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Patagonia (brand) Rock Grip Aluminum Bars for Wading Boots Reviewed

Patagonia Rock Grip Wading Boots - Aluminum Bar

The problem with slipping and potentially falling while fly-fishing barged its way into my fishing life following two major changes:

  1. Here in New Zealand felt soles and their superb grip on the river bottom were banned in 2008 to help contain the Didymo ‘invasion’.
  2. I am looking right down the barrel of my big 70, and over the last few years strength and balance have started to decline exponentially. Couple this with a bionic hip and anything less than a sure foothold foretells a wet outcome or worse.

Add to the above the fact that I mostly fish alone, usually where there are few, if any, other anglers in the near vicinity, and sure-footedness becomes essential.

In my search for a good grip I have tried many boots with various rubber compound soles, with all manner of grip patterns and ‘stickiness,’ advertised as hanging on to the planet with the stubbornness of a Rottweiler bite. Nonsense.

So into these non-stick, useless patterns I added metal studs of various hardness and pattern, which did provide some hold improvement, but not a lot. Lack of a sure grip from rubber and studded boots when crossing rivers had rendered me into a shuffling, unsure old man trying to cross a busy road.

I do not want to recall how many times I found myself in thigh deep water, a decent current pushing at me and I, stuck there between a rock and another hard rock unsure of the grip of either foot. Paralyzed by uncertainty, not knowing whether I could safely turn back, or go on. Scared of moving one of the boots in case the one on the bottom had a slippery grip.

I came across some reviews of the Patagonia brand aluminum bars attached to boot soles. (That is them lurking in the photo above.) The bars are made of a soft aluminum and touted to provide superior grip over rubber and cleat soles. These are actually designed for Patagonia boots, but I could see no reason why they would not fit my current boots. I was right.

So I bought a set from a store in the UK. Installation took a bit of time. First drilling holes for a screw-in housing, screwing in the housing, then screwing in the screws through the bars and into the housing.

I have used this set-up for well over 40 full fishing days, nearly all on river beds comprised of hard rounded boulders, from tennis ball to football sizes.

How was the grip? Superb.

It is hard to describe the boost to my wading confidence the bars have made. Most of my shuffling has gone, I can stride out most of the time without fear of slipping. Bliss.

Grip on land

One negative with felt soles is the tendency to slip on land, especially on mud, clay, wet grass and snow or frozen ground. I have experienced no problems from the bars with slipping on land at all - fortunately I can avoid fishing in snow.

A couple of things about the bars:

  • They will wear out quite rapidly. This can be seen on the photo above after 8 or so days fishing.
  • Despite the fact they are made from aluminium they do add weight to boots. At least to non-Patagonia boots. (Some Patagonia models are advertised as being designed for the bars). I have not found this added weight to be an issue.
  • When using felt or rubber soles on rocky or boulder strewn river-beds I would often get sore soles of my feet from ‘stone bruising’. This is largely eliminated by the bars as they spread the load over a wider area of the sole.
  • I think the bars make far less metallic, or any, noise compared to hard metal cleats and studs. This for me is important, especially when sight fishing.
  • The bars also come in cramp-ons, which use a harness system to strap them onto wading boots. Expensive!

So if you fish where felt soles are banned or it is just the right thing to do, I cannot recommend these aluminium bars highly enough. There appears to me to be very little difference in grip between the bars and felt.

Disclaimer: I purchased the bars myself. I receive(d) no monetary or other consideration for this review.

Article written by Tony Bishop


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Just another thought graphic

While aluminium bars give a much improved grip, it should not be the end of the story

And that story is the safety story. There is simply no way out of the fact and stark realisation that, as age increases, balance, agility, and strength begin to decline. Sadly that decline accelerates faster than age increases.

As that decline accelerates so does the need to use a wading staff. I know I resisted that need for too long out of some male ego BS, but once I started using one I really wished I had started earlier.

Your staff can be a plain old wooden one or a super-dooper one for too many dollars, but one thing the staff must be, is that it is long enough to be mid-chest high when held vertically.

For best effect, the staff, when planted, should angle away from you, upstream or downstream, not straight up and down.

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