Even though we are primarily freshwater anglers, during the winter months, to escape the cold and snow, Zen often hosts trips and arranges travel to warm water destination. This April we had a planned trip to Patagonia targeting golden dorado, rainbow and brown trout, but travel bans to Argentina made this destination impossible. Instead, we headed someplace more accessible and into the salt for a little combo tenkara/rod & reel action. Places like The Bahamas, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras are fishable year round. And while Costa Rica offers unbelievable trout fishing up in the Cloud Forrest and freshwater machaca fishing in the north, most of these destinations are salt species specific. So, over time, I’ve become a bit of a saltwater junkie.
Each of these destinations offer something unique, but they all offer opportunities to test your tenkara skills on bigger, “badder ” fish and, actually put a reel to work in places where you can cast 60ft+ and have fish that will actually take you into your backing, several times. 99% of the rivers I fish, require casts well under 40ft – many are only 40ft wide. So the salt gives me a chance to go long – and it’s fun.
As I have progressed with my saltwater adventures I am often questioned about gear to take on trips. And always, there is a question about boots. So here are the three options I prefer, when and where I use them, and the reasons why:
The Simms Saltwater Flats Sneaker:
I love this boot for its comfort and easy on-and-off convenience. The laces mean I can customize the fit pretty well and considering how beefy the is boot, it’s extremely lightweight. I use this boot in extreme conditions when I am wading in places where there is a lot of rough or sharp coral. With the high-top design, the Simms Saltwater Sneaker Boot provides great ankle support and protection – such as an accidental step on a stingray. Once I even wore the boot onboard the plane, under my pants in order to save space and weight in my luggage bag. They were comfortable walking through the airport and I managed to have them dry again by the time I was returning – although I was lucky with that one. As much as I love this boot and feel like it provides the best foot protection, it’s often “more than I need” in most of my travels.
The Simms Saltwater Zipit Bootie:
My go-to saltwater shoe when I am wading, the Zipit is less intense than the Flats Sneaker and is even quicker to put on and take off – which I do a lot. When I fish in the salt from the boat, I rarely wear shoes. Even the smallest sound can spook a permit so being stealth while on deck is critical. I also have found that when I am barefoot, I have better balance on a rocking and sometimes bouncing flats boat. Even more importantly, I can feel if I’m stepping on the line – which I can’t when I am wearing a shoe – any shoe for that matter. But when I wade or need to jump out of the boat, these Zipit Booties pull on fast and with one quick zip, are secure on my feet. They have a high top and can be paired with wading socks or ankle wraps if getting any sand in your shoe drives you crazy. I find very little tends to enter this boot – especially if I am wear tights or neoprene ankle wraps over the top of the boot. The sole of these boots are not as sturdy or thick as the Flats Sneaker so a really sharp piece of coral could probably cut through it, but I have had no issues and find them the perfect balance between protection and minimalism.
Merrell Tideriser Moc:
Okay, not a fly fishing specific shoe or boot, but I have come to love this options and probably wear it more than either of the two above. Here’s why: In saltwater a lot of the time you are on the boat. A lot of the time the ground is too soft to wade – it’s muddy and acts like quick sand or suction cups. You simply can’t move in it. But when the ground is conducive to wading, its often packed with maybe an inch or two of soft sand on top. Or maybe there is turtle grass, or even better, soft, white, incredibly fine sand (my favorite). In any of these situation, the Moc works just fine. It’s fast to get in and out of, is lightweight, water friendly with “Hydramorph”- midsole channels and ports that disperses water making walking/wading very easy and natural, and when above the water line, encourages airflow for quick-drying performance. Plus, they have a Vibram sole so when I scamper around on coral, I have grip and steady footing. Crazy, but I have come to love these shoes. They have an elastic strap that goes across your mid foot and it’s snug – snug enough that the shoes stay on my feet, even when I sink into mud a few inches.
I like that when I’m done fishing, I can let them dry out and then wear them later to dinner or the bar and because they have a collapsible heel, they become a casual slip on (great for traveling through security in airports too). This shoe also works well in freshwater.
Three options that all perform great and are worth the money spent on them, the Simms Flats Sneaker is the beast and safest option, the Simms Zipit is convenient, comfy and is that middle ground option, and the Merrell Moc – more of a shoe that is water worthy, holds up and functions extremely well and, is often “enough” for many saltwater (and fresh) destinations.