|This review may seem a little dated because the model of Korker Chrome boots purchased were at a discount and have permanent Sticky Rubber soles while the current version of the same model has interchangeable soles, but the info is applicable.|
The reason for rubber soles was to meet the requirements of New Zealand. Given that virtually all the reports I read on rubber soled boot were not very good, some to the point of practically being accused of being the cause of several drownings, my plan was to install cleats. For cleats, I chose the Simms Alumibrite Stars based on feel and the recommendation of those at the California Fly Shop. The cleat pattern was around the perimeter of the foot ball and heel areas… again based on the recommendation of those at Cal Fly.
Installing the cleats is a pain in the arse. I needed to cut off the rubber nubs in areas to make sure that each cleat seated directly and flat on the base of the sole and not catty whompus because of the nubs. This took a fair amount utility knife work and time. Make sure you allow PLENTY of time to cleat your boots unless you want to find yourself staying up until the wee hours preparing for a nearing trip as I did. I had three or four hours into it before I was done.
Was it worth it? You bet! Part of the check out after landing in New Zealand, is having an inspector go through all your fishing gear. They waived through my clean DRY rubber soled cleated boots without a second thought. The inspector was so impressed that she gave me a nod, a positive comment, a smile, and a wish for good fishing.
The boots' crank-up wire lacing is more than just a gimmick. It actually works. I was worried about sand etc. getting into the mechanism and fouling it up, but it wasn't an issue after five or six days of heavy wading in rocks, sand, grit, and muck. (They've since been cleaned of trapped fine grit by using the provided tool to remove the cap and hosing the area with water.) I was also worried about the wire breaking while on the trip and then being stuck with useless boots (something you don't have to worry about with conventional lace up boots), but the coated wire shows little if any wear after the trip. The boots are well padded which provides good ankle protection. Ankle support is a trade off in flexibility. I prefer walking and wading with a flexing ankle vs. stiff ankled as is done with snow ski boots. The boots have sufficient flex and support that I never found myself ankle sore or tired. On the negative side… my fly line wrapped around the crank-up mechanism once. That's not bad for several days of fishing. Also on the negative side… the mechanism popped up loosening the lacing once while wading in heavily rocked water. I had to wade to shore to fix it which could have been a serious issue if it had happened during a tough wade. On the other hand, I would have expected conventional laced boots to have come loose much more than once over a similar period. A solution for both these issues would be to run a couple of wraps of duct tape round the ankle and mechanism, but who's going to go through that much effort except for maybe a pro… which I am not. One other negative is that the loop is too low on the back of the boot to help clear the wader bootie neoprene that is always bunched up at the heel when inserting your foot. A wet bootie would help but knitting the loop to the top of the boot back would be even better.
The aluminum cleats worked well on dry, wet, and slimy rocks. They're flat on the surface and would do far less damage to boat floors etc. as compared to many cleats which are hardened and pointed. I'm dissatisfied with the cleat pattern. When rock hopping on 6 to 10 inch boulders, my tendency is to land on the ball of my foot. If the boulder diameter is small enough, you land on only rubber and the cleats never touch. When that happens, you can feel a slip until a cleat or two grabs. This caused me to slip once during the trip. Once isn't bad in the whole scheme of things, but as I've gotten older… once is too often. I compensated by slowing down and being more deliberate about where and how I stepped. Now that I'm home, I'll be taking the time (yes… MORE time) to add a couple more cleats in the middle of the foot ball areas. I also found that several days of heavy wading had caused the cleats to loosen… some by as much as a half a turn on the screw. Remember to bring a screw driver (and maybe even some spare cleats) along with you on long trips. Shoo Goo'ing the cleats in place may help.
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