This seems to be the year of 'new gear' for me - and my boots were next on the list of replacements. The past six months I've been coming off the river with toes that feel like they've been hit with a hammer, and ankles that feel like I've been fishing in 6-inch heels (not that I know what that feels like). They've been good boots, though. We've covered a lot of water together, seen a lot of fish, and have taken our share of spills. Three felt changes later, however, and it's time to move on.
I had been scoping out boots for the past few months, reading reviews and brushing up on all of the new happenings in the world of wading boots - felt seems to be taking a bad rap as of late, but I'm still not convinced that it takes a back-seat to the new 'felt-less' soles that seem to be all the rage these days, but I'm willing to keep an open mind and give the other stuff a spin.
When I bought my last pair of boots, the water was fairly accessible, and I spent my time on the river....IN the river. Felt was ideal. However, in Colorado, I spend most of my time in Cheeseman Canyon, which requires a lengthy hike to reach the water, over some fairly rough terrain. And once at the water's edge, you spend most of your time on the sharp, rocky banks, with the occasional excursion into the river itself.
So what I needed were a pair of boots that could handle the amount of rough trail hiking and bank fishing that I do, as well as being flexible enough to handle some wet fishing conditions when needed.
Enter Korkers and their Omnitrax Sole System. Two pairs that I narrowed it down to were the Guide and Streamborn series of wading boots, with the Guide eventually losing out to the Streamborn simply because of the Boa Lacing System that the Guide employs. Call me old fashioned, but the laces just do a better job of cinching up the boot for better foot and ankle support.
When talking to the sales rep, I asked about the durability of the Boa Lacing System - and, as to be expected, he said that it should provide trouble-free operation for years to come with normal wear and tear. Not sure what 'normal wear and tear' would be, but after seeing the system first hand, I wasn't too impressed. My son's Bakugan toys feel more solidly-built than the Boa System.
The Korker's website for the Boa Lacing System (above) has a video posted outlining the steps required for 'lace' replacement - which for me, is a red flag. As durable as the company (and sales rep) say they are, it bothered me a little to see the video posted on the site. Not to mention the sales rep's recommendation that I buy an extra set of wires 'just in case'. To me, that doesn't instill confidence. What happens if you don't have an extra set on you, and you pop a wire on the river?
As a last jab at the Boa System - it's suggested that, after fishing, one should wash the system, to remove any dirt and debris that could potentially jack up the mechanics. Sorry, the last thing I want to do is perform preventive maintenance on my BOOTS. I can see my to-do list now:
- Clean and change filter furnace
- Change oil in truck
- Check and clean boot's lacing system
- Take out garbage
Anyway, back to the Streamborn - from the reviews that I've read, it seems like there is a lot of animosity aimed at this Korkers boot - a lot of folks providing feedback bemoaning their decision to buy something other than Simms. Well, I've gone from Simms to Korkers now, and after four trips to the river (I'm slacking on my posts!), I can honestly say that I am impressed with the way the boots have handled themselves thus far.
The comfort has exceeded my expectations, but to be fair, I did buy some Dr. Scholl's gel inserts, which has really made standing all day in these boots a breeze. And the ease with which they handle tough terrain is impressive as well. I've had them on steep rocky inclines to slippery river rocks (and everything in between), and they've taken care of me in every situation thus far.
As for changing out the soles, I did it once just out of curiosity, to see how easy it would be, and I have to say that it was relatively pain-free. I doubt I'll be using the felt that much (if at all) - the Trail Lug insert works great for me and the conditions that I fish in (and I imagine it will handle snowy trails with ease as well).
They're also extremely easy to put on and take off - the tongue opens wide and there is little effort required to get your foot in (or out).
As for the construction, these are some well-made boots. The seams are tight, and over-laps have been reduced to a minimum, which is a good thing, in today's environment, to prevent unwanted hitch-hikers from getting a lift to another river or stream.
The only complaint that I have would be the actual size of the boot, as stated on the box (and on the boot itself) - I bought a size 12, but if I were a betting man, I'd say they were closer to an 11. And as these boots 'cure' and endure more time on the river, I can only assume that that they may shrink a bit, which could make for a tight fit. Only time will tell on this one - but if I end up having to soak these boots before heading to the water, rest assured someone will hear about it.
So from here, it's about durability and how much life I can pull from these boots. It's anybody's guess as to how well these will hold up in some fairly unfriendly conditions - the measuring stick is pretty high at this point, so these Korkers will have to perform above and beyond to gain rock-star-like status in my book.
But as of right now, I'm kinda digging these new boots and am optimistic about our future together.