April 5th, 1999
Economy Wading Boots

by Ernie Harrison

Making something associated with fly-fishing eased my cabin fever during the winter months. Here is a project that was fun and turned out well:

One winter I accompanied a friend of mine to an Army Surplus Store where he purchased a pair of Army Jungle Boots to clean up the wet muddy mess the rains had made of his campground. After listening to him praise the qualities of the boots, I decided to buy a pair.

California mountain streams have stretches of granite that have been polished to a high luster by ancient glaciers and basketball sized rocks that a little elf with a bucket of grease paints every year. As one fly-fisherman said, "It is the reason I walk with a limp and talk with a lisp".

I was always trying new things to increase sole wear, traction, improved foot comfort, and make boots faster to put on and take off. The new boots looked like they were just what I needed and I was soon into another winter project.

The first step was to remove the lugs from the boot soles and heels, which I did with a hacksaw and then smoothed the soles and heels with a wood rasp.

One day at the Flea Market I spotted a rugged piece of carpeting about three feet square and asked the seller what it was. He said it was boat deck carpet, and I knew the material for the soles had been found.

Looking around for something to improve wear and traction disclosed a can of big headed aluminum nails in the garage. These were pushed through the carpeting and cut off flush on the other side. The boot soles and carpeting were coated with contact cement, and put in place. The boots were starting to take shape.

My wife jokes about me using Velcro on everything I make. I got some Velcro and Naugahide and took a wire coat hanger from the closet. After a couple of false starts the boot fasteners were finished.

The next summer I headed for the mountains in my old fishing pickup which I named Buckshot. I called it Buckshot because every time you hit a bump it bucked and shot you into the roof. The boots were a pleasant surprise, traction and durability was excellent. They were comfortable and easy to slip on and off. I have since waded many miles of streams and no longer "walk with a limp and talk with a lisp."


  1. Army Jungle Boots - Get a pair of genuine Army Jungle Boots if you can. The boots should be one size larger than your shoes.

  2. Boat Deck Carpet - can be found at Boat Shops. It has corrugations on one side like a washboard and is smooth on the other. There are two types, get the thick one for more wear. Buy scraps and save money and get some extra for use in re-sole jobs.

  3. Velcro - can be purchased at a fabric shop. It comes in rolls and they will cut it to the desired length. I use one inch wide black.

  4. Naugahide - can be purchased at a fabric shop. Get the lightweight. You are going to use it for backing on the Velcro straps. I use black.

  5. Contact Cement - can be purchased at a hardware store. Buy a small can.

  6. Aluminum Nails - can be purchased at a hardware store. They should have large heads and be short, since you are going to cut them off.

  7. Wire Coat Hangers - You probably have them in your closet.

ASSEMBLY: (Illustrations are below)

Remove the lugs from the boot soles. I turn the boots upside down and put them in a vise and saw them off with a saber saw. Don't cut the sole. Smooth them with a belt sander or a wood rasp. If you bought a pair that has curved heels, cut the heels flat across and fill in the spaces with Shoe Goop after you attach the carpeting.

Take contact paper like you line shelves with (sticky on one side) and cut two pieces big enough to cover the soles of the boots. Place the sticky sides against the boot soles and cut out a pattern. Place the carpeting with the corrugated side down and put a pattern (sticky side down) on the carpeting. The corrugations of the carpeting should run across the sole. Cut the carpeting with a pair of heavy scissors. Now do the other one and remove the contact paper. The sole and heel are one piece.

Next take the aluminum nails and push them through the carpeting from the smooth side of the carpet about a half-inch apart in the sole and heel area. Keep an inch back from the edges and do not place them in the arch. Cut them off flush on the corrugated side (figure 1).

Use a putty knife to spread a thin coating of contact cement on the bottom of the boots. Now coat the sides of the carpeting with the nail heads. Let it dry and place the carpet against the boot. Start with the heel and work toward the toe. Use something to push down firmly between the nails.

Stick the two types of Velcro together so you have one piece 18" long. Cut it into six 3" lengths. Take one of the 3" pieces and separate the two types. Place them with the furry and sticky side up and overlap the furry one 1/2" over the sticky one. Pin them together with a straight pin and sew them together. The furry side and sticky side should be facing the same way (figure 2 & 3). Now do the same for the other five pieces.

Cut six pieces of Naugahide the same size as the sewn Velcro straps. Naugahide stretches in one direction and not the other. Cut the Naugahide so the non-stretchy direction is going the length of the strap. Pin the Naugahide backing to the back of the Velcro. Round the corners off on the fuzzy end and sew the Naugahide on by going around the edge and then make two X's across the middle (Figure 4 & 5.)

Fold 1/2" of a strap over on the sticky end with the Velcro outside. Pin it and sew across the edge a couple of times to make a loop in the end of the strap (figure 6 & 7). Do the same with the rest of the straps.

On one side of a boot measure from the center of an eyelet to the center of a third eyelet (skip over one). Straighten out a coat hanger and clip off the ends where it was twisted. Add 2" to your measurement and clip 12 pieces of coat hanger to that length. Bend one end of the wire into an L shape 1 " from the end. Now bend the wire into a J shape 1/2" from the same end. Do the same to the other 11 pieces of wire. Take six pieces and slide the straight end of the wire into the loop you made in the Velcro straps. Bend the straight ends of all the wire the same way you did the other end so you have 12 C shaped clips with Velcro straps on six of them (see figure 8.

Put the clips with the straps on the outside eyelets and the ones without the straps on the inside. If there are more than 9 eyelets on a side place the clips across the 3 top and 3 bottom eyelets. Place the third clip across the middle 3 eyelets, skipping extra eyelets. To install the clips, bend the boots so the two eyelets you are installing them in are close together. Use your other hand to put the ends of the clip into the eyelets and release the boot. Install the straps so the Velcro side faces up when the strap is across the boot tongue.

These boots are comfortable and slip resistant. They are easy to put on and take off. Always dry them thoroughly before putting them away and they will provide several seasons of use. May your boots wade as many miles of trout streams as mine. ~ Ernie Harrison

For more winter projects click here.

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