I don't shy away from paying high prices for premium gear. I buy expensive rods, expensive reels, high end apparel and the like. I do this to a fault, more often than not, doing so in a financially irresponsible manner. It's an addiction. I love gear, and when I perceive that gear to be of exceptional quality or perhaps just otherwise "nice", I don't mind paying a high price to own it. However, when I find myself paying large sums for something that seems to have absolutely no justification whatsoever for its lofty price, it drives me crazy. This has always been the case with boot studs. You pay a ridiculous price for a fraction of the number of studs you actually need on your boots, knowing the whole time that you just got raked over the coals. With the alternative being a miserable, or potentially dangerous, day of slipping and stumbling all over the river, you pipe down and pay.
Most of the major fly fishing gear companies are guilty on this one. The typical boot stud setup offers 20 studs/screws at a price around $25-30. That's as high as $1.50 per piece for a screw. You tell yourself that it's okay, because these are fancy screws, but you know better. I've known for some time that there must have been an alternative to these overpriced solutions, but lazy searches for bargain varieties revealed nothing.
Until now. During a recent trip to the shining beacon that is New York's Salmon River, a stop for studs at Malinda's Fly and Tackle shop in Altmar, NY yielded a revelation. When I asked for some studs, instead of being handed a tiny plastic case with 20 screws on it and a $30 price tag, I was handed I giant tupperware container overflowing with hardened steel screws with generous V cuts for traction and basically told to go to town. And at 20 cents a pop, why not? I loaded up both boots with a generous amount of studs for a tiny fraction of what I'd have paid for "premium" wading boot studs.
So what are these little gems? Turns out there is a whole community of people that love racing their dirt bikes on ice. Who knew? Evidently, if you want to race your dirt bike on ice, you need to load up your tires with screws. Enter Kold Kutter. Since 1975, Kold Kutter has been making ice racing screws of all shapes and sizes for drilling into your dirt bike tires. As it so happens, these ice racing screws make excellent wading boot studs. The 3/8" studs turned out to be perfect for my Simms Guide Boots, if your wading boot has thicker soles, you could probably go with the 1/2". They sell in bulk for around 8 or 9 cents a piece.
The traction these provided on the stream was excellent. After 2 days of wading, they showed virtually no signs of wear. So you pick: $30 for brand name wading boot studs, or roughly $1.60 for the same number of studs from Kold Kutter. If ordering a 250-pack is more than you're interested in, you can also get a 100-pack from Malinda's (call them at 315-298-2993) for $15. Still roughly, what, a 90% savings?
It's also certainly worth mentioning that, if you're willing to cough up $40-50 or more, aluminum-based solutions (stud, disc or bar products) offer a distinct advantage at gripping rocks when compared to steel. That said, at around 8 cents a piece for Kold Kutter's studs, there's a good chance are you couldn't care less.