Reel Time: Polarized glasses

Reel Time: Polarized glasses
Amphibia sunglasses include flotation cells that prevent glasses from being lost overboard. - Submitted

Polarized sunglasses are essential for serious anglers. They serve multiple purposes including protecting the eyes from damaging UV light, cutting the surface glare and keeping eyes from tearing in the wind while running. Enhancing the visibility below the waters’ surface is an indispensable advantage when looking for signs of fish while sight fishing.

Many anglers choose their glasses according to style, not realizing that the color of the lenses and other factors determine their real effectiveness. Color is important, but it’s just one of the choices that you will need to make to get the most from your sunglasses.
After choosing a frame that’s comfortable and fits your face, lens color is the most important component.

Anglers who fish blue water and spend long hours over the open sea generally prefer grey lenses. Grey provides natural contrast and minimizes color distortion in offshore waters. Brown/amber lenses are the common choice for flats fishermen who sight fish in shallow water. Brown/amber lenses offer a brighter field of vision, better visual acuity, and excellent color contrast. Many dedicated anglers own more than one pair of glasses. The color vermillion and light copper heighten visual acuity and enhance color in low and flat lighting conditions. When the sun is out and bright, they switch to the darker grey, brown or amber lens. Anglers also have the option of choosing sunglasses that feature interchangeable lenses.

The reduction of glare has another beneficial component. The eye functions like a camera and must adjust to varying light levels. On a bright day, the pupil constricts, muting light levels. Polarized lenses help eliminate reflected glare, so the remaining light falls in a much narrower range of intensity. The eyes can then relax, allowing greater depth perception and truer color contrast.

When choosing polarized glasses you have a number of options: cheap versus expensive, glass versus (polycarbonate) plastic, cast versus laminated polarized lenses and color. The lowest quality glasses are the so-called “rack glasses,” the kind you find in the local pharmacy. These are better than no sunglasses, but you should buy the best pair you can afford. As a rule, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses are expensive but they’re well worth the money.

One of the major decisions is choosing glass or polycarbonate (an advanced plastic) lenses. Glass lenses provide better visual acuity (clarity) than plastic and are more scratch-resistant. However, glass lenses are heavier and can fatigue the ears and nose after many hours. If you purchase glass lenses make sure you buy a quality pair with a broad, comfortable nose piece.

Whether you choose glass or plastic lenses, your primary considerations will be frame style and lens color. Choose a frame that is comfortable and one that helps block out extraneous light. Some glasses wrap around the side of the face, while others have separate side shields.

Several of the top manufacturers of sunglasses feature technologies that further increase the effectiveness of polarized lenses. Some offer photochromic lenses that lighten or darken as light levels vary during the day. Lens coatings are another consideration. High-quality sunglasses often come with some type of coating. Hydrophobic coatings repel water so that the occasional water droplet doesn’t affect your vision. Lenses may also be coated with a chemical to make it fog proof. These options can be particularly valuable for humid environments. Some brands also include flotation assuring the glass will float, a good option for your considerable investment.

If you wear prescription lenses with or without bifocals, make sure your sunglasses have them too. Trying to tie on a lure or fly after gazing at the water for a long time can be frustrating and put you at a distinct disadvantage. You can get prescription lenses with bifocals in both glass and polycarbonate.

When you choose a pair of polarized glasses, follow the guidelines above while experimenting to find the color that works best in your fishing situation. By choosing a quality product with the proper color you’ll greatly expand your fishing horizon while protecting your most valuable asset, your vision.

Some of the more popular brands you might want to consider are made by Smith Optics, Costa Del Mar and Amphibia. Choose your sunglasses carefully; they’re one of the angler’s most valuable tools!

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