Sunglasses: Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

For many anglers, whether they choose to grab their sunglasses on the way out the door likely depends on the forecast.

“It’s going to be cloudy all day, so I’m not going to take them/wear them”. But, for me, I ALWAYS wear a pair of sunglasses, regardless of the weather that might be forecasted. While the amount of sun in the sky is one of the reasons why I always wear shades on the water, there are a couple of other reasons that are just as important.

Like I mentioned, the first reason to make sure that you leave the house with a good pair of sunglasses is to protect your eyes from the damage of harmful UV rays. Even when wearing a hat, the sun can harm your eyes and even cause burns to the surface of your eyeballs. Think of them as sunscreen for your eyes!

The second reason that I always wear a pair of sunglasses (and I’ll always recommend polarized lenses for this reason) is to aide me in spotting fish and wading safely. Polarized sunglasses redirect light so that it hits the eye more uniformly, thus reducing glare. This, in turn, allows us anglers to better see below the water’s surface. I carry a few pairs of sunglasses with me at all times and each pair has its purpose depending on the amount of sun on a given day. The other reason I carry multiple pairs is so I can offer my clients a pair so that they too can benefit from wearing a pair of polarized lenses while on the water. This helps both my client and me big time when it comes to sight fishing, as well as pointing out obstacles in the water.

The third reason why I will always wear sunglasses while I’m on the water is to protect my eyes from projectiles of the fly kind. Folks get excited when they hook into fish, and even more excited when I scoop their catch into the net. Some clients will often focus solely on the fish in the net and forget about the tension that may be on the line during all of the excitement. I’ve taken hooks to the hands, face, neck, shoulder, and there’s been a handful of times that I’ve had flies get jerked into my sunglasses, not only by clients, but by yours truly as well. Your eyes are valuable beyond explanation and should be protected at all costs!

Yes, sunglasses (especially polarized lenses) can be pricey, but the benefits they offer can far outweigh the cost.

I’m a big fan of Smith Optics and have been for many years. When it comes to the various fishing conditions I encounter, I haven’t found lenses that match Smith’s performance, so I’m willing to pay the higher price. However, there are brands available on the market for the more budget-minded angler. For example, Suncloud, which was established by Smith, offers polarized sunglasses at a much more affordable price than most brands while still offering quality, polarized lenses. I would suggest that every angler needs to invest in a quality pair of polarized specs, if they haven’t done so already. The enhanced vision they provide can make a big difference on the water and contribute to added success, while providing the needed protection your eyes deserve.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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28 thoughts on “Sunglasses: Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em!

  1. My son just gave me a pair of the new Oakley “Brown Trout” glasses and I’m seeing more fish with them. Like you, I wear sunglasses almost all the time.

  2. I love my Costas….they’re the most durable glasses I have ever worn. But my Smiths and Sunclouds are great quality. FYI: Smith’s warranty is the best warranty of any company in the history of the world. They replace scratched glasses!!!!!!

  3. I would love someone to comment on the different colors available in lenses, a what do the different colors provide for the fishing experience.
    Do I really need more than one color and if so what is the best color for a second pair?

    • A brown or “amber” polarized lens is most versatile and will be beneficial in most light conditions.
      A grey lens is awesome for those bright, blue bird days in the summer where there is a lot of glare present.

    • Imho:

      ==> saltwater – flats / inshore / shallow water:

      – bright conditions: brown, bronze, cooper, ambar and (my favorite) rose
      – cloudy / overcast: yellow / light ambar

      saltwater – offshore: blue, dark gray, black

      ==> freshwater:

      – gin clear river (trout flyfishing): grey, light grey
      – lake / bass fishing: green, gray
      – cloudy / overcast: yellow / light ambar

      And, yes, brown, bronze, cooper, ambar and rose are the most versatile colors

        • Thanks for the advice Celio. I have never understood what the different colors did/or disn’t do, just that amber we the most versitile. Your advice will help me select my second pair for specific conditions, thanks!

  4. What about prescription polarized? I get polarized progressives from my optometrist, but I wonder if there might be a source of the same that are optimized for fishing.

