We anglers are persistently striving for better footing while on the river. Beyond the obvious safety benefit, good traction makes for good posture, relieving back stress. It makes us feel more confident in our fishing, improving casting accuracy, and otherwise giving us peace of mind to concentrate on our end goal, catching fish.
Felt has never been the optimal solution. It provides nearly zero traction while hiking, and can be downright dangerous on grassy surfaces. It is a magnet for snow. And of course, it dries very slowly, potentially hosting a variety of biotic specie that are harmful to coldwater ecosystems.
Rubber soles were purportedly the solution to those problems, but they too have their inadequacies. While they provide excellent traction on the trail, their performance in the river, particularly where uneven bottoms and slick rock covering are the norm, is suspect. Several years back Simms introduced their Vibram sole, complete with a tread pattern that was supposed to compensate for previous rubber incarnations’ lacking. Actual reviews remained mixed, even though the author loves them because he mostly busts his ass reaching for the beer cooler in the back of the truck. And while Simms provided Rockwell hardened studs and their nifty Hardbite Star Cleats as compense, fly anglers are beasts that are difficult to appease.
Enter stage left: the Simms Alumibite cleats.
Quite possibly one of the worst waders I have ever met, I decided to try these cleats for my recent trip to BC. Having heard that even they have their disadvantages on softer surfaces such as logs, I set the Alumibites in a perimeter pattern and supplemented them with the Star Cleats in the arch area and under the ball of my foot as depicted here.
The author can say with nearly zero reservation that they are the cure to the slips that ail (assuming you were not on a brown water binge the night before). I danced across big water with the elegance of Alessandra Ferri in Valley of Shadows, covering ground with the speed of Ricky Bobby at Talledega. Large rocks, small rocks, wet rocks, dry rocks, grassy trails, muddy trails…happy trails; nothing but nothing stood in traction’s way. I wore them for four days straight, making hairy crossings, hiking several miles, working a plethora of water, and nary lost my footing once. I will never wear boots without them again. Or maybe start drinking earlier next time around.
The only pitfall: they are made of soft aluminum, hence they wear pretty fast. I figure I’ll get thirty days tops out of the Alumibites before they need replacing. But before the nancy boys step in to declare how expensive that is, the math comes out to about a buck an outing. That’s half the cost of one well dressed dry fly, a quarter of a 9-foot leader, and only 1/1,000,000th of the price I pay for listening to the whiners while they slap up the water ahead of me, spooking every fish for miles around, because I’d rather sleep in.
Get Simms Alumibite cleats for your Vibram-soled boots. Never slip in the river (or around the river) again. Or better yet, don’t get the cleats, slip in the river, go back to the car for dry clothes, and tell your wife the harrowing story when you get home. That way I’ll have the water all to myself.
MG signing off (because sticks and stones may break my bones, but having to call it a day is what really sucks)
FTC Disclosure: The author paid for these cleats with his own money. The author is extremely pleased with the purchase, but not so much that he has to write this disclosure. That is all.