Re-soling your felt sole boots is a Winter Job. The perfect time is around now, when the world is covered in ice, and fishing seems very far away from your apartment in Brooklyn. You’ve finished your other Winter Jobs, like re-organizing fly boxes, checking knots on reel backing and sorting leaders by weight. It’s not particularly difficult, but it’s important to follow these instructions carefully.
First, strip off the old soles. This can be done ahead of time. Ideally, do this when you come to grips with the boots being shot. Even more ideally, this can be after you leave the water, when the sole in question flops more than halfway down the boot. Not only will you appear like a cartoon hobo, but it can make for tough wading from here out. Duct tape is a limited fix. More on that later. The lodge porch is a good place for this. People will walk by and tell you their boot stories.
A small knife should be used to remove the soles from the hard plastic boot shanks by slicing the stitching. Toss the old soles into the fire. This also effectively removes any aquatic invasive species. While they burn, take your boots outside and give them a good scrub and hose. The felts should be going by the time you finish. Watch them smolder and catch. Remember when this started happening, and you could feel it, and you resolved to start saving up for some rubber-bottom boots. Think about how the big Western waters exacerbated the problem, and you were fishing so well you ignored it and plowed that money into the essentials, namely flies and beer. The problem was amusing, now–short steps upstream through fast, shallow water was what pulled on them, and tore away the stitching, but the deep wades, the tricky parts where you had to traverse deep pools on top of rocks submerged three feet, that’s when it got scary, that’s when the prospect of putting weight on the bent-double felt and going over into a pool shocked some sense into you.
When you feel like picking up the job again it’s likely dead winter. Beginning February. Get it done. Buy the the right replacement soles. Don’t buy the Korkers. They’re for the slip-in replacement system. Even though nobody mentions it when you buy them online, they’ll have that plastic part that prevents you from using them on your own boots. You’ll just wind up having to sell them on eBay. Get the ones from Cabela’s and skip the hassle.
Take a piece of sandpaper and give the bottoms of the boots a good scuff. If you’ve got a rotary tool, the sandpaper attachment will help. Don’t press too hard. And do it outside on your fire escape, or in your bathtub, if you don’t have a workroom that’s already dusty. Your significant other will appreciate it. Once the dust settles, apply the glue that came with the new soles. Smear it around good with that little tin brush they include. Put a light layer on the soles, too. Make sure you’re putting the glue on the correct side of the soles. Here’s a hint–each one can be a right or a left, depending on which way you turn them over. If you’ve already done the right boot, match the sole and the shank for the left to make sure you’re applying the glue to the correct side of the new sole. After you put the glue on the shanks and soles, give it a few minutes to get tacky.
When you slap the new felt on, slide it into place quickly. Then, get out your duct tape and wrap the boots tight, so the felts stay in place. Put some muscle into it, especially in the arches. The tighter you wrap now, the less likely the soles will come up when they’re back in the fast water.
Will they ever go back in that fast water? Probably not, huh? As the boots cure (probably best to give them 24 hours) think about where these’ll live. You bought the new rubber bottoms, on credit, partly because it was about damn time, and partly because you didn’t want to be the guy with duct taped boots, and partly because they’re going to outlaw the damn things soon enough, so you might as well get it over with. Take your rotary tool again and grind off the excess around the sides. Be careful, and use a light touch. you don’t want a ton of overlap, but there’s no sense in cutting it too short underneath the shank.
So where will these live? Like many things in this sport, they came to you from a benefactor, someone who encouraged you to try it out, and hooked you up with hand-me-down gear, literally and metaphorically. Think of your benefactor. He’s responsible for you being here today, gluing your boots in your tiny apartment bathroom, while your girlfriend looks at you strangely. Where will they go? Well, of course, back to the benefactor. To his fishing shed. So when you visit, you won’t have to pack a bulky pair of boots, or so he can bring another pal out fishing for the first time, and wet-wade with big woolen socks and stand in the cold water while the summer sun beats down.