How to Choose the Right Sunglasses for Fishing
By John Kumiski Submitted On January 22, 2012
For some, the process of choosing sunglasses can be difficult and frustrating. For others it is educational, an adventurous experience- searching, reading, inquiring, trying, feeling, fitting, seeing, looking, and finally, choosing. The process does not have to be confusing or overwhelming. If you’re aware of just a few important points you can not only make the process fun, but also insure you will actually choose the glasses that will best suit your needs.
A polarizing lens, essential for fishing and highly desirable for driving, acts something like a microscopic set of blinds, eliminating all wavelengths of light that are not parallel to the lines of the filter within the lens. By doing so they eliminate glare, making it possible to see into the water, and reduce eyestrain on the wearer.
It is essential to understand what the “right” glasses are. Simply put, the best sunglasses are the ones that you will actually want to wear when outdoors.
Drew Simmons of Smith Optics says, “Choosing the right glasses comes down to three things- fit, lens color and material, and frame style and color.”
Fit and comfort are crucial. Take time to try on sunglasses and consider how they feel. They should be comfortable and secure. If you’re a fisherman they should eliminate most light that might come in from around the periphery of the frame. They should not be sliding down your nose, pinching your temples, or hurting your ears. A high performance polarizing lens does not protect you if it’s not on your face. Your glasses should fit so well that you forget they are there.
Lenses present a more complex topic. First of all, lenses are made of either glass or one of two types of plastic. Optical quality glass lenses provide the clearest vision because they are ground and polished like a fine camera lens, so the surface of the lenses are free of any imperfections. Optical-quality glass sunglass lenses are chemically or heat treated to make them impact-resistant. While glass is heavier than plastic, it keeps its shape when heat is applied. This means that glass lenses will do better than plastic if accidentally left on a dashboard in hot afternoon sun. Glass is more scratch-resistant than plastic. However, glass lenses are not shatterproof. If you hit yourself in the face with a jig those glasses could break, with predictably ugly results.
The two types of plastic used in quality eyewear are CR-39 and polycarbonate. The CR-39 is an optical quality plastic made of hard resin. It’s generally considered the best, and is the most common plastic used for sunglass lenses. It weighs half as much as glass, which means it is not heavy on the face. It exceeds requirements for impact-resistance because of its molecular structure.
Compared to CR-39 and glass, polycarbonate plastic weighs the least and is the most impact-resistant. Polycarbonate is a great choice for those individuals who want really rugged sunglasses, including people who engage in outdoor activities and fast-action sports. Polycarbonate is widely used, and is considered the second most common optical plastic. One drawback is an increased susceptibility to scratching and abrasion, but with a hard-coat applied its scratch-resistance is similar to that of CR-39.
Next we must consider lens colors. Let us attempt to simplify this topic by stating (somewhat arbitrarily) that there are four basic colors of the polarizing lenses that you look through (I’m not talking about the mirror on the outside of the lens here): dark brown, light brown, green, and gray. Some companies have vermilion, copper, amber, and other colors. They are simply variations of our basic four.
Fishermen never want a green lens. They don’t provide enough contrast under any conditions for spotting fish. Dark brown is best for inshore fishing in bright sunlight. Light brown (or amber) lenses are best for inshore fishing in dim light or under overcast conditions.
Offshore anglers prefer gray lenses, which eliminate much of the blue color of the water and let fish “pop.” If you can, you should have three different pairs of glasses with all three lens colors so you’re ready for any conditions. Otherwise pick the color that works best in the conditions under which you normally fish. I wear only dark brown lenses, since my prescription lenses dramatically increase the cost of my glasses.
Some companies now offer photochromic lenses that get darker or lighter in response to the intensity of the light hitting them. While these cost more, they make a single pair of glasses more versatile, and may be a better value than two different pairs of glasses.
You make a fashion statement with your frame style and color. While these don’t directly affect the performance of the glasses (except for helping the fit), they do affect how often you’ll wear the glasses. How we see ourselves and how we seek to enhance our appearance is for many the most important factor in maximizing actual use. Take the time to find frames that you really like.
Don’t get distracted by comparing UV performance claims. Any quality pair of sunglasses will have more than adequate UV blockage.
Unfortunately good sunglasses aren’t cheap. A decent pair will cost at least $50.00 and really good ones are $100 and up. But God only gave you one pair of eyes. I know a man who got a skin cancer on his cornea. He lost the eye. That makes the $100 seem quite reasonable.
The enormous variety of sunglasses available is what allows you to find the best sunglasses for you. Use this to your advantage to find that perfect pair of sunglasses, the ones you’ll always wear when out of doors.
In addition to guiding fly and light tackle anglers around the nether reaches of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon by skiff, canoe, and kayak, John Kumiski also writes books, free-lance magazine articles, and indulges in photography.
His three most recent books include one about his beloved Space Coast area, titled appropriately enough, Fishing Florida’s Space Coast, another is the very popular Flyrodding Florida Salt, and the newest is called Redfish on the Fly- A Comprehensive Guide. This title won a first place award in the best book category in the Florida Outdoor Writers Association’s Excellence in Craft Contest.
John lives in Chuluota, Florida. Purchase his books and charter services via his website, http://www.spottedtail.com.
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