What are Simms Freestone StreamTread boots?
Simms Freestone StreamTread wading boots are designed to be worn with stocking foot waders and are supposed to be resilient enough to handle a bit of a hike, rather than purely being designed for trudging about in the river. Indeed, they look and feel like good quality walking boots rather than being the often lightweight wading boot style with which you might be familiar. They feel well made and built to last.
What are the soles like?
Simms' Freestone wading boots come in two styles - one with a felt sole and one with a rubber sole. Felt soles tend to be quite grippy when wading in the river, especially on surfaces that are often a bit slippery in normal boots, but they're rubbish to the point of being dangerous on grass. It's seriously easy to slip over when wearing them, so I personally prefer the rubber soled ones now.
These ones feature Simms' StreamTread Vibram sole which is moderately grippy. To get the best from these boots though, I think you really need to attach wading boot studs. The tread isn't particularly deep and you'll still slide around a bit in mud, but the addition of decent studs will give you much more confidence, whether you're on the bank or in the water.
How well made do they feel?
The Simms Freestone wading boots definitely feel built to stand up to regular abuse. They're chunky, reassuringly heavy and everything feels tight and well put together. The sole isn't simply glued on as you often find with cheaper felt-soled boots and the toes are robustly encapsulated in hardwearing rubber to protect them from stones. Quite impressive.
Simms says the top part is made from synthetic full-grain leather and a "scratch rubber upper", while the ankle has a neoprene-lined collar.
Are they comfortable?
Yes, these are as comfy as my favourite walking boots. There's tons of padding on the tongue and ankle and they're comfortable to wear in the river and on long walks. Unlike the softer, lighter wading boots these have quite a bit of extra support, so are a good choice if you hike over rough terrain. I'm a UK size 11 and bought boots of the same size and they fit fine (it's a shame the stocking feet on my Simms waders weren't a tad larger though - obviously Americans have smaller feet than us lanky brits).
Is there much room for wading boot studs?
There are a massive number of ports to take studs, so all you need to do is screw them in. As with most wading boots, getting the screws in can be a bit of a challenge, but hopefully this means they'll be more likely to stay in place! On some soles, they can fall out within just a single trip, but they seem to hold very tightly in these.
What are the laces like?
The laces are nice and strong and plenty long enough to let you tie up with a double knot. As Simms sells replacement laces (£7.99 a pair), I am guessing they might fail before the boots do. Like most wading and walking boots they're also fitted with quick release clasps at the top so you can put them on and remove them without the need to untie the laces, which is great if you've got cold, wet hands.
Are they easy to remove?
Yes, as well as the quick release claps at the front of the boot, there's also a handy strap at the rear to help pull off the boot. If you're wearing Simms waders, you'll find it hardest to remove the stretchy gravel guards from the front of the boots. This can take a bit of effort when your hands are frozen.
What are they like to use?
Nearly every pair of wading boots I've purchased has rotted, torn or fallen to bits within a year or so, but these Simms Freestone boots look and feel far more robust. They're a bit heavier, but I can live with that if they last a couple of seasons. Only time will tell how they stack up to regular use, but first impressions seem really good. They're comfortable to wear, look good and feel like they're very well made.
How much do they cost?
Simms is one of the most trendy fly fishing brands and brings out new designs every year or so. These boots are last year's style, so you can pick them up at a great discount if you can track them down. The boots are usually £159.99, but can be picked up for £100 at some dealers. They're great value at that price and should hopefully last me a good few years.