David Mitchell tests two styles of fishing boots from manufacturer XTRATUF, forged from the demanding requirements of Alaska’s commercial fishing fleets
The appetite for TV shows about commercial fishing crews – each episode hinging on the characters and semi-manufactured drama – ‘Will Hank and the crew make it back to port before the Tina-Marie is swamped by the ice storm?’ – sees no sign of slowing down. One of the first of these to hit our screens was Deadliest Catch, a Discovery Channel programme many of you will be familiar with, profiling the ups and downs of Alaskan king and snow crab fishermen over the course of successive seasons on the Barents Sea.
Eagle eyed fans of the show might notice the deck boots worn by the grizzled and weather-beaten deck hands hauling the giant crab pots at night onto the frozen deck of a boat pitching in the ice capped 30ft waves. Many of these will be Xtratuf boots – a brand which has been kitting out those fishing in the toughest conditions for over 50 years.
But it’s not just commercial fishing that Xtratuf caters for; a range of Ankle Deck Boots has been created specifically for sport and recreational fishing. The six-inch boots are made from triple dipped neoprene latex rubber making them 100 per cent waterproof, resistant to most organic and inorganic chemicals, and more flexible than ordinary rubber.
One of the key features of the brand is the high traction chevron outsole which, as I discovered, is one of the Ankle Boots’ most attractive features too. The boots also feature a fabric XpressCool lining which wicks moisture away and helps to keep your feet cool and dry in hot conditions.
The pull tabs make the boots easy to slip on and slip off – something I found particularly helpful when launching my boat at a slipway in bare feet before slipping the boots back on; not something, however, you might want to try in the middle of winter. In these circumstances a knee-high boot or wader is really your only option.
The boots are incredibly slip-resistant on the deck of a boat and I was pleased to discover they are non-marking too; meaning you don’t get left with rubbery scuff marks. Another feature worth noting for boat users are the reinforced toe and heel guards which provide some protection from anchors, chains, tackle boxes or other pieces of heavy equipment on the deck of a boat which risk crushing any errant toes. It happens!
But don’t be misled into thinking these ‘deck’ boots are simply for boats. The comfort, waterproofing and grip make them ideal for rock fishing, where good traction on slippery surfaces is essential, as well as sand and shingle beaches, kayaks and any other circumstance you can think of, other than wading. A cleverly designed and located lip on the heel of the boots makes hands-free slipping the boots off easy by getting a grip on the lip of one boot with the toe of the other.
Weighing around 1.4kg the Ankle Boots are light weight and comfortable to wear all day, as well as being comfortable to drive in safely and stylish enough to wear to the pub at the end of the day.
However, I have also been testing a new light weight Sport version of the Ankle Boots. Rather than being constructed from triple dipped neoprene latex the Sport Boots are made from ProLite high-performance foam, which is where the weight saving comes from, and the 30 per cent reduction in weight is noticeable and welcome, particularly for summer and warm weather conditions. With a cushioned sole the Sport Ankle Boots are really more like trainers for water sports and come in a range of more ‘sporty’ colours while still having all the same key features as the original Ankle Boots.
Both boots perform excellently, but my personal preference was for the standard Ankle Boots: the additional weight gave me a sense that the boots were more substantial than the lighter Sport Boots. I also preferred the more neutral colour schemes.
Both boots come in a range of colours and are available in men’s sizes from 6-13. At £120 a pair for the standard Ankle Boots, and £140 for the Sport Boots, they compete on price with other boots of a similar build quality. However, they benefit from being designed specifically for saltwater fishing and are likely to give you many seasons of use whatever type of fishing you choose to use them for, whether you’re in the Barents Sea or not! n
Six-inch Ankle Deck Boot £120
Six-inch Ankle Deck Boot Sport £140