Underground Review: Patagonia Rock Grip Wading Boots (or, It's Good They Come With Studs)

Category:
Fly Fishing
fly fishing stuff
patagonia rock grip wading boots
Review
rubber sole wading boots
Added Date:
Friday, 8 Jul, 2011
Summary
Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. When things are shiny and new you think you're made for each other, but after a couple dates, you begin to reconsider.
 
Content
Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. When things are shiny and new you think you're made for each other, but after a couple dates, you begin to reconsider.

Last weekend, the relationship fell flat on its face.

My marriage?

No.

My Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots.

No Better Than The Rest

Patagonia's Rock Grip wading boots combine a more aggressive sole pattern than their sticky Riverwalker boots with a stiffer, more protective boot design.

Patagonia Rock Grip wading boots

I was hoping that combination of goodies would create what I'll call the Underground's Ultimate Wading Boot.

But after three trips on the Rogue and Upper Sacramento -- the latter flowing high enough that it feels like the river's constantly pushing you around -- I'm throwing in the towel.

Or, more accurately, screwing in the studs.

In a word, the stud-free grip of the rubber soles was untenable.

Last weekend, I needed help from Wayne Eng just to climb out of the river on a sloping rock bank. On the Rogue, I felt like I was on skates, and waded with less assurance than I can ever remember experiencing on that river.

Direct comparisons are difficult, but I'd suggest the Rock Grip soles were less grippy than my beloved Riverwalker soles -- or even the straight rubber soles on the Simms and Korkers wading boots I tested (the Orvis boots came with metal studs installed).

I'm going to screw in the metal studs that Patagonia wisely included with the Rock Grip boots (no extra $$), and because studs represent what I'll call "leveling technology," I expect they'll grip OK.

Still, they probably won't adhere like the bladed metal studs that come with the Orvis wading boots -- the winners from my earlier rubber soled boot test.

As the Rock Grip boots come out of the box, they'd function as an acceptable backcountry boot (they're still lightweight and comfortable), though I'd suggest buying the lighter, less-expensive Riverwalker boots for small stream/backcountry use.
compass-360-ad

In truth, if all I ever fished were the small meadow and freestone streams I love so much, I'd buy a pair of the Patagonia Riverkeepers and never look back.

Because I don't do that, I'm going to stud the Rock Grip boots (disclosure: I paid for these puppies), and see what comes next.

Regular readers know I like my Patagonia gear a lot (you'll pry my Nano Puff jacket out of my coffin), but in a difficult wading environment, their unstudded Rock Grip wading boots grip poorly enough that I won't go near a freestone river without the studs already installed.

In what amounts to a several-years-long rubber sole test, I still prefer rubber soles for all sorts of reasons (longevity, dryland performance, etc), but realize they require metal studs whenever the wading gets even a little difficult.

See you (staggering around) the river, Tom Chandler.
 
Reading Time:
5minutes
Featured:
No
Author
Destinations
 (1)
It’s fair to say that for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors, the city of Bend should be on your radar screen. Once known as a logging town on the Deschutes River, it is now hailed ... moreas premier destination for anyone that likes mountain biking, hiking, skiing, camping, white-water rafting, horseback riding, paragliding, golfing and of course, fly fishing! Lumberjacks may now be hard to find here, but adventure tourists and outdoor sports lovers are in great abundance.

One look at what the city has to offer and it’s easy to understand why Bend is a magnet for athletes and rugged sports enthusiasts. Among many other events, the city has hosted 2 USA Winter Triathlon National Championships, several national cycling competitions, 2 XTERRA National Trail Running Championships and is home to a men’s division 3 Rugby club, a women’s flat track team and a West Coast Collegiate Baseball team. 

Not far from town, is the 1.8 million-acre Deschutes National Forest that contains parts of 5 designated wilderness areas – Mount Jefferson, Mount Thielsen, Mount Washington, Three Sisters and Diamond Peak as well as six National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Great waters to trout fish near Bend include the Crooked River, the Fall River, the Metolius River and the Deschutes River that runs through town. The town also boasts the Old Mill Casting Course, the first and only, 18 station fly casting course where anglers can hone their fishing skills.

