Sunglasses: What you need to know
A good pair of sunglasses is one of your most important pieces of gear, but with so many options out there, it can be a little difficult to know what to choose. Here are some insights (see what we did there) to help you make the informed choice:
It’s great having a world class guide talking you into catching that trophy Bonefish, but if he’s pointing out the target and you’re asking, ‘where?’ It is most probably because you’re sporting the wrong eyewear.
The technology that goes into a pair of high-end fishing sunglasses is unbelievable. A quality pair of lenses is often made up of at least half-a-dozen layers, each with a genuine purpose. Those layers include anti-reflective coating, polarization film, hydrophobic coatings, anti-scratch coatings, mirror, etc.
Many of the layers are pretty self-explanatory, but let’s briefly break down what makes fishing glasses different from ordinary glasses.
Fit – Fishing sunglasses typically use a ‘wrap’ style, which simply means the frame fits the contour of your face better and wraps around the head a little more. This closes that opening you get on the outer sides of the glasses between the frames and your face, thus reducing the glare and exposure, making it easier to spot fish. New styles that aren’t wrap around now incorporate rubber inserts which block these gaps – ingenious!
Polarization – simply put, light travels in electromagnetic waves and a polarized filter reduces a percentage of that vibration. In other words, light doesn’t appear as harsh. This is important to a fisherman because it reduces the glare on water, allowing you to once again – spot fish better.
Mirror – a mirror helps reduce the amount of light that passes through the lens, so although it won’t necessarily change the colour of the lens, it will cut out more light, hence one commonly associating a blue mirror with saltwater, grey based lenses. Various mirror colours help with different things, be it with contrast, fatigue or off-water glare.
As mentioned, a polarization film reduces the percentage of light that passes through the lens, but (in very simple terms) the colour of that film on the lens influences the type of light that gets through, making certain colours better for certain flyfishing scenarios:
Grey lens – a grey or black lens only allows roughly 10% light through, making this ideal for fishing bluewater. So, if you fish from a boat most of the time, a grey lens coupled with a blue mirror is your best option.
Copper/Brown/Amber Based lens – allowing roughly 12- 15% light through, this is going to typically be your freshwater lens because its great for better contrast and varying light conditions. However, a brown lens with a green or silver mirror is becoming more popular in the salt.
Yellow lens – a sunrise lens allows 30% light through making it ideal for low light and overcast conditions. Although not great in super bright light, most sunrise lenses have a silver mirror which helps take care of that issue. Although not common, certain guides in the Seychelles have switched to using only these lenses. It wouldn’t be our first choice in a lens, however, its definitely the best ‘other lens’ option.
Polycarb vs Glass
Lastly, there’s the age-old argument of polycarbonate lenses vs glass lenses. Both have their merits, and we use both, so here are the pro’s and con’s, you can decide what will be best for you:
Clarity – glass is almost two times clearer than Polycarb (plastic) which as you can imagine, is a huge advantage when sight fishing specifically.
Scratch resistance – according to smith, their glass lenses are 12 times more scratch resistant than plastic, glass is definitely the winner here, but with that comes an issue.
Weight – glass lenses are considerably heavier than plastic, so if you’re on the water all day, you’ll start feeling it in the afternoon.
Weight – there isn’t much more to say here, but many anglers opt for plastic because it is more comfortable.
Price – plastic lens glasses are usually notably cheaper than glass.
There are convincing arguments for both glass and Polycarb, either way, the most important thing is in our opinion is firstly the lens you choose. If you’re fishing with a black lens on the Cape Streams, you’re not going to spot fish as well as your mate using an amber lens.
Secondly, if your glasses don’t fit, you’ll forever be adjusting them, and that goes for brands that aren’t ‘fishing’ glasses. You may look like you just walked out of Top Gun, but we’d rather be able to see the fish.
Lastly, everything above mentioned is talking about high-end sunglasses, unfortunately you simply will not get quality of Smith (review here), Costa, or Maui, in a grocery store or petrol station. At the end of the day it’s an investment, so we’d suggest getting the best you can.