This isn’t meant to be a commercial. Think of it more as a public service announcement. Or, if you’re planning on fishing anytime soon and this applies to you, the cacophonous screeching of the emergency broadcast system.
Don’t fish with cruddy sunglasses.
- Are your fishing sunglasses not polarized? Fix it, now.
- Do your fishing sunglasses hurt your nose, ears, face, or – I can’t believe it – eyes? Why, oh why?
- Are the lenses of your fishing sunglasses so scratched and pitted that wearing them makes every hour of the day look like dusk? Get up and remedy it.
My first pair of fishing sunglasses were the Bill Dance endorsed aviators. They were revolutionary. I could see through the water. Bill Dance gave me superpowers. I bet I would have caught even more fish if I had the foresight as a teenager to get ahold of a mesh Tennessee hat. They worked, and they worked great. Until they literally fell apart. Who would have thought that a pair of $8 WalMart sunglasses couldn’t stand up to the rigors of daily use?
From there, I graduated to a pair of cheap plastic Orvis sunglasses. I know what you’re thinking. Cheap and Orvis in the same sentence? Well, there was a time when they made a pair of $25 amber polarized glasses. These were my faithful companions for almost 10 years. Lightweight, durable, and ergonomic. All the buzzwords a catalog writer needs, these shades had. Then, one day, I realized that the economy-grade plastic lenses began to show their age. They’ve been relegated to my running sunglasses.
After that I began the quest to find the perfect pair of sunglasses. Research, conversations, and lots of the obligatory trying on and turning of the head in the mirror. I made a cardinal mistake after all of this. I went for form over function. What a mistake. A frameless pair of sunglasses is not what you need for fishing. The lenses were great… when they weren’t covered in fingerprints or scratched from the gentlest bumps.
All that changed on the day I bit the bullet and bought some Costa Del Mar Fantails in 580 glass. Are they expensive? Oh yes. Are they worth every penny? Definitely. I’m not saying that Costa is the only good pair of polarized fishing sunglasses, but these hit on every essential need. So what is essential in a pair of fishing sunglasses? Here are a few priorities for shopping:
Lenses need to be clear. I don’t care if they are grey for bright sun, yellow for low light, or amber for a one-size-fits all approach. You need to be able to see through the things. On a similar note, the polarization needs to be high quality. Manufacturers’ websites will give paragraphs on dozen-layer lenses, but reviews will tell you all that you need. Understanding scratch resistance also comes from this kind of research.
Frames need to be comfortable. If you don’t like wearing them, you’ll either not wear them or be miserable when you do. Lightweight is important, and fit is vital. Try on every pair in the shop, and don’t feel guilty about it. Do the frames hug your face to block out peripheral glare? That might make for a bigger or bulkier pair of sunglasses, but fashion is so fickle that it will probably be cool in a matter of months anyway. Most frames have rubberized nose pads, but look for a pair that has rubber on the arms or even under the lenses. This will keep the sunglasses in place.
Lastly, get a pair of retainers. Your wife might roll her eyes, but it’s a whole lot more bearable than scratching up some $200 sunglasses. The kind doesn’t matter, as long as it’s comfortable. I use the Croakies Endless ARC system. Cheap, easy, and great customer service.
If you have the choice between a $800 fly rod and a pair of convenience store polarized glasses or a $600 rod and a quality expensive pair of glasses, the choice should be clear. Your time on the water will be exponentially more productive and enjoyable with good sunglasses than with a few more million modulus rod. Don’t fish with cruddy sunglasses. Fly fishing is a visual sport, and you need every advantage you can get.