I just spent three days steelhead fishing on the Pere Marquette River in Michigan with Jeff Hubbard of Outfitters North. We had a wonderful time, and caught many fish, though after the first day I realized why I wore bootfoot waders when I started fishing that river 25 years ago.
It was darn cold. And though I wore two pairs of socks, my stockingfoot waders and fancy boots left my toes frozen to the point where I couldn’t feel them any more, and could barely walk. A quick visit to the fly shop and $130 later, I had a pair of FroggToggs bootfoot neoprene waders, and the problem was fixed.
Granted, neoprene waders are far less versatile than their thin-membrane counterparts and about as comfortable as rubber panty hose (I can only imagine). But for winter steelheading, the bootfoot option (neoprene or otherwise) is always worth having, because that added circulation factor in your feet is what’s needed to make SmartWool or other socks work best.