If you like to grab a cold one after fishing, Bend has over a dozen microbreweries and offers beer seekers bus tours, horse-drawn carriage tours and bike to beer trails. It even has a “find a beer” phone app. In keeping with other historical tourist towns, Bend has several museums, shopping areas, art galleries, live entertainment, and a wide range of restaurant and lodging choices.

There are several options for traveling to Bend, including:

Fly into Portland International Airport and drive for approximately 3 hours

Fly into Eugene, Oregon Airport and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours

Fly into Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport and drive for approximately 5 ½ hours

Fly into Boise’s BOI Airport and drive for approximately 5 ½ hours
Fishing Waters
 (1)
Starting at Little Lava Lake in central Oregon, this 252 mile, southward flowing River, takes a turn at the Wikiup Reservoir, defies gravity and flows north until it empties into the ... moreColumbia River. Archaeologists will tell that for eons, the Deschutes was an important route for Native Americans as they traveled to and from the Columbia. Later, in the 19th century, Historians will tell you that the river was an important marker for pioneers, eventually becoming part of the famous Oregon Trail.

//

Today the river is considered an important part of our national heritage due to its extraordinary beauty and bountiful fisheries. Over 145 miles of the river have been designated as a National Recreational River while another 30 miles are crowned with National Wild and Scenic River distinction. Typically thought of in three sections – upper, middle and lower - the river passes through high arid country, flower filled meadows, and steep canyons.

As an official “blue ribbon” river, the Deschutes is perhaps most famous for its Columbia River redband trout, known locally as redsides. These trout have an unusual, bright red stripe that covers the bottom half of their bodies; the spots on the upper body are darker than other wild rainbow. Depending on where you are on the river, there can be as many as 1,700 redbands per mile, ranging from 8 – 16 inches. 

//

Warm Springs to Macks Canyon is the preferred stretch for catching redbands. There is good redband fishing along Warm Springs Tribal Land but special permits are required. The section from Pelton Dam to the River’s mouth has high concentrations of wild trout, including summer steelhead. The entire river is managed as a wild trout fishery.
The Sacramento River is the principal river of Northern California in the United States, and is the largest river in California. Rising in the Klamath Mountains, near Mount Shasta ... more(in Siskiyou county), the river flows south for 445 miles, through the northern section (Sacramento Valley) of the Central Valley, before reaching the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay. It forms a common delta with the San Joaquin River before entering Suisun Bay, the northern arm of San Francisco Bay. The river drains about 27,500 square miles, with an average annual runoff of 22 million acre-feet, in 19 California counties, mostly within a region bounded by the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada known as the Sacramento Valley, but also extending as far as the volcanic plateaus of Northeastern California.

//
The Rogue River begins near Crater Lake and flows 215 miles through the mountains and valleys of southwest Oregon emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the town of Gold Beach. Rushing ... morefrom the Cascade Range, the river glides into the Rogue Valley floor, drifting peacefully past cities and towns and agricultural lands. The Wild and Scenic River designation begins west of the city of Grants Pass where the Applegate River flows into the Rogue River. The river turns north, flowing through the scenic Hellgate Canyon, and then bends sharply west at Grave Creek, where the Wild Section of the Rogue River begins. Here the powerful river cuts through the rugged terrain of the northern edge of the Klamath Mountains. The river churns through the steep rock walls of Mule Creek Canyon and the boulder-strewn Blossom Bar Rapids before slowing in Huggins Canyon and Clayhill Stillwater. Below the town of Agness, the Rogue and Illinois Rivers join and flow through picturesque Copper Canyon. Below Copper Canyon, the river widens and slows, with the Wild and Scenic designation ending where Lobster Creek enters the Rogue River.

//

Flowing through time, the Rogue River has nurtured those who have come to its lush banks. The earliest inhabitants were Indians who lived a life of hunting, fishing, and gathering. Various Indian tribes made their homes and found sustenance along the Rogue River for over 9,000 years before Euro-Americans arrived. In the 1850s, miners poured into the Rogue Valley and Indians awoke to the coarse cry of “Gold!” which, with startling immediacy, signaled an end to a way of life Indians had known for thousands of years. The boatmen of the early- to mid-1900s, whose daring and perseverance established dominance over the wild waters of the river, were responsible for opening these waters to the guide-fishing industry and whitewater boating that has become so economically vital to southwest Oregon today.

