....................... ......Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park
You Ask For My Thoughts About Fly Fishing Boots, Time and Time Again, So Here They Are
"If non-felt soles on wading boots helps prevent the spread of Didymo, then condoms that are full of holes will help prevent the spread of aids."
I think far more of how my readers value what I have to say than fly fishing manufacturers and politicians. For that reason, here's my honest thoughts about the wading boot mess.
The fly fishing felt boot sole thing, as it's labeled, is just another example of government getting involved with something they don't have enough facts about to get involved with. There's absolutely no hard science on Didymo, New Zealand Mud Snails or Zebra Mussels. Even so, various states are jumping to the demands of someone to force anglers to wear certain types of shoes or boots when wading. Lately, there hasn't been a week that has passed that I haven't noticed another headline about another state proposing legislation to ban felt soles on wading boots. It started with Vermont. On April 1, 2011, it will become illegal to use felt sole wading boots in Vermont. It was first introduced to become illegal to manufacturer or sell felt soled wading boots and later amended to include using them. Everyone seemed to think Alaska was the first state to do that but not really. Their band becomes effective Jan 1, 2012.
You may wonder as I did, why Vermont went first. Actually, I didn't have to wonder but about a split second to realize why. I'm just tossing that question out for you to wonder about. Vermont and Alaska were followed by several more states and just yesterday I noticed Maryland had also been suckered in.
This study I read said that the cells of these invasive species are able to survive and remain viable in cool, damp, dark conditions for at least forty days. If you will notice, this study says that anglers, canoeist, kayakers, and boaters can unknowingly spread this microscopic algae which can cling to fishing gear, waders, boots and boats. Only one cell is needed for it to spread. Fishing equipment, boot tops, neoprene waders, and felt soles all provide a site where cells remain viable, at least during short term studies. This conclusion was not a true scientific study. Keep in mind it beats any other study that has been done by scientist regarding this simply because there aren't any other studies that have be done regarding the spread these invasive species by fly anglers to the best of my knowledge. If you go by the study I quoted above, then why are they not baning the upper parts of the wading boots such as the strings, lace holes layered tongues, that fold together providing lots more damp nooks and crannies than felt soles? If wading boots are the problem, why not solve the problem?
Anyone that has ever waded a stream with Didymo, like Tennessee's South Holston, knows very well rock snot isn't just neatly covering a level bottom. There are rocks as much as a foot or two above the bottom covered solid with the stuff, including all the layered shoals you often rub up against. Getting the stuff on the upper part of the boot is just as likely as getting it on the soles of the shoes. What about the point at which the waders go down into the shoes. Gosh, taking about a place for something to hide. Not all guys change out of their waders when changing streams. What if they drive over to the nearby Doe River or Laurel Fork to fish? The facts are much of the wading boot provides a perfect place for a hitch hiker. What about the cushioned boot foot itself? The limited research that is available suggests the upper lace area is just as bad as the felt sole is insofar as its ability to capture and retain small organisms.
No one has been able to rule out waterfowl and animal dispersal of these organisms. What about the bears. Can they spread it. Look at a bear's foot. Looks like there's plenty of places for anything to hide to me. What about raccoons, deer hoofs and otters which move long distances across dry land to other streams. Maybe they can legislate shoes requirements for them. What about deer and bear hounds. I guess their feet are made of rubber.
Didymo isn't new in America. Its been around since the late 1800s. Its single cell, which in layman's terms is all of it, is invisible to us. It can be transmitted and remain alive on a wet shirt, landing net, socks, canvass shoes, your flies and even your skin. Make sure you empty and wash out your kids sand buckets with bleach along with all the other gear that gets in a stream before heading to another stream. What about boaters? Especially those with bilges and live wells. All the connecting piping between live wells are perfect - like in bass boats. I have found live shrimp in my live well piping many times. What about boat trailers? The carpet on the runners of the trailers? I could go on and on. Don't think just in terms of the tailwaters. Guess what? They get their water through dams from lakes and reservoirs. What's in the lake, can get in the stream. And last on my list but by all means not the least is waterfoul. They can transport all kind of things both internally and externally.
