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Reviews > Fishing Gear > Boots and Sandals > Korkers River Ops Fishing Boots > Test Report by Richard Lyon

KORKERS RIVER OPS WADING BOOTS
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Korkers 1

Initial Report May 19, 2021
Field Report expected midsummer 2021
Long Term Report expected fall 2021


PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 74 years old  
Height: 6' 3" [1.91 m]
Weight: 205 lb [(91 kg])
Shoe size: US 13, European 47
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains

I've been backpacking for half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Backcountry trips are often planned around fishing opportunities.

Note: These boots were furnished to me at no charge by the manufacturer, thanks to a relationship with the manufacturer's representative, who knew that I am an avid angler. I made no promises of a review, on this site or elsewhere. This Review thus represents something of a beta test.

INITIAL REPORT - May 19, 2021

THE PRODUCT

Korkers 2River Ops is a new line of fishing boots that its maker says is " [d]esigned to take users deep into the backcountry with a level of durability, stability, and comfort never before seen in water-specific footwear." The boots' distinctive feature, to me at least, is a simple means to change the sole to fit river conditions. Korkers has trademarked this as its OmniTrax® Interchangeable Sole System. The product that Korkers sent to me has Sole Package One - boots plus two sets of soles: one with felt soles [in the center in the photo] and one with Vibram soles [at the bottom; the top one is the top side of the sole and is identical on both types of soles].

A brief explanation of fishing footwear may help novice anglers understand this Report. Riverbeds and stream beds, particularly those with rocky and grassy bottoms, can be slick. It's all too easy to slip and fall after stepping on a mossy rock in a rapid current, and a fall can yield unfortunate consequences for angler and equipment. To reduce the chance of slipping, fishing boots for decades bore felt soles, sometimes fitted with metal studs.

As environmental concerns have increased, however, felt has lost favor because of its propensity to retain aquatic insects and other creatures that are subsequently transferred to different waterways, where they become invasive species. [For example, New Zealand, a popular destination for anglers,has banned felt soles entirely, and inspects all incoming luggage as one means of enforcement.] While felt-soled boots may be treated between wadings, many bootmakers have switched to composite soles, which are less likely to retain the invaders and are more reliably cleaned.

Years of experience with both sole types have convinced me that felt does a better job of preventing slipping than even the latest and greatest in grooved rubber - though I have yet to try a pattern comparable to the Vibram sole on these boots - but, having seen and read about the environmental consequences of invasive species on water and fishing quality, I've changed over. My present kit includes a pair of full wading boots and a couple pairs of wading sandals, all with rubber soles.


As noted, some fishing footwear sport metal cleats or plates, which definitely help traction but can damage drift boats. Studded boots are a nuisance when hiking, especially over rocky terrain. I've tried them but don't favor them, as to fish in a location requiring even a moderate hike requires two pairs of footwear, one for hiking and one for fishing. On a backpacking trip I really dislike the weight and bulk of a pair of boots useful only when fishing.

Sole Package Two, by the way, substitutes a metal-studded pair of Vibram soles for the felts. Korkers offers as accessories seven other sole sets, each utilizing a different combination of materials and traction aids.

The River Ops may change my opinion on studded boots. As shown in the photo, the Vibram soles have rubber posts that resemble studs - should be good for river traction but without the annoyance of metal when hiking. Or I can hike in on the felt soles and change to Vibrams when it's time to fish. If changing is easy I can try out a pair with studs on the stream.

Manufacturer: Korkers, korkers.com
Product: River Ops Wading Boots, Sole Package One
Size: US 13; available in whole sizes 8-15
Weight, listed: 27 oz [765 g] per boot
Weight, measured: Each boot [no sole], 29.9 oz/848 g; each felt sole, 5.2 oz/142 g; each Vibram sole, 8.2 oz/232 g. I attribute the disparity in listed and measured weights to my having one of the largest sizes.
Height, listed and measured: 9 in [23 cm]
MSRP: $259.99 US
Warranty: Two years from date of purchase for defects in workmanship or materials.

Listed features include:
  • Locking cleat that complements traditional lacing "for a customized bi-zonal fit." I think this is the third hook from the top, which is used to change direction of the laces.
  • Korkers' Exo-Tec™ technology, a molded, abrasion-resistant upper.
  • Fast drying materials, to "lessen the chance of spreading invasive species."
  • Internal drainage - "Water flows thru internal channels then out midsole ports, quickly removing excess water and weight."
  • Enhanced EVA midsole for "comfort and increased stability and support."
  • Ankle Wrap internal foam padding for ankle stabilization and support.
TRYING THEM ON

The fit is tight, typical of new boots out of the box. I hope there will be some give as I break them in. Fishing boots are usually worn over neoprene socks - trout like cold water - so some wiggle room will be appreciated. That said, once pulled on and laced up I encountered no uncomfortable tightness or pressure point.  The cuff is well above my ankle and I felt stable, at least on dry land.

Changing soles was not easy. That's as it should be - the last thing I want when wading is to lose a sole mid-river. First I unsnapped the clasp on the heel of the boot, not an easy task; both hands and considerable pressure were required. Then I started to peel the sole from heel to toe, which called for working the four sets of divots out of their receptacles on the side or toe of the boot. Replacing a sole reverses this process - from toe to heel, carefully engaging the divots in their slots and finishing by snapping the heel piece back in place. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Out of the box the boots looked heavy, though in fact they don't weigh much more than my heretofore regular boots. As noted they are stiff. I expect some break-in time to soften the uppers and to improve my dexterity in lacing up and changing soles. I like the boots' concept, which really could enhance my backcountry fishing by permitting a hike with one sole set and angling with another.

As to the latter task, I expect to use the Vibram soles most of the time, though for the sake of testing I shall try the felt soles out in the stream. I'll do my best to test the boots but it may be some time before my Field Report. Spring runoff has begun, making many rivers fast, muddy, and unfishable. Stay tuned for field results. My thanks to Korkers and BackpackGearTest.org for the change to test these boots.






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Reviews > Fishing Gear > Boots and Sandals > Korkers River Ops Fishing Boots > Test Report by Richard Lyon



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