I could heave a huge rock at Simms right now and still want to but the fact of the matter is they are listening to their consumers that no matter what you put on rubber boots, they do not work as well as felt ones and some of the new cleats out are horrific on rubber boats. Today this story broke in the Angling Trade News: By Kirk Deeter Angling Trade has learned that Simms Fishing Products told its sales representatives, and is now informing dealers, that the company plans to reintroduce boots with felt soles in its 2012 product lineup. You may remember that just a couple years ago, Simms was the company that beat the drum loudest about going felt-free, and swore off production of felt-soled boots after 2010. As most of you know, felt has been associated with the spread of aquatic invasive species… nasty things like New Zealand mud snails, didymo (rock snot), as well as the parasite that causes whirling disease. In some states, the threats have been taken seriously enough that felt is no longer allowed. You can’t fish in felt in Maryland or Vermont, and starting next year, felt will be banned in Alaska. The science hasn’t changed, but neither did consumers’ and dealers’ attitudes toward wearing felt—there are still many felt stalwarts who contend there is no adequate substitute for traction in a river. And apparently, a good number of dealers claimed they had plenty of customers who could not be sold on felt alternatives. As such, Simms director of marketing and brand management Diane Bristol said that the company labored over the decision, but ultimately yielded to the demands of customers, specifically dealers, who said they needed felt in the arsenal. “It’s ultimately about choices, and allowing customers to make their choices on boots with felt,” said Bristol. “We didn’t take this decision lightly, but ultimately it came down to listening to what our customers wanted.” Which many will assume means it came down to a matter of money… not just for Simms, but also for dealers. Simms says it is not disengaging from the invasive species fight by any means. Plans are to reintroduce felt on only three boot models, and the company also intends to amp up efforts to inform consumers about the need to wade clean through additional literature and labeling. Still, Simms will get plenty of flak for the turnaround, and no doubt expects it. But keep in mind that other major boot makers like Orvis, Patagonia, and Korkers, kept right on chugging with felt production in recent years. So don’t expect any stones thrown from glass houses. Thus, the Simms turnabout is less of a head fake, and more a situation where Simms tried to lead the market across the avenue, then got caught alone in traffic when the lights changed. Hopefully, the industry as a whole, takes a harder closer look at the felt issue… not necessarily to regulate, rather to amp up efforts to inform the public about the effects of invasive species. In truth, aquatic nuisances can be transported in many boot materials, not just felt. In some ways, the notion that an angler got a “free pass” from cleaning boots by buying models with rubber soles was as dangerous as it will be to allow responsible choices and encourage responsible care regarding felt. Now the choices are more open. It will be interesting to see where consumers, retailers, and manufacturers all go with them. This entry was posted in Conservation, Industry News, Product News and tagged Angling Trade, didymo, felt wading boot ban, Felt wading boots, Fly fishing, fly fishing business, Invasive Species, Simms fishing products, Whirling Desease. Bookmark the permalink. I still would like to remind those out there that Scott Fly Rods made a very concerted effort early on to engage anglers and hunters in the spread of disease with their product called Brightwater which as it turns out, they couldn't give away. At that time, as I recall working in shops and guiding that the boot manufacturers were not outwardly in support of this product enough to have had it stick and stay around. For those who aren't familiar, here is a brief snippit from my good friend John Duncan: The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the company's new product, BrightWater, which kills whirling disease spores on contact. The product is sprayed directly on fishing and hunting gear. BrightWater is in fluid form * an eight ounce spray bottle that you spray on your gear after you get out of the water. If whirling disease spores are on your gear it prevents the transfer from river to river," said John Duncan, marketing director for Scott Fly Rod Company, Montrose, Colo. "BrightWater allows two things. It allows each individual fisher and hunter to take personal responsibility for not spreading the disease and equally important, we will donate a percentage of BrightWater revenues to whirling disease research in hopes that we can eradicate it all together," said Duncan Whirling disease is caused by a microscopic parasite known as Myxobolus cerebralis and only affects certain species of trout, salmon and whitefish. The tiny parasite enters the body of the tubifex worm in the streambed. Fish become infected after the parasite leaves the worm and enters the water. The parasite attaches to a fish and grinds its way down into the fish's cartilage where it matures into the whirling disease spore. It lives there until the fish dies and the whole cycle is repeated when the spores are released back into the water. Bottom line, it isn't just felt that spreads these diseases, it is your shoe laces, waders, ball caps, vests, nets, shirt sleeves, boats, floatation devices and nearly everything else that comes into contact with them in one watershed and then touches the water in another. Be conscious of your actions and fish clean.