Felt gets the boot

Yellowstone National Park bans felt-soled fishing wear

Felt sole waders and boots — the standby of fly fishers everywhere to help prevent slipping on river-bottom rocks — are out, and rubber boots are in.

At least in Yellowstone National Park.

Reasons for the ban

The park announced the felt sole ban in a Thursday news release as a way to protect Yellowstone from aquatic invasive species.

Park spokeswoman Vicki Regula said Thursday morning that microorganisms can be found on felt-soled boots even after cleaning.

“They just really adhere to that felt,” she said.

“The big concern are invasive mussels,” Regula said.

She said invasive species are a worry throughout Montana.

“This was just another tool to try to prevent the spread of the ones we have,” Regula said.

“Aquatic invasive species could have devastating ecological, economic, and recreational impacts on Yellowstone National Park,” the park noted in its release. “… Due to the urgent need to prevent these destructive species from entering the park, felt sole waders and boots worn by anglers will be banned permanently starting in 2018.”

The fishing season in the park extends from Saturday of Memorial Day through the first Sunday in November.

Instead of felt, the park wants anglers to use rubbersoled boots.

“They trap fewer organisms than felt and can be cleaned with water and a scrub brush,” the release said.


At least two local fly shop owners are skeptical of the felt ban.

Richard Parks, owner of Parks’ Fly Shop in Gardiner, said if anglers are running around in unwashed rubber boots, it won’t solve the problem.

“Rubber is probably marginally easier to clean,” but the downside is people look at their boots and say, ‘Looks clean to me” and don’t clean them, Parks said.

He also said rubber wading boots can have laces and thus carry invasive organisms even if the boots are cleaned.

Just banning felt is not the solution, but rather it is draining, cleaning and drying gear between waterways, Parks said.

However, he conceded the ban wouldn’t make anything worse other than costing anglers some money because they would have to rent or buy rubber shoes.

“I’m dubious of its effect,” Parks said, but added, “They put in the rule and we’ll comply.”

Like Parks, George Anderson, owner of George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler in Livingston, was also skeptical of the felt ban.

‘It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Anderson said, pointing out, like Parks, that laces of rubber footwear can carry invasive species.

“It’s going to make it more difficult for us to take people into the park,” he said.

In addition to the felt sole ban, in today’s news release the park also announced a new boating season. The dates now extend from 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 26 to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4.

The park reminds boaters that watercraft must have a boat permit and a Yellowstone AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) inspection before boats will be allowed into the park.