I'm not saying the new rubber soles will not reduce the amount of spread contamination. They will. The problem is, it is so insignificant and so unimportant of a factor in preventing the spread of Didymo, it is useless to enact such laws at this point. That said, I have had anglers say that if it helps any, it should be done. The problem with that theory is that change alone will not within itself stop Didymo from spreading to one single stream in the United States. It isn't much different than enacting laws requiring that condoms with holes in them be worn in order to prevent the spread of aids. In my opinion, all of these laws will do absolutely nothing to prevent the spread of the subject invasive species. It's also my opinion that the main underlying reason the new regulations are being introduced is to sell product.
Women don't get a little pregnant. They are either pregnant or they are not pregnant. Streams don't get a little infected. They are either infected or they are not infected. According to the above study, once a single cell of Didymo is transmitted it can spread. It has been proven over and over that one tiny, minute amount of Didymo will spread rapidly throughout a given amount of water. It doesn't take a billion dollar scientific study to determine that.
It's even possible the laws could have a reverse effect. If one stupid idiot gets aggravated enough about the new requirements, meaning he goes fishing only to find out he has to buy a new pair of wading boots, he may consider transferring a rock or two covered with Didymo from one stream to another.
I haven't read all of the actual descriptions and/or content of the proposed laws. I don't know if it affects the shoes your children will have to wear if they wade a little while in the South Holston River and then move on down to wade in the streams of the Smokies, just for example. I don't know how they describe "felt" or if they even mention the word felt and otherwise describe the construction of the soles on the wading boots. I don't know if some states are requiring rubber as such or if they are just spelling out some highly technical garbage that someone in the FLY FISHING BOOT BUSINESS (irrespective of the round about, under the table method they used) came up with. All I do know about the new laws is that they are not going to have any effect whatsoever on the spread of Didymo. That's because I know of hundreds of other ways, some even more effective in spreading the dreaded crap than felt shoe soles are.
Another problem I have with it, is that I also know these states couldn't wait for the industry to develop soles for fly fishing boots that were safe enough to keep anglers from slipping and breaking a body part. The wading boot manufacturers didn't get any farther than the second or third redesign of their introductory failures before they apparently pressed their local state legislatures for a way to profit from the sale of poorly designed boots. Most states will have the law long before these companies have the solution to spreading the disease or the slipping and falling problem. So far, the solutions for alternative wading boot soles are so primitive and crude they should win the WWDOAA or the World's worst design of anything award. I mean, if you slip, drive a nail or a screw in it and try that.
The cold hard facts are, there's far too little known about it for any legislation to help at this point in time. All emphasis should be put on researching the problem. I don't mean research done by the fly fishing industry. The wading apparatus manufacturers haven't yet figured out how to make waders that last very long without leaking, or maybe they have and don't want anyone to know it. They haven't been able to make rubber soled shoes that don't easily slip on rocks.
I'm not really trying to pick on any one company. I've used Simms for the last thirteen years. I purchased seven new pairs of waders and boots for myself and six pairs of each for Angie - all top of their line product. That is over $5,000.00 I've contributed to Simms for wading gear. Simms is just a small fly fishing company in Montana. The best I can determine, all fly fishing companies are small. They don't employ scientist or at least any that have the necessary financial resources to solve the Didymo problem. Remember, this isn't just a fly fishing problem. It's a big problem for all waterways - a problem for nature.
Get ready, the surge of state legislation isn't going to stop. It doesn't matter where you fish, unless you have already made the move, you are going to have to buy a new pair of wading boots. I wouldn't doubt the Feds getting involved at some point. All it will take is for someone to see they have a political advantage in making it a top issue and it will be done.