Seeing What is Out There

Seeing What is Out There

After a decade and a half of guiding fly anglers there are several things that truly baffle me in regards to gear my customers bring and one that stands out most is the eyewear some of them elect to use. Over the years I have seen it all- anglers who show up with glasses that are not polarized, all the way down to anglers who show up with no sunglasses at all. Come on, you're killing me Smalls!

Let me tell you folks, if you are a fly angler, a quality pair of POLARIZED glasses is one of the most important items to own simply because- sight-casting is what we fly fishermen live to do.

I still remember my introduction to polarized lenses back in the early 80s when television-fishing personality Bill Dance started pimping his brand of sunglasses. You could get them at just about any store that sold fishing tackle and they cost something like $9.99. They had gray plastic lenses that were as flimsy as a business card and they were plum ugly. Well, considering that was all I knew at the time, I owned several pair. Of course this was more necessity than choice considering they were easily broken and I was of course a pre-teen possessing a Y-chromosome (meaning I could destroy or loose anything in a matter of minutes). Honestly, I would love to know how many pairs of those cheap sunglasses I went through over the years. Hell, I probably put one of his kids through college.

Anyway, years later I discovered that there were better glasses and moved on however, it was not until the Coast Guard sent me to Key West sometime in the early 90s that I bought my first pair of true quality polarized sunglasses. On one of my days off I wandered into the H.T. Chittum Co. fly shop and discovered Costa Del Mar. The person behind the counter made the argument that I needed a better pair of sunglasses if I was going to be sight-casting to bonefish on the flats; I agreed and bought a pair. Mind you they were big ol' ugly, bug-eyed looking things with side-shields but, after wearing them only a few days, I realized how much better they were in so many ways. For one, they were much more durable than any pair of polarized glasses I had owned previous and most importantly, I was no longer getting headaches at the end of the day from looking through the less than quality lenses of all of my previous glasses.

Since then, I have been through many pairs of expensive polarized sunglasses trying to find what I considered to be the perfect pair. But what constitutes the perfect pair, you might ask? Well, let us take a look at the pros and cons of what is available out there.

In my opinion, the first thing that should be taken into consideration when looking for a pair of glasses should be the quality of the lens. This is where optics and durability come into play. When choosing a lens, higher prices usually (not always), represent a company's willingness to pay for the science, research and development to put forth a quality product with precision optics. If you have ever had a headache at the end of long day of fishing, chances are, it is because you are looking through a lens that has poor optics, has become distorted in the heat, or is even beginning to delaminate. Inexpensive, in regards to sunglasses, usually means cheap!

The second thing to consider is whether glass or polycarbonate lenses are best suited to your needs and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Glass lenses have, as a rule, better optics and are hands down more durable in the department of scratch resistance. However, glass lenses are heavier and more easily broken. On the other hand, polycarbonate lenses offer shatter resistance (safety) and are much lighter but, they also scratch quite easily.

Next on the list for consideration is lens color. This actually boils down to figuring out where you will be fishing and, ultimately, what you like. So, instead of telling you what I like here, I will give you some guidelines. Gray lenses enhance contrast and are good for spotting fish and structure light-colored bottoms bright sand. Copper, amber, green, etc., are better for enhancing color. What this boils down to is that only you can decide what color works best to enhance what you feel is best to make your day more successful. Some anglers own more than one and switch as light and bottom conditions vary throughout the day.

Moving on, not too many years ago I made the decision to try out a high-end brand of polarized glasses that offered only polycarbonate lenses. I loved how light they were, the optics were incredible and they had a couple of frames that fit me fairly well. They sent me a few pair and I was quite pleased for the first month or so. That was right up until I realized that the lens had started getting cloudy from excessive cleaning, so I switched to one of the other pairs and the same thing happened. Long and short of it- I went through three pairs of expensive, high-quality glasses in just under a year. I was not happy about it so I started looking at other brands of glasses.

It had been nearly ten years since I had worn Costas but they had an impressive display at a trade show I attended so I went by to check them out. I had always been impressed with their lens quality (optics and scratch resistance) and frames (durability) however, I never really found any frames that truly fit me. And, since I failed to mention it above- the fit of your glasses is every bit as important as lens quality. They should block any light from the side or from behind to prevent reflections or glare on the inside of the lens that can distract your eye (a major cause of eye fatigue) and should be comfortable to wear. Anyway, after trying on numerous styles of frames I found a couple of pair that fit me perfectly so I chose one and got me a pair with copper Wave 580 glass lenses and wore them for a few months to see how I liked them and ultimately how they would hold up to my abuse. The short version- I have never, since that first pair of big, ugly Costas, been so happy with a pair of sunglasses and now have a half dozen pair.

Anyway, if you haven't seen what's out there you really should take a look at a quality pair of sunglasses. In my opinion, they will help make your day of fly fishing more enjoyable and will ultimately help you catch more fish.