Proper sunglasses can make or break your dayby Captain Steve Smith on 05/04/14
I clearly remember my first pair of polarized sunglasses. I was 16 and just getting into the sport. I had a 9-weight, two Lefty Kreh-style floppy hats (white and khaki) — even a couple Tarponwear shirts. But I hadn't yet bought a key piece of equipment that I really needed.
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Finally, I managed to stash away a few bucks and purchased a pair of Costa Del Mars in the old aviator style. For good measure, I also got some side plates and a chord to keep them safe around my neck. Watch out world — I was ready!
Flipping back through my old fishing pictures from those days, I have to laugh — those glasses were ridiculously big on my slim face! But, boy, did they keep out the sun. Better yet, they opened up a world of underwater vision throughout the waterways of southeast Florida.
Today, just like then, polarized sunglasses are of vital importance to fly anglers plying the salt. What's more, modern technology has made them even better.
The first and foremost function of sunglasses is safety. It's easy to underestimate the power of the sun's ultraviolet rays, especially in tropical climates frequented by saltwater fly-fishermen. Factor in the ever-present glare off the water, and you have all the ingredients for serious eye damage.
Most quality polarized sunglasses offer full protection from damaging UVA and UVB rays, but that's not what really gets fly-fishers jazzed about their shades. Instead, it's their polarizing qualities, which help anglers spot fish by reducing harsh glare and increasing visual acuity.
"Sunglasses don't get as much attention as they should as far as being a key piece of equipment," says Peter Crow, general manager of Smith Fishing, a division of Smith Optics, one of the original sunglass brands that first catered to the fly-fishing market. "Everyone focuses on rods and reels. But you're really up a creek if you go to Christmas Island without a good pair of polarized glasses — or even a few pairs."
Crow is right. The proper pair of glasses can make all the difference between a productive day and a poor one. When fishing the flats, lenses with brown or amber tints are generally more favorable.
These lenses greatly enhance contrast, which makes underwater obstructions and bottom irregularities more visible. They also make an approaching fish stand out like a sore thumb, giving an angler and guide valuable time to deliver an effective presentation.