Patagonia Rock Grip Boot Gear review
By George Anderson
I’ll have to admit I was a little skeptical about trying these new boots from Patagonia, after the less than pleasant time I had with their “Sticky” rubber soled boots earlier this summer, when I spent the better part of the day skidding around on every rock in the lower Henry’s Fork. After five minutes in these new boots with their aluminum bars, wading a rocky stretch of water here on the Yellowstone, as well as a couple of days fishing the spring creeks, I was simply amazed and impressed at how well these boots with aluminum bars screwed to the soles gripped the rocks.
Last fall Craig Matthews (Blue Ribbon Flies) had told me how well these worked on the Madison, and his report was enthusiastic and impressive. As many of us know, the Madison has some of the nastiest wading conditions around. I trust Craig’s opinions, and he is absolutely right – these new Patagonia boots are so good, that they give you new confidence in wading difficult, rocky bottoms.
Aluminum isn’t anything new to wading devices though, as we know how well the old Dan Bailey “Stream Cleats” – the fit over rubbers with aluminum bars that zigzagged across gripped any rock with aggressive tenacity. These simply slipped over a regular wading shoe. As awesome as these were, unfortunately they are gone forever. The good news is that the amazing new Patagonia Rock Grip boots with the aluminum bars feel just about the same! The grip you get is just unbelievable. On most rocks you don’t slip one single bit, as the aluminum bars bite in. There are six aluminum bars screwed to each boot – two on the heel and four on the sole. Walking seems quite normal, and I had a lot less tendency to trip than I did wearing the old Bailey Stream Cleats. When the bars eventually wear down, (this may take a couple of years for most anglers) they can be replaced with little effort or cost.
For anglers who are getting older and are looking for safer wading alternatives, Patagonia’s Rock Grip boots with aluminum bars seem like the best option right now. They proved to be far better than the softer Rock Grip Patagonia boots, or any of the Simms Vibram streamtread soled boots I’ve used- and this includes the ones with carbide studs, star cleats, and alumibite cleats. These boots even gave me more grip than anything I’ve worn with felt soles.
Wearing these new Patagonia boots with the aluminum bars, I felt invincible. Even in tough wading conditions I didn’t have to look down to glace where I was putting my feet. Just cruise along without looking down, having all the confidence in the world that I wasn’t going to slip or skid. But as my son James found out, trying the new Patagonia boots one day, all this confidence can prove your undoing as he stepped on some slimy bedrock in the Yellowstone, skidding underwater quick enough to float his hat! So while you need to use caution, these boots were gripping like crazy for me, and I was wading in nasty rocks and over bottom conditions that have proven to be exceptionally sketchy with rubber or felt soled boots.
I’m already thinking about how these new Patagonia boots will tame nasty places to wade like the Upper Madison below 3-dollar bridge, or that lower Henry’s Fork near Ashton Idaho. I can’t wait to get back to these places and be wading out in the middle of the river up to my waist with all the confidence that I won’t be going for a swim. I can also imagine these boots being great for striper fisherman, atlantic salmon fisherman, and hard core steelheaders. The price of $239.00 seems steep at first but I’d gladly pay twice this much to get this kind of traction!
Patagonia also makes a device they call their River Crampons, for $199.00, and these also utilize the aluminum bars – two on the heel and three across the sole, and these come in two sizes that will fit over most wading shoes. With the straps needed though, it just gives you more places to hang up your fly line. While the convenience of being able to take them on and off (for getting in the boat or going inside to buy more flies) is a plus, I think the Patagonia boots with the aluminum bars screwed on are far more desirable while fishing.
One last thought about either the boots or river crampons – These will grip rocks like no tomorrow, but get your fly line between these aluminum bars and a flat rock, and you’ll likely cause some damage, if you don’t cut right through it. So you’ll need to be careful handling your running line both while wading and in a drift boat. I’m always stepping on my line while standing in a drift boat, so I know I’ll have to be especially careful. But to me, the payoff in increased traction well outweighs the danger of cutting up a fly line. Also, on days when you know are fishing primarily from a boat and are not faced with difficult wading conditions, you can simply go back to your favorite felt soled or rubber-soled boots.