The Rogue River was one of the original eight rivers included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. With its famous steelhead and salmon fishing, challenging whitewater, and extraordinary wildlife-viewing opportunities, the Rogue River continues to be one of the world’s most popular recreation destinations. The 34-mile Wild section features predominantly Class III (or less) rapids, and includes thundering Rainie Falls (Class V) and breathtaking rapids at Mule Creek Canyon (Class III) and Blossom Bar (Class IV).
Trips
$
750
-
$
850
/ Angler
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
2 days
$
500
-
$
525
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
DESCHUTES FLY FISHING GUIDES & STEELHEAD GUIDES Regulations & Fishing Methods: Lower Deschutes River regulations prohibit fishing from a floating device, which means that ... morewe wade fish exclusively. As well, the regulations only allow fishing with artificial lures and flies on the Lower Deschutes, so we do both. We primarily fly fish for trout, but we always have a couple of spinning rods along just in case the fish aren’t hitting the fly. We focus our Steelhead fishing efforts swinging flies with spey rods in morning and evening and use a combination of nymphing techniques, throwing lures and using side planers with plugs through the middle of the day.

Above Maupin (River Mile 52): The famous Deschutes Redside Trout are the focus of our efforts above Maupin from mid-April through September when Steelhead begin to show up in the 50-miles above Maupin. September and October provide an opportunity above Maupin for “combo” trips where we target both Redside Trout and Steelhead in the same trip. November and December can be some of the best Deschutes River Steelhead fishing of the year if you are tough enough to brave the cold weather!

Below Maupin (River Mile 52): Beginning in mid-July, when Steelhead start to enter the Mouth of the Deschutes, we focus our Steelheading efforts to the last 50-miles of the river, below Maupin, where the Deschutes meets the Columbia River. Trout are common in this section of the river as well, but the main focus of our attention are powerful and fresh Deschutes River Steelhead.
$
325
-
$
450
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 8 hours
If you have ever driven over the Lower Sacramento River or even fished it, you know that due to its shear size and abundance of water, this makes it extremely intimidating. That's ... morewhy having a knowledgable Lower Sacramento River Fly Fishing Guide is so important. A great guide will not only put you on the fish, but will also show you the fishy spots accessable by land, the put ins and pull outs for boats, as well as the bug life, the flies to use and when you go on your own, how to put all that t ogether to be successful. The Lower Sacramento River is a big tailwater fishery and California's biggest trout river, and its rainbows are just as big and powerful as the river they live in. If you want big fish and year-round fishing, this is the river for you. With more food than your local all you can eat buffets (2,500 insects per square foot of river), the average fish grows to a healthy and hard-fighting 16-18", and pigs pushing two feet are not out of the question, so bring some big guns. The fishing season is year-round, and water temperatures remain fairly constant too, as the river comes out of the bottom of Shasta Lake.

This river consists of long, indescribable, spring creek like stretches that are broken up by islands, deep pools, long riffles, gravel bars and undulating shelf’s, many of which are more pronounced during lower flows.

If having one of the best trout fisheries in the state isn’t enough, the Lower Sac also hosts some great runs of Steelhead and Chinook salmon too. It also hosts a variety of other fish, such as, shad, squawfish, stripers, largemouth and smallmouth bass, these populations of fish become higher the farther you get away from Shasta Lake. The highest flows are during the summer months, when snow melt is at its greatest, so a drift boat is highly recommended.

You can walk and wade during the higher flows if you so desire, but staying near the bank will be your safest bet. The best time to walk and wade the Lower Sac is going to be during fall, winter and early spring, there is very little snow melt, and the rain that falls goes to filling up the lake, so the river is low and great for walk and wading. This is the time to get out there and really learn the river's bottom and fish those slots that only come out in lower flows, either way “PLEASE WADE WITH CAUTION”. But due to the river’s size and the amount of private property along its banks, those that prefer to wade have two options. One is to fish from public parks and access points along the 16 miles or river between Redding and Anderson, or, from your boat, getting out at the riffles and fishy slots to make some casts.

