The most important thing to bring to the river isn’t the flies you carry; it’s not the leader, fly line, rod or reel. It’s good traction. To be effective on the stream, to be comfortable with your fishing tactics and enjoy yourself out there, you need good footing. You need the ability to stand tall and walk with confidence through the water.
A couple of years ago, my friend, Ross, turned me on to Grip Studs. And after decades of testing different traction options, these are the best studs I’ve ever used.
My favorite fly fishing tips are based in movement. I often urge anglers to get closer to the target — cast only as far as necessary, so you have maximum control over the fly’s path in the water. I encourage clients to cover more water — give the trout a good shot at the flies and then move on. I tell guys if the fishing is slow, focus on the water type where you are catching fish and leave the other stuff for another day. And when searching for the biggest trout in the system, hop from one prime location to the next. None of that is possible if you’re bumbling and stumbling with every step. If all you’re thinking about is not falling down, it’s tough to focus on the fishing.
I once read an author who argued that good wading is about learning to slide into place with each step. He said that everyone out there is slipping in the stream, so learn to deal with it; fish a lot, and you’ll gain confidence in slippery conditions. I couldn’t disagree more.
The wading angler needs gription! And solid, stable contact with the riverbed is the only thing to provide that confidence. There is no substitute.
My fishing buddies will tell you what a nut I’ve been about boot studs through the years. I’ve tried everything. And here’s a short list of my complaints:
- Non-studded felt is great until it isn’t. When you encounter the wrong algae or plant life on the bottom, the creek turns into a slip-and-slide. Same with non-studded rubber.
- Studs of various designs work for a while and are usually best when new. My main gripe is how fast they either wear out or fall out.
- Many screw-in studs have a wide head that flattens after a couple dozen miles of walking. They round off and lose their edge for biting in.
- Aluminum options can be wonderful. I’m a big fan of aluminum bars and Rock Treads discs. But aluminum chunks screwed into your soles are heavier than studs, they can slip on wet wood and ice, and they’re kind of a bear to install. (That said, I use aluminum bars and Rock Treads a lot. They’re a great option, especially for giving new life to boots with worn soles.)
Quick point and full disclosure
I’ve written just a few gear reviews on Troutbitten. Lots of companies send me stuff that I don’t write a review for. I’m hard on gear, and most of it falls apart, doesn’t live up to the promises or simply isn’t very useful. When Ross told me about Grip Studs, I got in touch with the company, and they were kind enough to send me a twenty-eight piece set. Later, they sent me slightly longer studs for deeper lug patterns, and a shorter set for my son’s felt boot soles.
Nothing is universal
While searching for the best wading boot traction, I eventually conceded that there’s no perfect solution. This country’s valleys are too varied for that. No studs bite very well into a granite river bottom. And sometimes felt really is the best option. But I do feel like I’ve finally concluded my twenty-year search for the best boot studs.
I’ve been walking on them for a year and a half now. And my skepticism is gone. Grip Studs provide excellent traction in every river that I fish. They stay in the boots and don’t fall out. And they last a very, very long time.
After hundreds of miles walked, the first Grip Studs that I installed outlasted the rubber soles. A few months ago, I bought new boots and transferred the Grip Studs over to the new soles. The stud tips show almost no wear, and the studs will likely be transferred over to next year’s boots as well.
Here are two reasons these are the best studs I’ve ever used . . .
Single-Point Tungsten Carbide Tips
A decade ago, some wading boot manufacturers offered carbide tips that came permanently installed in both felt and rubber soles. I owned many of these, and the studs always outlasted the boots. In fact, the studs saved wear on the soles, and the soles often outlasted the uppers. Bottom line — the boots held up longer. And I don’t think I’m dredging the conspiracy theory basement here to believe that’s why companies no longer offer these kinds of studs as a pre-installed option.
Tungsten carbide is crazy hard stuff, and you have to walk an awfully long way to wear it down.
The single-point stud is key. I’ve installed other tungsten carbide studs in my boots that had tungsten pebbles glued into a screw head. But they wear off too quickly. I’ve also used tungsten carbide studs with screw heads that have four angular edges. They are good. But not as good as a single point. Each Grip Stud bites into the rock with every step. The single point simply bites deeper, and that’s the trick.
Here today — Still here tomorrow
I assumed the Grip Studs would fall out over time, as many other studs have. These stay in. The auger design of the screw cuts into the boot sole and stays in place. When mounted properly, with most of the head recessed, there’s no wiggle in the stud, and it doesn’t work loose. I’ve never lost a Grip Stud.
Grip Studs offers wading boot studs in a couple different sizes. But the bulk of their business is dedicated to screw-in tire studs. (Tires cover a lot more miles than you or I ever will in our wading boots.)
The #1100 studs are what you want for felt. And I’ll make this point, from experience: Grips Studs install easiest into clean felt. They twist right int. But if your felt soles are well-used and full of dirt or sand, the studs can be difficult to screw in. If you power wash the dirty felt or use the hose at a manual car wash, the felt should be clean enough again to install the Grip Studs without trouble. Alternately, drilling a small and shallow pilot hole is a good option.
The #3000B studs are good for rubber boot soles with a low profile tread pattern, while the #3000A are best for rubber soles with a deeper profile tread pattern.
Here’s the thing: all studs bite best when they protrude past the rubber lugs. That way, the studs make contact just before the rubber. Alternatively, if the tips of the studs are slightly lower than the top of the lugs, then the rubber touches first with each step, and the traction is not as strong. I prefer the first way — with the Grip Studs protruding a bit past the tallest rubber of the treads — because it provides the best traction, and it saves wear on the boot soles as well.
For slightly deeper tread patterns, the #3000A are the best choice. I have these installed in Vibram Streamtread on my Simms G3 boots, and they are the perfect length.
If you have any question regarding which model works best with your boots, grab a straight ruler and measure the depth of the lugs. Then look on the specs for prominence on the Grip Studs Stud Selection Guide page found HERE.
The prominence (or, protrusion from the base of the rubber) is 4.4 mm on the #3000A and 3.5 mm on the #3000B. Personally, I suggest the #3000A if there’s any doubt. I’d rather have more prominence than less.
Lastly, the #1500 and the #1800 models (marketed for surf fishing) is another option, if you have extra deep lugs on your wading boots. Just consider the penetration specs in the Stud Selection Guide, and be sure that your boot sole is thick enough. (It probably is, but use that ruler again.)
How Much Coin?
Grips Studs are sold as Boot Packs, with 28 studs. These are $48.60 with the installation tool, and $35.85 without. (You only need to buy the tool once.) While the Grip Studs price is a bit more than competing brands, these studs don’t fall out, and they will outlast the life of your boot. I currently have a set of #3000A’s that I have installed their third pair of boots. That’s great value.
A pack of 28 gives you 14 studs for each boot. Is that enough? Sure it is. But over the years, I’ve added more Grip Studs to each boot. I currently have 21 in each, because I love the extra traction and, again, the studs save the rubber of your soles by taking the wear. If you do want more than 28 in a pack, Grip Studs offers 100 packs as well.
So, screw in some Grip Studs. Then you’ll be walking through the river like you own the place.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N