Metal studs, or lugs, wear longer than felt or carpet and provide better traction by cutting through layers of algae to grip the underlying rock. Their main disadvantage is that they are noisy; to the fish, a studded angler must sound like the Pittsburgh Steelers clattering down the tunnel to the playing field. Still, anglers who fish often in big, dangerous rivers swear by studs, and they are especially popular with steelhead fishermen in the Pacific Northwest.
There are several kinds of metal studs to choose from. One manufacturer turns out rubber sandals with metal studs jutting from the soles. Called Korkers, they were originally developed for longshoremen who work on slippery docks and ship decks, but they caught on quickly with anglers. Put on over a pair of boot-foot waders or wading shoes and secured with hefty nylon laces, they provide such good traction that it's easy for a fisherman to grow overconfident and wade where he shouldn't. Another drawback is that they can be sucked right off a fisherman's feet if he's wading in very soft mud or silt—sometimes without his even knowing it.
Another metal traction device, called Stream Cleats, consists of rectangular aluminum cleats arranged in zigzag rows on felt soles that are attached to heavy-duty-rubber overshoes. The overshoes may be slipped over regular wading shoes; despite the absence of laces, they stay on relatively well. Orvis manufactures felt-soled waders prefitted with hexagonal metal lugs that also provide excellent traction. And for do-it-yourselfers, there are Rock Grabbers, felt soles fitted with small aluminum studs that may be glued to the bottom of wading shoes or boot-foot waders.
With such elaborate gear, it would seem anglers should be able to wade safely just about anywhere, maybe even walk up the sides of buildings. But it's easy to underestimate the power of a river, and even the most careful, experienced wader with the best equipment can get into trouble. Usually it happens so quickly there's no time to react: one moment you're wading comfortably and enjoying yourself; the next moment the river is carrying you off.
There's a tendency to panic and do the wrong thing in such situations. The icy shock of water pouring into your waders tends to add to your feeling of desperation and provokes a natural urge to start thrashing around.
But you can't fight a river, so the best advice is to join it. Once the current has got you, relax, hold still and try to keep yourself in a more or less upright position. Dog-paddle, if necessary, but don't kick; the flow will hold you up. Then all you do is wait for the river to sweep you back into shallow water or within reach of a low-hanging branch. The river may even stand you back on your feet in the shallows. The whole thing actually can be a pleasant experience if it happens on a hot summer day. If it happens in winter...well, it's a good idea to carry some matches in a waterproof container.
Wading in big, cold angry rivers is easier if you keep in good physical shape. And once you have challenged them and won. you can speak of the keen pleasures of wading, the exhilaration that comes from gliding gracefully across a broken stretch of bright water in the sunshine—all that stuff.