Public access is fairly easy though on the Lower Sac, there are 6 boat launches, and many public parks and access points along the river that flows almost parallel with interstate 5.

-Brian
$
2,000
-
$
2,050
/ Angler
Capacity:
1 angler
Days:
On Sep 8, 2016 - Aug 25, 2018
Duration:
4 days
Trip Details Floating and fishing the "Wild and Scenic" Rogue River Canyon is considered one of the Pacific Northwest's most spectacular river experiences. Enjoy this stunning canyon ... morefrom the classy comfortable ride of a beautiful wooden drift boat and spend your evenings in unique riverside lodges. Spend four days floating the 43 miles of protected waters while fly fishing for half-pounder and adult steelhead fresh out of the ocean. Legendary for its combination of dramatic rapids and tranquil pools, fishing on the Rogue River has been popular with guests of the Helfrich family since 1931 when Prince Helfrich first explored the canyon.

His legacy continues as newcomers enjoy the same majestic old-growth forests of Douglas fir and twisted Madrone along the riverbanks. Picturesque grassy pastures, wildflowers and wildlife are all part of this unspoiled wilderness. Deer, otter, black bear, blue herons, osprey and bald eagles call this paradise home.

And then, there are the fish! With two fishermen and one guide in each drift boat, you’ll have a unique opportunity to catch fall run Steelhead and Salmon on lures and flies. Even the most experienced fishermen will be challenged by the great sport of landing these fighters on light tackle. This is a world-class fishing river and our guides serve as skilled fishing instructors and experienced boatmen. Their knowledge of the river and the maneuverability of the drift boats allow them to easily access the placid pools and rich holes where the fishing is best.

Our trips begin at Argo Riffle and for four days and 43 miles we will travel west in McKenzie River drift boats through the Coastal Range to Hog Eddie at Agness. You’ll get a firsthand look at Rainie Falls, Zane Grey’s cabin, Mule Creek Canyon and Blossom Bar rapid.

Each night you will enjoy the comfort of three different rustic wilderness lodges. Shore lunch stops along the river allow time to relax and explore the area. We often barbecue or pan-fry any freshly caught steelhead or salmon. Delicious! No one goes away hungry.

The combination of unforgettable fishing experiences and drift boating through exciting whitewater make this outing on the Rogue River's "Wild and Scenic" section Helfrich River Outfitter's most sought after and desired fishing adventures.

River Accommodations

Nights are spent in comfortable wilderness lodges with private sleeping accommodations for couples or singles. All of the breakfasts and dinners are served family-style by the guides and lodge staff. Each remote lodge offers its own distinct character, which adds a memorable element to the trip that few ever experience, as they are only accessible by river or hiking trail and are run on generator power.
Outfitters
 (12)
We are a team of friendly and knowledgeable fly fishing guides, with a combined 40 years of fly fishing experience, dedicated to making your adventure on the water with us as enjoyable ... moreand informative as possible. We want you to succeed in all of your fishy endeavors, and we will take the time with you to make sure that you have all the techniques and skills necessary to catch fish wherever you go. Float or Walk and wade with us on one of Northern California's finest rivers and streams and we will accommodate our guiding style to meet your needs and abilities. With our extensive fly fishing knowledge and experience on waters all over Northern California, we will guide you on a fly fishing trip you will not soon forget.

