My business card proudly proclaims me “a fly fishing consultant,” with my world headquarters a post office box. As a consultant, I am happy to sell or give my opinion about anything to do with fly fishing to anybody wanting it.
I recently received an email from a friend asking my opinion about polarized sunglasses and what he might purchase. Having worn polarized sunglasses for more than 50 years, I figured this would be an easy opinion to give. However, after doing some research, I found more than I ever wanted to know about polarized sunglasses.
My initial research took me to the reliable sources of Safari and Wikipedia. Those two provided 687,000 results. More than I had time to review. So I culled the best and have the following to report.
The process to polarize glass was invented by Edwin Land in 1929. And his company, Polaroid Day Glasses, produced the first pair of polaroid sunglasses in 1937. So why all the fuss about a pair of sunglasses? This new process made it possible to see through the glare on the water and magically see the fish below. Sounds simple, but it is lot more complicated. Light waves from the sun travel in all directions. When the light waves intersect with a horizontal surface, the light is reflected toward you in a horizontal plane. This creates lots of glare and makes it hard to see. According to the information I found on the internet, “By using a sheet of vertical polarizing material, the horizontally-polarized component can be significantly attenuated, reducing the overall light level reaching the eye. This improves contrast, and thus perception of the scene.”
In simpler terms, the polarized material is attached to the lens vertically, thus negating the horizontal glare coming off the water.
My research also found out that the time of day you are wearing your polarized glasses can effect how well you see the fish. The experts say, “Maximum polarization is obtained when the sun is at about 37 degrees from the horizon (in theory 100 percent polarization at the Brewster angle.)” All this information, and all my friend wanted to know was who I thought was a good frame and lens manufacturer, and what color lenses should he get. (Lens color is a whole other column.)
If you are fortunate enough not to have had a visit from the eye fairy presenting you with a prescription for seeing, choosing polarized sun glasses is fairly simple. I suggest you go to your nearest fly fishing shop and visit with them. Let them know where you fish, i.e. salt or fresh water, how many days a week you’re on the water, and if this will be your only pair of sunglasses. Also, have a budget in mind. You can spend anywhere from $10.00 to a $1,000. Try on everything in your price range and pick the pair that fits best, not looks best.
If like me, the eye fairy comes around every couple of years, the rules of selection change. I wear bifocals, so polarized glasses with a magnifier in the bottom won’t work. For this situation, you’ll need to go to an optical store and have a polarized prescription filled. Shop around, you will be surprised at the difference in prices of frames and lenses. However, don’t buy just because of price. Find out from the optician where the lenses are manufactured and how long they have been in business. You might even ask, “are these polycarbonate lens with brinephobic coating on the outside of the lens and optical grade anti-reflective backdating inside?” That came from an Orvis catalog.
Another option, if you like the regular glasses you wear, is get some type of clip-on or fit-over. A number of my fly fishing friends do this. But, like everyone else, they have to buy a quality product and not something from the five and dime. Remember, these are your eyes, so take care of them.
Once you have purchased a new pair of polarized glasses, you need to buy one more item. Get a strap to keep that new pair of expensive glasses from falling off your face and lost in deep water.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.