Choosing The Right Color Lens For Your Fishing

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Two lens colors anglers should utilize in their polarized sunglasses. Photo By: Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

Polarized sunglasses are one of the most critical pieces of gear an angler can equip themselves with on the water.

They significantly cut down the glare on the water so you can spot fish and read water more effectively. Without them an angler can feel naked and ill-equipped. Polarized sunglasses play so many important roles in everyday fly fishing, and making a point to choose the right lens color before you hit the river can end up adding or subtracting to your overall success on the water. I carry two different pair of sunglasses with me at all times. Depending on the fishing location, time of day, and available light, I’ll choose one over the other.

Yellow Lens (Low Light Conditions)

Early morning and late evening hours when the sun is low in the horizon and off the water I prefer to wear polarized sunglasses with yellow lens. They increase the contrast and brighten everything a couple notches. I also prefer yellow lens when I’m fishing heavily canopied streams. Sometimes even in the middle of the day, there are many places where the sun doesn’t penetrate the canopy, and you’ll find yellow lens are the only way to go for these shady low light conditions. Nasty weather days when its cloudy and rainy, yellow lens perform well. The winter brings with it limited sunshine on the water, since the sun doesn’t move across the horizon as high, and wearing yellow lens solves this problem. You don’t want to go 100% with a yellow lens for every day fishing though. During high light levels you won’t get the contrast you’ll need, but they do perform extraordinarily well in niche low light situations.

Amber Lens (Moderate to High Light Conditions)

If you only had the luxury to choose one color lens for fishing, there’s no better color choice than amber. Day in and day out it’s the best all around color lens for performing well in conditions across the board. Amber performs well from moderate to high level light conditions, and it copes relatively well in lower light conditions as well. Extreme low light conditions aren’t ideal for amber lens, but it’s not everyday your going to encounter those conditions. Whether your fishing saltwater or freshwater, amber is the color lens most anglers decide to wear and fish with because of its ability to perform in a wide range conditions.

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline

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13 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Color Lens For Your Fishing

  1. Always glad when eyewear is given it’s due in fly fishing. I never fish without sunglasses or glasses to protect my eyes and enhance my vision. The success in this sport is very vision dependent. Nothing better than sight fishing lake run fish. Several cornea abrasions from tree limbs in very low light have convinced me to wear eyewear all the time. My recommendations to beginner fly fishers is spend the money on a good line and polarized sunglasses vs rods and reels. Long time lover of Smith sunglasses.

  2. Yup, another Smith fan.

    My frames last forever. I usually kill a pair of lenses a season, thats an operator issue rather than a product quality issue.

    I prefer grey or platinum. I spent many seasons patrolling and doing avalanche work at higher altitudes in Utah. My eyes are some what sensitive to light intsenity since then, I need the darker shade to prevent headaches and conjuctivities after a day on the water.

  3. Spot on. Its very common that I’m out with my brown polarized lenses and all I can think is that I can’t see shit because its too much tint.

    Love my polarized yellow, and I love my Smiths.

  4. Great advice. Taught fisheries field courses at a local University and this is the advice I always gave to students; and followed myself. Have used amber from the NWT to the equator – has always been my colour of choice. Best advice I ever saw on-line re: sunglasses was “Buy the best pair you can’t afford!”.

  5. Do you have any thoughts on mirrored v. non mirrored? I like the look of green mirrored lenses (amber tint), but don’t really want to sacrifice quality for look.

  6. I’d been using cheaper pairs of sunglasses for a while ($40) . After breaking my most recent pair, and scratching the plastic lenses on previous pair so much that they’re basically useless, I finally decided to get a pair of quality polarized glasses. I picked up a pair os Smith Chromapops and the difference is like night and day. I was pretty good at spotting fish before, now I feel like I have x-ray vision. Quality optics are a must for sure.

  7. Timely article. I just got back from checking out a pair of Costas. I’ve long ago dismissed Smiths after a pair cracked in -10 degree camping overnight. The Oakleys I have are okay, but thinking it’s time for a change of brand and now, after reading this, maybe a lens color. I’ve been stuck fishing into the evening and struggling to see with grey/dark lenses. I’m glad I read this. Nearly $600 dollars is a lot to drop on a pair of prescription shades and realize I should have gotten amber lenses.

  8. Good post Kent. Quality glasses are also a valued piece of safety equipment for wading visibility and injury from flies traveling at hundreds of miles per hr.

    • You raise a good point. Just yesterday I ended up with a hook in the year. It wasn’t even casting! It was tied up in some weeds along a bank. After releasing a trout I turned and BLAM! New ear ornament!

  9. Did have a question for folks as I’m considering a new pair.

    Does anyone here have or have an opinion on sunglasses that DON’T wrap around as far as light cutting abilities and safety (from flying hooks)?

    Part of me thinks the more wrap the better.

  10. Pingback: Tippets: Honoring Victor Atiyeh, Choosing Lenses, Pollution of Midwest Streams | MidCurrent

  11. I have always had wrap around tight fitting Costas but find the fogging up becomes a real problem if they fit tight against your face. I wore a pair of old cheapie partial wrap my last trout trip and although far inferior they did not fog up. My next good pair are going to have some space between glasses and frame and when I go bone fishing in real intense light I’ll make some side shields out of leather.

    • Rick, I ended up going with a pair of non-wrap for that very reason. Was out fishing a spring creek on a humid soon as I pushed the full wrap glasses against my face the fog ensued!

      Clever idea with the leather side shields!

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