NCFG practices catch and release on all boats. We respect the sport of fishing and wish to give all anglers the opportunity to experience the gratification we strive to give each of our clients.
23 comments
patagonia till i die: you're all fools if you think you'll find a better boot. put the studs in and get after it. no straight rubber soled boots are good in rocky wading. if you're trying to get away from felt soles, which is something the industry is leaning towards, then these boots with studs are superior to any other boot you will find. wait for patagonia's next genius design to ... more come out and you'll be even happier, but for now, rock the rock grips with studs. Wow! P, rarely do I ever see such product loyalty, maybe Harley devotees. I do like Patagonia's overall product line, recycle stuff, and do buy their boots, however, they are a bit pricey don't you think? tw
0
0
patagonia till i die: you're all fools if you think you'll find a better boot. Yes, all of us who pointed out that the new Rock Grip sole is a huge step backwards in stickiness are fools, and you alone got it right.
0
0
you're all fools if you think you'll find a better boot. put the studs in and get after it. no straight rubber soled boots are good in rocky wading. if you're trying to get away from felt soles, which is something the industry is leaning towards, then these boots with studs are superior to any other boot you will find. wait for patagonia's next genius design to come out and you'll be even happier, ... more but for now, rock the rock grips with studs.
0
0
[...] the less-than-wildly enthusiastic reception to their “Rock Grip” wading boot sole (I profiled my pair here, and it wasn’t pretty), Patagonia has gone back to the drawing board to develop new wading [...]
0
0
Of course, I failed to mention that last Saturday, after moving spots. I jumped up onto a rock and slid right off as the insert on my Korker must have fallen out somewhere during the move.
0
0
Thanks for the pointer and the report. Unfortunately, Typepad won't let me leave a comment on your site (this happens a *lot* with Typepad sites), where I was going to suggest that swapping soles out on the Korkers wasn't something I'd want to do 2-3 times on a trip. It's kind of a wrestling match. And that I'll bet pointed metal studs are probably more effective in your situation than they are in ... more a freestone stream environment, where skating on the rocks is probably a bigger problem than sliding on seaweed. Good luck staying upright...
0
0
here are my thoughts on the same http://blog.thefin.com/thefincom/2011/07/patagonia-rock-grip-shoes.html
0
0
Gregg: Tom – No apology necessary. I knew that I was getting the Rock grip soles – figured that if Patagonia replaced old sticky rubber soles with them, they must be better. Ralph – Thanks for the tip on the aluminum. I had bought the Hard bite star cleats (not yet installed) precisely because I agree with you that the best grip is probably a combination of rubber and metal and the Stars have a lower ... more profile than the aluminum. Have you tried grinding down the cleat mounting nubs on the Rock grip soles so as to recess the aluminum cleats a little more?Also, what locations did you choose for your four cleats? Tom's research made it seem like location was pretty important. The past couple of days I've been experimenting with stud location. I'm down to three aluminum cleats (one under the heel, one under the joint of the big toe and the last at the ball of the foot just below little toe). Highly subjective, unscientific analysis based on skating down greasy slabs with various stud numbers, configurations, and BOB (beers on board) find this the winner in terms of gription and minimal number of cleats. 4 or 5 cleats didn't appreciable increase traction on snot, and tended to skate more on slick dry granite than did just 3 cleats.
0
0
Tom - No apology necessary. I knew that I was getting the Rock grip soles - figured that if Patagonia replaced old sticky rubber soles with them, they must be better. Ralph - Thanks for the tip on the aluminum. I had bought the Hard bite star cleats (not yet installed) precisely because I agree with you that the best grip is probably a combination of rubber and metal and the Stars have a lower profile ... more than the aluminum. Have you tried grinding down the cleat mounting nubs on the Rock grip soles so as to recess the aluminum cleats a little more? Also, what locations did you choose for your four cleats? Tom's research made it seem like location was pretty important.
0
0
