For the angler that spends the majority of his or her time on foot rather than the comfy confines of the front chair in a piloted drift boat, I would argue that footwear is the single most important piece of equipment. Rod, reel and terminal tackle being the exceptions.
I have happily gone through at least two pairs of Simms Headwaters boots. I put literally hundreds of miles on my first pair and wore them for the entire 33.5 miles of the Milford Track including the climb up, over and back down MacKinnon Pass. The company sets the bar for their boots and waders exceptionally high.
One thing I appreciate about Simms G series gear is that the nomenclature is correct. It’s not marketing hyperbole. The gear is built for guides, most of whom spend as much time rowing as they do crossing rivers on foot. (They almost certainly have multiple pairs of boots for differing mission and client types). The guide market focus is accurate across the Simms “G” product lines and remains accurate for the new G4 Boa Boot as well.
Durability and Support
These boots are built like tanks. I get the impression that it would take a decade or so of bashing about the boulders and boat ramps before these boots began to lose their structural integrity and support. One would wear these with confidence that your feet and ankles are very well protected from about any hazard – perhaps even your trailer or drift boat. The waterproof PU-coated leather and TPU coated textile upper claim maximum abrasion resistance and durability. I’d say this is entirely true.
The Boa fitting system takes a bit of getting used to if they’re your first pair of the type. But you will quickly learn to appreciate the speed of ‘egress’ at the end of the day. Pop the screw out-board, stretch the tongue and you’re out! Ahhhhh. You also won’t ever get the laces tangled anywhere or have to stop to re-tie them.
Darth Vader, your boots have arrived
Some traditionalists won’t like these on sight. If Darth Vader worked the banks of the Madison, these would be what he would wear. But the functionality, support and durability are strong points. Darth would also likely appreciate the interior comfort of the padded and neoprene-finished interior. For boots with this level of structural support, they are surprisingly comfortable right out of the box.
The Boa Closure System’s plastic knob
These things are tough and the Boa closure system does provide a nicely customized fit. But the plastic knob that is responsible for the key functionality is the lynchpin of the whole boot. Word on the street is that Boa has consistently improved design and durability and that their closures are tough as nails, but some thought needs to be given to how dependent the whole boot is on that bit of plastic.
Slide off, down or into the wrong obstacle, break the thing, and then what? Break out the replacement you happened to remember to include in your kit (that Simms also says, “Don’t forget to buy,” while you’re shopping)? While the system is apparently replaceable (I haven’t tried that yet), good luck with that if you break the thing on the river. In a pair of $250 boots, I’m not particularly interested in buying a replacement anything for them at checkout.
If you’re a guide (professional or amateur) that splits your time between the oars and the riffles, or an angler that's in and out of their boots almost as much as a guide is, you will want to give these a close look. If the Boa system is indeed as tough as it is claimed to be, they could be the last pair of boots you buy for quite a while.