Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fly Fishing & The Importance of Polarized Sunglasses | Essential Gear | Costa Del Mar

Not all sunglasses are made the same. Don't let the cheap knock offs sway you to purchase their products. You'll get what you pay for.

I have been sensitive to sunlight since I was a little kid. I've always worn sunglasses. My parents have pictures of me reading a book on top of a poolside table at my grandparents house in Florida from around 1981 or so when I was 4. I was wearing sunglasses. I got a pair of Oakley Frogskins that I wore throughout the late 80s and early 90's then graduated to the Ray Ban aviators. I had a camp counselor named Frank. He had metallic insect green looking lenses on tortoise shell frames. They were the coolest shades I had ever seen. His set the mark for what I wanted in sunglasses. I kept offering to buy them off of him. He was kicked out of camp for having relations with some female counselors in our bunk while we were asleep. Thats a story for another time. And I can't believe how skinny I used to be! -->

So I've been wearing shades for a long time and thus wore them while fishing as a kid and eventually fly fishing. It was not until May 5 1999 that I put on my first pair of polarized sunglasses. The day before I swore off spin fishing when I caught my first striped bass on a fly rod. I had to stop at the Fredericksburg Sports Authority for some gear while the slack tide on the Rappahannock moved out. I picked up a cheap pair of plastic shades for $4 at the counter and drove the 3 miles back to the river.

I waded out to my favorite rock and awaited the falling tide. The first thing I noticed was the fish around me. I saw herring, shad, lampreys, eels, and striped bass swimming by in the gin clear water. The herring would hang out just below my shins in the slack water and catch their breath before heading upstream. I could not believe what I had been missing all these years. I continued to catch stripers all week until I graduated from college and moved back home.

Polairzed sunglasses are important for:
  • seeing the fish
  • seeing where to step in the river
  • seeing where my boat trailer parts are when taking my boat out
  • seeing the fly and allowing me to tell when to tell the client to 'set the hook' or 'stick-em'
  • seeing where structure is underwater
  • and a plethora of other things that only one figures out when they put on a pair
  • Allows my clients to see the fish, see their flies get eaten, and allow them to have a better fly fishing experience
The Vietnamese guys on the Potomac last spring kept asking how I was able to pull so many snakeheads out of the water with my landing net. I pointed to my polarized sunglasses and said that I could see them. 

A few months later I got a job at Orvis and started to fish for trout a lot. I picked up some yellow polarized lenses from the store and was blown away by the contrast on cloudy and overcast days. I would fish with Tom that winter before taking a sabbatical to Key Largo. The cold and rainy days as an engineer (my other job) were brighter due to my shades.

I picked up a pair of glass-amber polarized lenses before my trip to the keys. I quickly realized down there that a pair of polarized glasses are more important than the fly you use, the rod you have in your hand, or the lousy boss you have standing on the stern with the push pole. Ralf was a character and that was great, he was lousy at fly fishing and had no business running a fly shop. I blame my drought on landing bones and tarpon on his shenanigans. The guy was a pud. Anyway, those 2 months or so spent down there reinforced the importance of polarized glasses.

I fished for another decade and into a new milennium with those glass shades. The lenses eventually fell out and cracked and I picked up a pair or Orvis aviator style with amber lenses. By far the best lenses I had ever worn. I kept those shades on from winter through spring and into summer. I wore them on my drive to and back from my work in Breckenridge. They served me proudly until the lens fell out last spring and cracked -I think it was the same day my Miata was broken into on the river. It was a tough afternoon.

I spent the summer fishing and guiding with some cheap pair from Walmart. They were sharp looking and did ok but got scratched easily. I was in the market for some really good lenses and after reading by JT a fellow alum from Mary Washington (we were in the same dorm freshman year and hadn't seen each other until an Orvis Days in Clarendon in 2009) that I decided to look into Costa Del Mar sunglasses. JT raved about these sunglasses on his twitter, blog, and facebook page. I decided to get a pair.

I got on the Costa website and ordered a pair of Howler with amber glass. The sunglasses which are made in Florida arrived just a few days later. I put them on and it was a revelation. The clarity of everything was friggin brilliant. It was like opening my eyes to an entirely new world. I was recently at a happy hour with friends and Ray Ray put on my pair and said 'holy shit that is fucking clear'. That is all you need to know.

With those sunglasses I was able to clearly see the water, what was in it, where the fish were, and more than that, I felt that my eyes were protected from flying hooks and split shot. As its super humid down here now the sunglasses tend to fog up. I have an old sunglass shammy from Orvis that I keep in my front shirt pocket when working. I quickly wipe them off and can see again.

I went to do the same yesterday on a local tailwater. I had a client husband and wife out. Their son was at summer camp and they had 2 hours to get out. I went to clean them and the lens popped out and my butter fingers let them go as I tried to catch the lens. The lens hit a rock and shattered. I stood their stunned.

It was like someone had taken away my sixth sense of sight. I dug through my bag and grabbed a pair of sunglasses from another company that are reserved for my clients. It was like looking through glasses schmeared with bacon fat. I was bummed.

I guess you can't describe how good a pair of Costa sunglasses are until  you put them on and experience them for yourself. Then imagine someone taking them away. I spent the next half hour with crappy glasses. I went home and filled out the Costa repair form and sent in my shades. The thought of not having them for the next days, weeks even was very upsetting. Probably the most important tool for me as a fly fishing guide is being able to see. I can't do that with confidence now. THW just does not get how much I rely on my shades.

I had to go to a funeral today and went through my cheap shades drawer. The various gas station shades I wear to parties and DC United games. I pulled out my old stand by black shades with silver lenses. They suck.

I came home from the luncheon today and just ordered another pair of Costas. THW is in the other room with her mom, the baby, and dr jones. I won't post this to twitter because she will know I just dropped some duckets on a new pair of shades. I can't throw this up on the facebook cus she'll see it there too. I'll just have to wait for her to the the Visa bill. That or the fact that I'll be wearing the green mirror shades when I normally wear amber lenses.

As I wait for those new sunglasses to arrive in the mail I am going to wear the lousy ones that the other company calls high end. Costa Del Mar RIOMAR (Shiny Tortoise, Green Mirror 580 )

If you are wearing some cheap sunglasses or high end ones that don't perform as Costa's do, do yourself a favor and get a pair of them. There is a reason you see so many anglers wearing them, so many swamp people on tv reality shows wearing them, and commercial fisherman on the food cooking channels. They are the best.

JT, thanks for the help. I owe you one!


thanks for sharing this information, my dad needs some new sunnies for his fishing trips, will send him this link.

thanks was looking for this information, didn't realise that polarized lenses were so important

Have you ever used Costa's plastic lenses?580p or 400p? If so, how do they compare to the glass lenses? I assume the plastic wouldn't shatter like glass, but I'm guessing their clarity isn't quite the same. Thoughts?

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