Camouflage takes on a whole new level of meaning when you’re fishing urban rivers. You’re not just trying to hide from the fish, you may also be trying not to stand out too much from the rest of the human population – whether you’re hopping on and off public transport, grabbing a beer or a burger, or just keeping your favourite fishing spots under the radar.
Here in the urban edgelands, classic tweeds don’t quite cut it, and fully-loaded technicality looks like overkill. As Alistair Stewart says, most people do leave you alone (“All dressed up in fishing kit, you look even more deviant than they are, so they kinda respect that!”). Still, why paint a target on your back, when you could be blending into your surroundings and fishing more comfortably all round?
That’s certainly been the thinking behind our own range of Urbantrout eco-gear – and it’s clearly also the point of Vision Fly Fishing’s new Urban wading boots.
Styled like classic ‘80s and ‘90s Rucanors and Converse All Stars, with just a touch of DNA from platform trainers, the details of these boots look funkily retro and intriguingly on-trend (you could see them as part of the ‘80s nostalgia style revival, and how often can you say that about your fishing gear?)
They’re also reassuringly chunky – we know it’s fairly common for American fly-fishers to wet-wade pristine streams in sneakers, but frankly that’s not something we’d recommend in Europe’s urban rivers – with tough felt soles and an extra measure of practical protection from those iconic white toecaps.
Canvas uppers feel tough and durable, but also lightweight (984g dry weight for the pair, compared to 1616g for the Orvis/Korkers on our boot rack) and quick-drying. This is a clear benefit for anyone mindful of not spreading invasive non-native species from catchment to catchment, or even the weight of water and saturated fabric we sometimes pack into our bags on the way home from distant destinations. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy travelling in waders, you could also use these boots as street shoes, with Sealskinz waterproof socks, and change into full waders on the bankside.
So how do Vision’s new boots actually perform on the mean streets and urban rivers?
When we wore them for the first time, dropping in on the Wandle Piscators’ World Rivers Day fish-in, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid on the south London buses, nor at the event itself – and that may be the best endorsement right there. (Urban camo? Tick).
Compared to conventional wading boots, you may suddenly be very conscious of white toecaps flashing on the lower edge of sight as you walk the banks and wade, but once you’re fishing, you realise there’s a lot of other white stuff on the bottom of most urban streams. In fact, the Urban boots are probably just the thing to blend into a scatter of plastic bags, broken sanitary ware and bits of formica worktop.
Certainly the fish weren’t bothered, and fishing deliberately close ranges with a leader-to-hand rig still brought lots of little chub, dace and roach to hand, while most other anglers along the river were reportedly blanking. (We’ll need to keep re-trying that style test in the future. Urban camo? Tick again).
In due course it might be sensible to fit screw-in studs to help cope with slippy grass or clay banks, but the boots’ basic felt has performed well on all other surfaces, from gravel and builders’ waste in the Wandle to smoother rocks on freestone rivers. (In fact, we’ve found the extra security kinda revelatory, after spending the last couple of seasons doing errm… controlled slides… on less grippy plastic soles from other manufacturers).
As you’d expect from the Vision brand, the new Urban boots are a radical re-imagining of what wading boots should look like – edgy, bold and full of attitude.
They’re so conceptual that you may not see copies in other manufacturers’ ranges any time soon, but they still give us hope for lots more urban-inspired fishing gear in seasons to come.
Because here’s the bottom line: where these most excellent street-style wading boots have blazed a trail to the river, can blue-jeans denim or dungaree-look waders really be far behind?
Vision’s new Urban wading boots were kindly supplied for this review by UK rep Jim Williams. When we last looked they hadn’t hit the Vision UK website yet, so we’d recommend contacting Jim direct to order a pair (RRP: £99.99)