Sunglass selection can be a touchy subject for many, as sunglasses are such a personal choice.  We aren’t going to tell you what style, brand or model to buy, but rather give some insight and suggestions on lens color and functionality.

One of the most important pieces of equipment for any fly fisherman is their sunglasses. One of the few risks involved in fly fishing is getting a wayward hook into the eye. Wearing sunglasses whenever fishing, or even casting on the lawn, will help mitigate a serious eye injury.

Sunglasses will also protect your eyes from harmful rays from the sun. The best sunglasses for fishing feature polarized lenses. Polarized lenses are treated with a chemical that filters out light. The filter is applied vertically, so vertical light can pass through, but horizontal light cannot. The lenses block all the horizontal light waves bouncing off the surface of the water allowing you to see under the surface. It’s weird science, but it works!

Chart showing how polarization works on sunglasses

Additionally, polarization helps you not only spot fish, but also allows you to see underwater hazards like a rock ledge, stump, boulder or hole. Polarized lenses can come in a variety of different shades and colors.  If you are going to have one set of fishing shades, lenses in brown, amber, or copper will cover the broadest range of light situations. Other options include yellow and gray; yellow lenses are best for low-light situations, while gray lenses are the best for seeing true colors which can be especially useful in blue water fishing.

“I’d rather forget my fly rod on a trip than my sunglasses” – Mel Kreiger

Lens Color

Lens Options:
“Whether you’re traveling across the country or to the local river, it never feels good to get to the ramp and realize you have the wrong gear. I’ve been wearing a mixture of green mirror and the sunrise silver (yellow) mirrored lenses depending on the light conditions. I recently received a pair of Costa’s new Rose Gold lenses to give me more versatility in any light condition, and look forward to putting them to the test. Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve used my lenses, and the different options available for your next pair!”Jordan Taylor

Jordan Taylor (JT) wearing sunglasses while fly fishing

Blue and green mirrored lenses will block the most light with only 10% light transmission making them great for full sun days. Blue mirrors are best used for bright days on open water where the green mirrors are better utilized for sight fishing in the flats, rivers/streams, and shallow lakes.

  • Copper Green
    • Copper Tint
    • 10% Light Transmission
    • 100% Polarized
    • Bright sight fishing for full sun
  • Blue
    • Grey Tint
    • 10% Light Transmission
    • 100% Polarized
    • Open water non sight fishing

The Sunrise Silver (yellow) lens compliments either of those lenses with 27% light transmission. Living in Northern California we are no stranger to the sun which makes you think this lens isn’t necessary, but I have been pleasantly surprised with how much I use them. They have been an easy option on overcast days, and perfect for any morning/evening even on the sunniest summer days.

  • Sunrise Silver
    • Yellow Tint
    • 27% Light Transmission
    • 80% Polarized
    • Low light conditions
    • Specialty lens

Costa’s new Rose Gold lens offers the most versatility with a light transmission of 14% to bridge the gap between the darker mirrored lenses, and lighter yellow lens options. Our local guides helped develop the brightness of them to find the best balance of shading from our bright summer sun, without having to take them off and fish unprotected for the first and last hour of light.

  • Gold/Rose
    • 14% Light Transmission
    • 100% Polarized
    • Most versatile lens available
    • Going to be the best Trout lens EVER!

Copper Silver has always been a staple for versatility with 12% light transmission to cut the glare on sunny days, while giving you a warm viewing experience on cloudy days. My coworker Shannon has Type 1 diabetes which has caused him to be very sensitive to light, and he’s been wearing this color for years. I’ve never seen him outside any time the sun is around without them on. They allow him to see clearly when driving to his favorite spots, and most importantly giving him the edge to spot fish trying to disguise themselves from us under water.

  • Copper Silver
    • Copper Tint
    • 12% Light Transmission
    • 100% Polarized
    • All around sight fishing
    • Most versatile sight fishing lens

The Grey Silver mirrored glasses are a great option for any of your non fishing activities. They offer a cool viewing experience with minimal color distortion. When driving in high sun situations the Grey Silver mirror will reduce glare from your hood or other vehicles to minimize eye strain and get you to your destination safely.

  • Grey Silver
    • 12% Light Transmission
    • 100% Polarized
    • Driving/Lifestyle/Non Fishing

Lens Material:
There are basically two options, glass or polycarbonate (plastic). Some people prefer the lightness in weight they get from polycarbonate lenses, but you have to be extremely careful not to scratch them. One grain of sand or debris and using your shirt or lens cloth to clean them, and they are ruined, permanently. Many of us here, even though they are a bit heavier, prefer the glass option for our lenses. Glass is more durable in the long run and you won’t have to be as concerned about scratches on your lenses – longer lifespan.

Mirroring is also a great feature on sunglasses that you are going to use stalking tailer’s. Mirrored lenses cut down extreme glare common on the flats. While not as important for many freshwater applications, you will appreciate mirrored lenses on a bright sunny day in the Caribbean.

Angler wearing mirrored sunglasses

Frame Choice & Fit:
“Frame choice is a very personal decision. Everyone’s face is shaped differently. Frames that I love might slip right off of your face, and frames that you love might put huge pressure behind my ears! You want to get a frame that fits YOU perfectly, something that fits snuggly and is stable on your face, but doesn’t pinch the bridge of your nose, or put pressure behind or over the ears. You also want to make sure you are not getting a lot of direct light coming around the frame into your eyes – called “light leakage”. Get a pair that wraps a little better and keeps out stray light. You definitely need some air flow, though, so they are not constantly steaming up. You also do not want to have a bunch of the frame visible to your own eyes when wearing them. This is very distracting, and restricts your view. Try on a bunch of different frames until you find the right one for you.”

“The options are endless and finding the perfect pair is a lifelong hunt, just like flats fishing itself… Costa Del Mar, Smith, Bajio, Oakley, Maui Jim, and Breakline, among others, all make fantastic high-end sunglasses for angling. I have fished with most of them and, at the moment, my favorites are Costa Del Mar 580g Green Mirror lenses on Reefton frames. Comfortable, durable and I can tell what color a permit’s eyes are at 100 yards. Give us a shout and let us help find the perfect pair of x-ray goggles for you, too!”   – Justin Miller

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