Sunglasses, lens colors & fishspotting

Polarized sunglasses are an important tool for a fly angler. The polarized lenses cuts down surface reflections, significantly reducing glare and the eye fatigue resulting from it. It increases visual acuity and enhance visual performance, which improves contrast and sharpness in your vision. It is very useful when you are fishing and will help you spot a following fish, and gives you a better overview of what’s below the surface. But when it comes to lens color, which ones to choose for different weather conditions and fishing applications?

Words by Henrik Larsson. Images by HL, Martin Christensson & Alvaro G Santillan.

Martin Christensson releasing a good Acklins bonefish.

One of the most obvious fishing applications where it is vital to see below the surface is when you are stalking fish, often called sight fishing. This means that you search the water for visual contact with the fish before you make the actual cast. Some classic sight fishing scenarios is the clear trout rivers of New Zeeland or the vast bonefish flats of the Caribbean. One important thing before even discussing frame color is to find a frame that fits your head and face. The key factor is to choose a frame that blocks light entering from the sides. If that happens you will get light bouncing off the inner side of the lens, and give a milky, gloomy effect. Our Guideline polarized sunglasses do have a non-glare coating on the inside, but a well fitting frame will always give an advantage. So for this matter our models with a more wrap-around frame like Experience, Ambush and Tactical will block sidelight better.

The Guideline Tactical sunglasses is an example of frames with a clear curvature/wrap and large temples to block light entering from the sides.

Next thing is to block out direct sunlight shining onto the front of the lens. No matter make or brand of polarized sunglasses, a cap or hat with a brim will improve visibility significantly. And if you look at our newest caps they have a dark, matte brim underside, to cut out disturbing reflections even better. As you may have seen many of our models have a Mirror Revo coating in different colors. The of course give some really nice asthethics to the different models, but they also bounce reflected light away from the eye, and deliver better contrast and color while enhancing visual acuity.

A cap with a brim with dark underside is a good option, and for hot days a technical, moisture wicking material is perfect.

In the range of Guideline sunglasses we have 5 different lens colors, and to be honest it is hard to find one lens color that fits all light situations a fly angler can encounter. And if we also look at personal preferences there are even more choices. But let`s check them one by one.

  • GREY
    A grey lens is well suited for fishing in daylight / strong sun as this is the color that blocks the light most effectively of our sunglasses. The grey color is neutral and gives true colors with no distorsion, and they are a good pick for an allround lens for many applications in strong sunlight.
    A green-gray lens is well suited for daytime fishing with good light, since this color combination provides good contrasts in the landscape and better contrasts in the water than a pure gray lens. Like the neutral grey lenses they are a good pick for an allround lens for many applications in strong sunlight.
    The copper lens color is a brown tone with a slight reddish tint. We think this is the top choice for sight fishing applications as the brown/red tone gives an increased contrast to easier spot fish but at the same time is dark enough to be comfortable to use also in bright light conditions.
    The amber lens is a very good all-round color in the brown tone color spectrum that is perfect for fishing in daylight / sunlight, and which also provides the best contrast when you are looking for fish in the water.
    The yellow lens is perfect for fishing in cloudy weather and evening fishing (flat light). With yellow glasses, everything is perceived as clearer and there is more contrast, but they are not the best choice on bright sunny days.
Luck and timing is also a factor when stalking trout in running water. Here the fish is clearly visible when it swings over the dark colored rock, but as soon as it drifts onto the pebbles it will be much harder to see.

There are two main scenarios when you want to find and see fish in the water; when you are stalking/sight fishing or when you want to see if you have a fish following your fly before picking up your line for next cast.

Sight fishing
There are books written about the topic of stalking and casting to fish you see in the water, and it is impossible to cover in a short blog post. But we can at least try to mention the most basic and important aspects of sight fishing, and kind of the same rules apply for both running water, lakes and flats.

Nr # One – use a pair of well fitting polarized sunglasses and use a brimmed cap/hat to block direct sunlight hitting the lenses.

Nr # Two – the preferred lens color by many sight fishing anglers is in the brown, amber and copper tones simply because they are dark enough to be used on sunny days but they also enhance contrast and reveal shadows and contours down in the water column.