Tom Chandler: Those Simms cleats are all pretty expensive (those star cleat were like $40, right?), but it makes sense; aluminum galls so easily and those old galosh-style cleat you'd wear steelheading were aluminum (and noisy). Have you tried the $9/bag cleats at Ted Fay (can't remember the brand name)? He swears they grip better than the standard Simms screws. The Aluminum stars are $30.00 ... more for 14. I only use 4 on each boot so they aren't unbearably expensive. Any more stars than that and they hold me off the rubber - I think the best grip is when the aluminum AND the rubber are in contact at the same time. The more ground down the cleats, the better the grip - or so it seems to me. I'm learning that the boots with screw in cleats are not as convertible as you might think (or at least I thought). Once grit clogs the Phillips slots you pretty much have to strip the heads to get them off. At this very moment I am trying to unscrew the tungsten stars and they are a PITA. Never have to worry about them falling out though. Haven't seen the $9 Bag-o-Cleats. Question- have any good tips on how to get burs and foxtails out of Chaco Velcro? I tried soaking them in muriatic acid overnight. Melted all the burrs, but melted the Velcro too.
0
0
Those Simms cleats are all pretty expensive (those star cleat were like $40, right?), but it makes sense; aluminum galls so easily and those old galosh-style cleat you'd wear steelheading were aluminum (and noisy). Have you tried the $9/bag cleats at Ted Fay (can't remember the brand name)? He swears they grip better than the standard Simms screws.
0
0
I have to apologize -- I didn't realize they were ditching the old Riverwalker soles for the new Rock Grip soles (just learned that at Bob Grace's shop yesterday). Oy vey. In the message below, Andy suggests better grip with the aluminum studs, so if you're looking...
0
0
They've been great on the soft stuff (wore them on a "soft" small stream yesterday and they were great), but in the river which is mostly walking on rocks, they're really awful. At least that's been my experience.
0
0
I have a pair of boots with Streamtread rubber. Put the Simms tungsten Hard Bites on one boot and their aluminum studs on the other. The aluminum is WAY more grippy on all surfaces I've waded over the past 3 months. No skating on slick granite and they smear onto slimy boulders (yes, they leave minuscule silver scratch marks, but nothing like the old Stream Cleats - you have to look for the marks ... more to see them). This week, I'm pulling the tungsten and going aluminum on both feet. They are obviously wearing more quickly than the tungsten, but cost significantly less so it will probably be a wash by the end of the season. Even if they cost the same out of the box - still heck of a lot cheaper than a lost fly box or broken rod because of a fall.
0
0
Tom - I just got back from trying out my brand new Riverwalkers with Rockgrip soles on the USac. I had high hopes, but my experience was the same as yours. Great out of the water, but total skate as soon as I stepped in the water. I tried to order studs (the Riverwalkers don't come with them) but was told by Patagonia that they were currently out of them. Might try the Simms studs. Bummer!
0
0
Well, that's interesting. I have been able to use these in mud, snow, pine needle covered banks and rocks on the Snake, Upper Green, Big Hole, Bitterroot and Beaverhead this spring and have had no problems. I will say I haven't hit the summer slick rocks yet, but so far I would take these over felts for the conditions encountered so far. Maybe a different rubber - or just different conditions?
0
0
The Orvis not only come with studs, they come with the Mother of All Studs. I'm thinking of buying a pair that fit me (the test pair are a full size too large...
0
0
I think that's one of the reasons I like the old Riverwalker soft rubber soles. The Vibram soles (and apparently the Rock Grip soles by Patagonia) are much stiffer, so studs are required...
0
0
I waded the McCloud the other day in my studless Teva river flops (forgot my boots and waders) and they worked great, the flex let them mold to the rocks and grip better -- which says alot about the quest/claims for the ultimate wading boot rubber...
0
0
I screwed ten 1/4" x 1/2" sheet metal screws into the soles of my first generation Weinbrenner rubber soles. This transformed them from Death Shoes from Hell into adequate and pretty secure feeling wading boots. Cost me a buck sixty.
0
0
I've been wearing the Orvis Riverguards for a year now. As you indicated they come with Studs. They've been reliable footing in most situations and I haven't found them dramatically less grippy than felt though there's some loss. I added a few extra studs to improve the gripping "blind spots". Without the studs, I wouldn't trust any rubber sole.
0
0
Thanks for the review. I'm in the market for wading shoes and this was very helpful.
0
0
thanks Tom...I have been waiting for this review. I need to buy (this week) another pair of boots, I like the Orvis boots I have had in the past (felt) and tried the Chotas (felt with studs) but both are worn out...Dave Robets has allowed me to try some of his a time or two and I will not have a (new) Simms rubber boot on my feet. Looks like (With the help of Montana State politicans) I'm going back ... more to studded felt, and I will clean them properly.
0
0

Discover Your Own Fishing and Hunting Adventures

With top destinations, guided trips, outfitters and guides, and river reports, you have everything you need.