TESTED – Orvis Pro LT Boots

David tests a new pair of wading boots on a bouldery Snowy Mountains stream. 

Depending on where I was going fishing, for the last couple seasons, I’ve been alternating between Simms G3 Guide boots with felt soles, and a pair of Orvis’s Pro boots with un-studded Michelin soles. Long walk and lots of casting from the banks – Orvis. Steep, nasty and possibly near-vertical small streams with lots of bedrock – Simms and felt. Easy. Then, somewhere, somehow, I lost the Orvis’s (They’re size 14 – please let me know if you find them streamside!) and with a NZ trip approaching, I had to pony up for a replacement.

I have written about the Michelin-branded soles on Orvis’s top spec ‘Pro’ wading boots before. Right up until I lost them, I remained very impressed with the traction they offered, so a straight replacement was first choice. I was also happy with how they had been holding up to the punishment of the rough creeks I typically fish. After a couple seasons, the old Pro boots showed just a little wear on the soles and a few scuffs on the toes.

With only a 10% weight reduction over the already quite light in class Pros, the overall weight wasn’t the main reason I went for the new LTs – they also cost a bit less and that’s always appreciated.

As a test, I fished through a half day stretch while photographing mate Adam working his way up a tumbling Snowy Mountains stream where I’ve spent a lot of time on over the years. It’s what I would call slippery but not deadly, and mostly composed of boulders from football to car size. Traversing it is, at times, as much about climbing as walking, and there’s lots of uneven and unlovely surfaces. There’s not a lot of bedrock, but where there is, it’s very smooth and usually around the sides of deep pools that I would prefer not to swim in with my cameras.

On the first day, I wore the Orvis boots and the second, through the exact same water with the same walk in and walk out, I wore my Simms Guide felts. My first impression is that both soles stick to the bottom very well, but, when out of the water, the Michelin soles feel more secure everywhere, particularly when pointed down a steep bank. In the water, it’s a fairly even contest, with the felt ever so slightly better on the bedrock where, really, neither is ever totally secure.

Comparing the new Michelin soles to a previous pair of Simms Guide boots I had with Vibram soles plus a set of Simms excellent Star Cleats, makes a more even contest out of the water, and a tight win to the cleated soles on otherwise slippery bedrock. That said, the cleats sometimes gave way a bit before biting in, which was always a little unsettling. On a walk to or from the water, plain Vibram or the Michelin soles always feel more like normal boots and are easier on mats and pedals if you’re wearing them driving between locations.

Really, the best thing about the new LT boots in my opinion, and another reason they grip so well, is the soles and the boot built above, are more flexible than any other boots I’ve owned, and have a more natural feel underfoot. In or out of the water, they’re much more like well-padded and comfortable hiking boots with tenacious grip.

Although I don’t think I’ll be needing studs until (if?) the soles are worn down to a point where they’re losing their natural grip, the Orvis Pro LT boots soles have obvious mounting points for Orvis’s own tungsten tipped studs that, in my experience, grip well and are hard-wearing.

Available at The Flyfisher and all good fly shops in size 7 through to 14.