Simms G3 Felt Guide Boots

David Anderson contemplates the benefits of traditional traction

Over the last 20 years, since I first tried them, rubber soled wading boots have evolved from a certain swim, cameras and all, to a very real alternative to felt. In fact, if there’s a lot of walking to and from the water, I prefer rubber soles for their grip on the trail and banks. So does felt still have a place?
In simple terms of traction in the water, and thinking about a stream with more vertical bedrock than level gravel, and with apologies to my didymo suffering Kiwi friends, I would say absolutely.
I tested my new G3 felts recently on a day out on a stream I’ve only fished with the well-spiked Vibram rubber soled G3’s I currently have.
It starts with an interesting section of bedrock gorge with lots of climbing both in and out of the water. The first obstacle is getting around a waterfall that’s no more than 10 feet high, but over smooth rock with only small footholds. Then it’s a scramble across dry, mossy and leaf littered rock around deep water. The last climb is a shorter waterfall with a very polished and fluted surface and hard-to-see deep pockets under a stout flow. There’s no way around this one, you have to climb up through the water.
In this environment, the felt soles are confidence inspiring and require less attention to grip underfoot than my spiked boots. This, really, is the difference between felt and solid soles in my experience. Felt moves around on the bottom less whereas rubber soles, even when studded, can occasionally move an inch or two before they bite. Of course felt isn’t perfect and I have had slides on odd shaped and slippery slabs of basalt or larger mixed cobbles as well as a few overs off the stream on steep, wet grass and mud.
In build the new G3’s (Felt or Vibram), like the old, are tank-like and very solid. They are comfortable with excellent ankle support, well cushioned foot-beds and fully lined with forgiving neoprene inside. Changes to the new version include abrasion resistant material up the sides and over the toe box.
They are heavy, and if you’re doing big walks, lighter might be better. One of the important trade-offs with the G3’s over light boots I’ve worn, is that even after a few big days strung together, my feet remain in pretty good shape after a beating.
I can’t really talk about longevity yet, as I’m only a few hours in on the new pair, but my previous G3 felts lasted for many seasons before the soles became too thin at the toes to completely trust. The only other wear on the old model was around the tops where they rub against the wader cuffs, and some cracking in the leather on the toe box. If they had a problem, it was the leather in the uppers would shrink when they were dry and could be tight until they had been in the water for a few minutes. This increased with age, but was never a show stopper.
Because I fish a huge variety of streams with plenty of trips to new and unknown water, having both rubber soles and felts is ideal and I now bring three pairs of boots. One with unstudded rubber soles from Orvis as a light-weight boot, G3’s in studded rubber, and the new felts. All have their place, but in the fast and steep small streams I love the most, the G3 felts are first choice.