Fly fishing is a visual game and as an angler, your eyesight is one of your greatest fish-catching tools. But due to a phenomenon called light polarization by reflection, if you aren’t wearing polarized sunglasses, it’s as if you’re fishing blindfolded.
Of course, polarized sunglasses can be pricey, but we feel that purchasing a quality pair is one of the best fly fishing investments you can make. So if you’re on the fence and need a little convincing, consider the following advantages polarized sunglasses offer.
I’ve talked about this in other articles but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you checkout the Smith Guide Sunglasses. (Link to article and review)
1. Reduced Glare for X-Ray Water Reading Vision
Before any casts are made, a successful day of fly fishing starts by carefully reading the water. By gazing at a stretch of water, you can see riffles, boils, seams, and other unique ways in which the water flows over the subsurface structure. These clues help you figure out where the fish are holding, and perhaps more importantly, how you need to present your fly to catch those fish.
The problem is, however, that the important sub-surface features are largely concealed by the mirror-like effect created by the sun as it reflects off the water. When battling the glare, you can only read half of the water’s story, which can cost you fish. That’s where polarized sunglasses save the day.
The lenses of polarized sunglasses are made with polarizers that block reflected light. Glare is eliminated and you can see not only the riffles and seams on the surface, but the structure beneath that’s creating them it’s as if you have x-ray vision.
2. Increased Contrast to Help You See More Fish
After you’ve read the water and have a general sense of where fish are likely to hold, you can start looking for the fish themselves.
Obviously, the glare-cutting qualities of polarized sunglasses help you see through the water to find fish, but they also offer another distinct advantage increased visual contrast.
Most fishing-specific polarized sunglasses feature colored lenses that, depending on the color, increase contrast by varying degrees. In terms of fish spotting, with more visual contrast, the shape, color, or shadow of the fish will more clearly stand out against its surroundings.
Grey, amber, yellow, and rose are the most common lens colors offered in polarized sunglasses for fishing. Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefit of each color to help you decide which is right for you:
- Grey: Best for preserving natural color relationships and contrast levels; good for general all-around use, but offers minimal contrast enhancement.
- Amber/Copper: The most popular lens color among anglers; preserves natural color relationships but offers considerable contrast enhancement.
- Yellow: Offers the highest degree of contrast enhancement, is particularly well-suited for low light and foggy conditions, and is ideal for sight fishing.
- Rose: Good for low-light conditions but doesn’t offer as much contrast enhancement as yellow lenses.
3. See Your Fly, Watch the Take & Set the Hook
The glare-cutting and contrast-enhancing attributes of polarized sunglasses make your water reading and fish finding efforts more fruitful, but they also help you seal the deal when it’s time to set the hook.
As long as the water is relatively clear, polarized sunglasses help you keep an eye on your fly as it penetrates the water column and drifts downstream. When your fly disappears amidst a quick flash of silver, you know it’s time to set the hook.
Additionally, if you often fish nymphs under a strike indication, the glare reduction of polarized sunglasses will help you visually track your strike indicator. If your eyes feel strained after hours of staring at an indicator, polarized sunglasses could be the ticket to relief.
4. Use Lens Color to Boost Your Vision in Low Light Conditions
It’s no secret that fish are generally most active at dawn and dusk. Certain species also tend to light up on the darkest, stormiest days. The problem is, during these times of heightened fish activity, there often isn’t enough light to capitalize on the good fishing.
Luckily, while polarized sunglasses are used to block sunlight, with the proper color lenses, they can also be used to boost your vision in low light.
Yellow lenses are widely agreed to be the best color for low-light conditions. The bright color allows your eyes to absorb substantial light to be able to see, while still giving you the benefits of glare reduction and increased contrast. So while you can’t expect yellow lenses to produce the same effect as turning on a flood light, they won’t darken your vision like gray or amber colored lenses will.
5. See and Avoid Potential Wading Hazards
The ability to locate underwater structure is key to finding fish, but it’s also extremely important from a safety standpoint.
With the glare reduction of polarized sunglasses, you’ll be able to see and avoid potential hazards deep holes, submerged logs, etc. that could trip you up and send you swimming.
Tips for Buying the Best Polarized Sunglasses for Fly Fishing
Now that we’ve covered the many advantages polarized sunglasses offer fly anglers, are you ready to take the next step and get a pair of your own If so, here are a few tips that will help you choose the best pair.
- Go with a reputable, high-quality brand. You’ll find polarized sunglasses across a wide range of price points, and generally, the cheaper they are, the lower the quality and performance they offer. If you want a pair that will stand up for years of fishing, look for glasses made by proven brands such as Smith, Costa, Orvis, Cocoons, Oakley, Native, or Maui Jim. These brands use high-quality frames and lenses and often offer generous lifetime warranties.
- Choose a lightweight frame. Once you experience the advantages of polarized sunglasses, you won’t want to take them off. If your sunglasses fit you well and are lightweight, you won’t even notice you’re wearing them.
- Look for sunglasses that offer side protection. Wrap-around style sunglasses are generally preferred by fly anglers as they block light from entering their peripheral vision and offer additional protection from flying hooks.
My recommendation is to look at the Smith Guides with Chroma Pop. (Link to article) I’ve been using these and REALLY love them.
When you do get your hands on a high-quality pair of polarized sunglasses, take care of them like you would a prized fly rod. Treat them well and they’ll help you see and catch more fish for years to come.