  5. There is another reason to wear them, cataracts. I have been fly fishing for forty years now and wasn’t always great at wearing them. Recently been diagnosed with cataracts in each eye. Optometrist said exposure to UV rays contributed to it. So, wear sunglasses AND sunscreen!!

  6. It has to be full sun for me to wear them. I never understood people who wear them on cloudy days. I find them annoying under those conditions. I see just fine without them. They don’t help me spot fish either.
    Don’t ask me to tie on a #20 hook without reading glasses though………I can’t.

    • You’ve got to be off your rocker if don’t think that polozarixed glasses assist with cutting glare and allowing you to spot fish better.

      • Wow. I can’t see anything in the water without my polarized glasses. Rocks, fish, nothing. I use polarized bifocals – Smiths, Costas, Sunclouds, to tie on my flies. Lost without them. Amber lenses build contrast.

      • I will gladly testify that I consider my sunglasses to be my second most important tool behind only the fly rod. On rivers like Colorado’s south Platte or Taylor seeing the take is critical to success. Almost all of the fish anglers catch on these rivers are spotted first. I typically find that yellow lenses are good in the morning before the sun hits the river or on overcast days. If you are having trouble seeing fish with the glasses it is important to remember that they only remove glare, not a fish’s natural camo. (They can however empathize different colors like reds, blues, and greens)Learning to spot fish (particularly browns) is difficult and is an skill that is learned over time.

        • Dave! I didn’t know you where on Gink and Gasoline! I was just scrolling through the comments and I saw your name! What a coincidence!

      • Well, I guess I am then. I fished offshore for Marlin, Tuna, Mahi, and never wear them. I’m usually the first one down the ladder to feed a fish no one in the cockpit sees, despite all of them having glasses on. I also run the boat so i spend half my time looking forward too.
        I have a flats boat, I never wear them, except for driving the boat because it’s so fast, my eyes water. I trout fish……..Never. If anything, they blind me. If I do have them on, I need to flip them up to see……….sorry, that’s just how I see it. When it’s cloudy and I see guys in sunglasses, I just don’t even get it. I would be totally blind that way. I think it becomes a habit for some people.

        Like I said though, up close I need 3X.

  7. I fished with cheap sunglasses the first season or so. I finally bought a pair of SMITH Guides Choice readers last fall and have been amazed at the difference. I’m a believer. Tried some Sunclouds too (they have readers also) but didn’t like the fit or lense color. Definitely go with the amber or copper I think SMITH calls it. Good all around, even on cloudy days. My fly fishing “guru” tells me I need a pair with low-light lense color (sort of yellow looking) that excel in heavy cloud cover and early/late day. MORE GEAR!

  8. I have been using Smith Chromapop lenses for a while now. I recently scratched the lenses badly enough that I asked Smith to replace them, just to find out that they won’t replace them, you can only send the glasses in and get a discount on a new pair. That kind of annoys me, but the glasses are great so MAYBE it is worth the hassle?

  9. There is so much pure BS about UV exposure it is unbelievable. Keep selling the paranoia. We NEED a certain amount of UV and the light from the sun in the first and last half hour has NO UV and it is very good for to be exposed to the early and late light. I do wear sun glasses when rowing the drift boat primarily as a shield from errant casts by the persons at either end of the boat. Do a little research and you will never put sun screen on your body again, it is toxic. We need to be exposed to the sun but you do need eye protection from these computer screens that we look at as they are harmful.

  10. I love too Smith products, but I have to say my experience with customer service for Smith Canada has been pretty frustrating.

  11. It made sense when you said that sunglasses can protect our eyes from UV rays in addition to helping us spot fish more effectively. My husband and I want to book a guide so we can go on a fishing trip together this spring, since we both agree we want to start doing more outdoor activities. I hadn’t considered the importance of having a good pair of sunglasses before reading your article, so thanks for sharing!

  12. I have a pair of Oakley sunglasses with the “Shallow Water” lenses. They are fantastic! They significantly enhance the green and red colors of fish, especially rainbow trout. They also amplify the shadows on the bottom of … shallow water. I often see a fish’s shadow before I spot the fish itself. These glasses are highly recommended by yours truly.

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