were also talking about all the deer, elk, ducks and geese that went from one river system to another and how stupid the non-felt rule was. Rick
I have done a lot of research on invasives and the felt sole bans. I will summarize the results below.
1. Simms and Trout Unlimited started the ball rolling.
2. Didymo is a native species in the northern hemisphere, not an invasive.
3. The UK has documented Didymo for 150 years with periodic blooms.
4. Whirling disease is found commonly in Brown Trout in Europe and has been present probably forever. So where did our brown trout come from?
5.Didymo and whirling disease can survive passage through the gut of migratory waterfowl.
6.If you read the laws banning felt soles carefully, you will find that Federal and State workers are exempt. So you could be given a ticket for wearing felt soled boots by a game warden who is wearing felt soled boots!
7.Didymo blooms have been documented recently in remote streams in Glacier National park rarely frequented by fishermen. The report implicates global warming as a cause of Didymo blooms.
8.Simms admits that treating wading equipment with bleach will destroy the material.
9.Simms originally announced that they would no longer make felt soled wading boots but they went back on that promise this year.
10.A law with a penalty of thousands of dollars and possible jail time has not prevented the spread of Didymo in New Zealand, where it is not native.
11.The only actual research I was able to find shows that the biomass of trout food organisms actually increased in areas of a stream with Didymo blooms.
12.Whirling disease can survive freezing for at least 3 months.
13.There is a whirling disease resistant strain of rainbow trout and rainbows have now returned to 60 to 70% of their original numbers in the Madison.
14.Although whirling disease is found in the Missouri River system in Montana, no decrease in the rainbow trout population has been found.

I could go on, but why? Banning felt soles is a marketing gimmick that has started the political ball rolling and where it stops no one knows!
All it takes in ONE SINGLE CELL of these organisms, or one stocked fish that is infected. For example, Colorado stocks millions of fish annually infected with whirling disease from their hatcheries.
Please write your Fish and Game Departments about this. Don't let it happen in your State!

P.S. I will supply references for each of the 14 statements above if you are interested.
Thank you for your well documented post. Perhaps if we, as fishermen and women, shed enough light on this issue, we can perhaps debunk it and maybe others just as disagreeable.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
Now that felt is banned in some places. What do they do with the alternate that some people use. I fished with a guy that had glued shag carpet to the bottoms of his boots, it worked better than felt. I used to give him a bad time about it.

Are they going to ban that also.
Shag carpeting and indoor/outdoor carpeting have been practical substitutes for felt for decades; I've used them both. But while they may fit through a legal loophole, they're probably just just as much parasite vectors as felt is.

For several years, the Nature Conservancy property on Silver Creek has had metal tubs, disinfectant water and brushes at each of the several trailheads. Perhaps it's time for plastic bins with lockable lids to contain chlorinated water; something new for the fishing industry to market. Easy enough to carry and use in vehicles. (Would make for a helluva overcharge as checked airline luggage, though!):confused:


Active Member
So in the event that WA, ID and MT decide to go with the ban; what is a good feltless boot to use around here given how slick some of our streams and river rocks are...

Dan Nelson

Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum
The Patagonia River Crampons do work well -- better than screw-in studs. I've used them when wet-wading on hike-in sites (mostly backpacking) along with a pair of lightweight trail shoes (see thread in the Camping/Hiking section). But, after using 5 or 6 different makes/models of rubber-soled boot with and without studs, I have to say nothing comes close to felt -- those felt, with those Patagonia crampons can be a GREAT combination in really slick situations, especially on rocky salt beaches.

Best bet to curbing invasives transport is disinfecting and drying of gear. During our extended road trip last September, we kept a well-sealed Rubbermaid tub of bleach water on hand all the time. After stripping off boots and waders, the boots would get dipped in the solution, and we'd rub a rag soaked in the solution around the gravel gaiters on our waders. Then we'd dry them as much as possible but hanging the waders under cover overnight and setting the boots out in the last of the sunlight or near the fire in the evening.
I don't believe there is anything which could prevent wading fisherman using any type of traction improvement method from possibly transmitting dydimo. One alternative to bleaching is a strong solution of potassium permanganate but no chemical dip is ever going to be 100% effective. Beware of it's incredible purple staining power. Perhaps even banning fishing of any kind would not stop the spread of this slimy algae and that is the logical extension of this trend.
The reductio absurdum solution of this issue.
If a state bans felt for wading would that state open itself up to a lawsuit if a person injured themself because the safer felt soles weren't available?
I'm no lawyer but I do not see how one would have any grounds for such an action.
Streams are not constructed as public walk ways and to choose to wade is always at one's own risk.
No one sues the state because someone drowns while swimming outside supervised swimming areas in public waters.
I do research as part of my day job, so technical journals are common on my reading list. This thread got me wondering what was actually published in peer-reviewed reputable journals. I found two publications of significance:


A paper that explores the effect of the didymo on 'macrobenithic' life in affected rivers in Canada. Basically it says that there is a statistically significant negative effect on the rivers aquatic eco system. This is obvious I think to everyone but this publication provides a legitimate proof of the claim.


A paper on the spread and growth of didymo. Basically because the spread and growth of the algae was so closely correlated with the advent and subsequent popularity of felt that link has been explored and verified here. Yes the bacteria can be transferred through animals but nothing like the perfect breading, preserving, and transitioning abilities that felt provides (which incidentally is not provided by other wader materials). It is interesting to note that didymo is natural to North America but did not spread until felt became popular in the 80's and 90's. It makes intuitive sense as the felt is in direct prolonged contact with the algae, essentially being ground into the sole of a boot and then transmitted in the same way. Waterfowl do not have anything like this material in or on their bodies and they do not typically contact the algae covered bottom of a river.

Unfortunately you need a technical education and permission access to read the entire papers (such is the way with scientific journals) but the abstracts should satisfy those who are curious. This little research binge has me thinking of hanging up the felt.