Nr # Three – walk slow. No matter if you walk a small stream in Fiordlands or a flat on South Andros, walk slow and take your time to scan the water in a relaxed manner, and let your eyes kind of wander and scan without looking at something special. And if the sighting conditions detoriates due to clouds, wind etc, walk even slower.

Nr # Four – look where you can see. When sight fishing the perfect conditions are clear blue skies, little wind and the sun high up in the sky. But in reality there are many days when you do not have ideal conditions and the spots and windows with good visibility are limited. The strategy then is to focus on those areas and angles where you actually can get some sight.

Nr # Five – contrary from the points above you need to look for fish of course. But it is quite rare that you see the full body of a fish in clear sight, even if it sometimes happens. But in general it is more about looking for fishlike shapes, shadows that do not fit in the surroundings, subtle movements and everything in between. Sight fishing is a game where you need to spend time on the water to learn what to look for. And it is quite cool, because one day you will notice that your eyes and brain will lock onto subjects that often are subtle fish details or movements.

A bonefish slowly cruising the mangrove edge on the high tide.

Spot followers
It’s hard to count all the times when you have fish following your fly all the way into the rod tip and decide to hit the fly just before you lift for the next cast. There are two factors that I think make this happen; at the end of the cast you often speed up the retrieve and bring the fly up through the water and this can trigger the fish to hit the fly. And when the fly reach the shallow beach zone the predator will probably hit it before it can hide in the seagrass and other vegetation. So if you fish the fly all the way in on every cast, I am sure you will get more strikes. To set the hook on such a close encounter is another story…

To spot a follower can be quite difficult, and point 1 and 2 from above applies here also as polarized lenses are a key factor. A follower can of course come all the way from far out, but often they just show up suddenly without any notice. To identify and get your eyes on your fly as far out as possible is therefor important, and when you see the fly aim your relaxed vision just behind the fly. For me it is always easier to see following fish if I have a fly that is clearly visible, e.g a dark fly over light bottom or some colors to make it pop. Of course this is not always possible, but I think it sure helps a lot.

When bad weather and clouds move in the vision into the water deteriorates, and your close-up game with short quick casts will be put to test.

When fly fishing you have a razor-sharp object flying around your head all day long, and just a slight breeze or mistake can bring the hook near your eyes in a blink. So take this seriously; always wear a pair of glasses when you are fly fishing. One day it may save your eyesight. Secondly; all our sunglasses offer UV 400 Protection Coating that blocks 100% of the harmful UVA & UVB rays. There is also a safety aspect when it comes to wading; as the polarized lenses let you see where you put your feet on slippery rocks it can prevent you from taking a cold dip.

A sight that can give the most experienced angler the Shaky Knee Syndrome.

All Guideline sunglasses have a UV400 Protective Coating in the lenses that blocks 100% of harmful UVA & UVB rays. Polarized lenses cuts down surface reflections and significantly reducing glare and therefor makes it much easier to see fish in the water. This is very important during sight fishing in clear water rivers or on tropical flats, but it is equally important to be able to monitor any fish following our fly before picking up the line. Polarization also reduce eye fatigue and increases visual accuracy and enhance visual performance.



Guideline EXPERIENCE polarized sunglasses – 3 different versions.

In this image: Guideline Experience polarized sunglasses with a matte black polycarbonate frame with Navy dark blue rubber details. Grey polarized NYLON lens with Blue Revo mirror coating.

Guideline LPX polarized sunglasses – 2 different versions

In this image: Guideline LPX polarized sunglasses with matte black TR90 frame and Red rubber details. Amber polarized TAC lens with Red Revo mirror coating.

Guideline AMBUSH polarized sunglasses – 2 different versions

In this image: Guideline Ambush polarized sunglasses with matte black polycarbonate frame. Grey polarized NYLON lens with +3.0 MAGNIFIER area.

Guideline COASTAL Polarized Sunglasses – 2 different versions

In this image: Guideline Coastal polarized sunglasses with glossy black polycarbonate frame. Grey polarized TAC lens with Green Revo mirror coating.

Guideline TACTICAL Polarized Sunglasses – 3 different versions

In this image: Guideline Tactical polarized sunglasses with matte demi brown polycarbonate frame and side shield. Copper polarized TAC lens.

Below a set of images from the field with our new models of polarized sunglasses.

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