We are well into the winter fishing season and I feel the need to give my wholehearted opinion as to my preference in footwear for the hearty, all-season angler. As summer gave way to an abruptly chilly fall this year, I was ready to pack my Simms Rip-Rap Sandals away for another long winter and break out the waders, socks and warmer clothing required by our part of the country in September. The only traditional equipment I would forego is the bulky wading boot, and I was eagerly looking forward to my winter fishing footwear of choice. It may come as a surprise to you, as my choice is also the Rip-Rap Sandal during the chilly afternoons of both fall and winter!
I will begin by saying I am not the best source of advertising for companies manufacturing traditional wading boots. Many years ago, I was in the middle of an explosive fall fishing season and found myself at the boat ramp having forgotten my wading boots. I had two choices; either take the two- hour round trip to pick up my boots and lose half of my only day off that week, or slip into my Keen sandals and get the boat in the water. I chose the latter and found that I was as comfortable and unencumbered as could be! This one trip changed the way I looked at using big, bulky wading boots from then on.
Although I spent the remainder of that season sliding like a figure skater over slippery river rocks due to the extreme lack of traction those summer cruising sandals provided, I was determined to seek out specific sandals that would perform more effectively. Simms has been making a couple of different types of wading sandals for years now, and I have owned multiple pairs for my summer and winter wade fishing ever since. I wear the true size sandal in the summer months, and then move up two sizes to accommodate thick socks and wader booties for fall and winter.
Let me discuss the advantages I have enjoyed since I donated my wading boots to the local thrift store and began using sandals all year long. I found that movement and dexterity while maneuvering the many rock-bottom formations we experience while river fishing was greatly increased while fishing in Rip-Raps. In my humble opinion, most wading boots are stiff, tight and restrictive, and using low-top sandals helps me maneuver over and around the round river rocks with more ease and confidence. The Simms Rip-Rap Sandals come equipped with the same performance-enhanced Vibram rubber soles as those found on many high-end wading boots, and they have perforations for incorporating a wide variety of stud patterns as well! In fact, the Rip-Rap Sandals are able to be equipped with 6 differently configured studs that can be screwed in and out at will.
I will be honest and say I have not missed having wet wading boots that must weigh 5 pounds each! With these sandals, dry-hiking and wet wading can be accomplished all day long without the fatigue of lugging the extra weight of traditional wading boots. These sandals also sport mesh bladders between the sandal slings to prevent sand and pebbles from entering. Furthermore, many fishermen who are fortunate to fish out of drift boats would find that the ease and comfort of much less material creates increased maneuverability while moving around inside the craft.
When discussing my preference for Rip-Rap sandals with other fishermen, I have routinely been told that wading boots are much warmer than sandals could ever be. First of all, what happens when you fish in traditional wading boots? You thoroughly soak your boots with the same 45 degree water that hits your 4mm neoprene booties regardless of what footwear you chose. I have found that the un-restricted fit of the Rip-Rap Sandal is more comfortable and provides much better circulation than the traditional fit of standard wading boots. Furthermore, the durable yet lightweight material of the sandals facilitates the drying process, and therefore, the warming process! Fall and winter fishing in wading sandals is equally as warm as fishing in bulkier wading boots, and I have fished throughout entire winters for years now and consider the cold factor to be one that is inevitable after wading for hours, regardless of what you are wearing.
I may seem to be a walking billboard for Simms wading sandals, but take my word for it, when a company builds a better wading sandal, I will forsake Simms and move on. There are many types of wading sandals on the market, and most fishermen do use them for wet wading throughout the summer seasons. I have merely taken to using sandals year-round and will continue to do so as long as there are excellent options to bulky and heavy traditional wading boots. Try them for yourself and you will be hooked!