Friday, July 29, 2011


Xtra-Tuffs.  Every fisherman’s staple.  A knee high dark brown neoprene boot with tan trim and soft soles.  I own five pairs.  Six if you count the pair that I cut into clogs. Seven if you count the pair that I have converted into flower pots.   One pair is insulated and I use them to weed whack the grass around my camper.  One pair has five dollops of Aqua Seal across the top of the left boot, patching holes left from accidentally lobbing a rockfish, spine side down, into the top of my foot while picking him out of my net.  Yes, that hurt.  A lot.
My two newest pairs are my least favorite.  They are permanently crumpled up from spending years being packed away.  Though one of those pairs is taking a road trip, as we speak, to North Carolina to accompany me sailing around Florida and the Bahamas this winter, despite the slight look of horror I got from Vince when I concluded they would make good sailing boots and that the fish scales would wear off, eventually. 
My favorite pair and the set I use the most happens to be my oldest pair. They must be about 12 years old.  I got them before Xtra-Tuff became patriotic and threw a flag emblem into their logo.  I think that happened around 9-11. Nothing against our flay, but it’s a status quo to run with the old style, flagless boots. Every Alaskan knows this.
I like this pair the best because they still stand up on their own even thought they are repaired with a combination of Aqua Seal, Splash Zone and duct tape.  When I come into the cabin and crawl out of my boots and raingear, I like to leave them fireman style, with my bibs wrapped around my boots that are standing in the middle.  You never know what havoc is going to reek on deck and you need to be ready quickly.  Besides, I don’t like to keep my boots on all day long.  I like to air out my tootsies between sets and hop out of my ‘tuffs into my clogs. 
That may sound excessive to own 7 pairs of the same boots.  It started out innocent enough.  I would buy a pair, wear them for a season then leave them in my locker for with winter while I embarked on a new adventure.  The next spring I would find myself in a different part of the state fishing a different fishery and needing to buy another pair.  I would hate getting a new pair of boots since then people would assume I was a greenhorn because of the newness of my boots, especially if I had to get new raingear, too.  Eventually, though, I got over that.
A seiner in Valdez sunning his XtraTuffs

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