Trouts Journal

Why Polarized Sunglasses Are The Most Important Piece of Gear You Own*

Ivan Orsic / Jan 31, 2018

If you've fished for any period of time or you're just getting into the sport, at some point you've probably encountered the following statement:

Polarized Sunglasses are the most important piece of gear you should have as a fly fisherman.

If you're anything like me when I was first getting into the sport, I completely ignored that statement and focused on the rod, reel, line, waders, bag, and fly boxes. I focused on all the pieces of gear that were new and shiny to me. Why? Sunglasses exist in the non-fly fishing world. Surely, my old Ray Ban's would work just fine. A couple months later, after I bought my rod, reel, line, pack, tippet, flies, leaders, and various doo-dads, I picked up a pair of polarized sunglasses off a bargain website. The coverage was minimal, the lens color wasn't appropriate, and they hurt my head.

Fast forward a decade and I'll come out and say it, I was wrong and the old saying is right. However, I would like to amend the original statement a little bit because you obviously can't catch a fish just a pair of sunglasses.

*Save your Fly Rod, Fly Reel, and Fly Line, Polarized Sunglasses are the most important piece of gear you'll ever own.

There is a good reason that I'm writing this blog because this past weekend, I fished two full days without polarized sunglasses. I don't remember the last time I'd made that mistake. Big surprise, fishing was noticeably harder and so was wading. I was wading blind, hopeful that my next step wouldn't result in me taking an icy plunge into the South Platte.

Our eyes are the most important collector of valuable information when out on the water. We process so many pieces of information when on the water. Fishing on technical tailwaters like the Dream Stream and Deckers without polarized sunglasses felt like I showed up with a knife at a gunfight. Beyond the fact that I couldn't see individual fish, I couldn't see underwater features. I couldn't see small buckets or depressions. I couldn't gage depth or see underwater boulders or large woody debris. I couldn't see anything. Fishing blind was much harder than I expected. While I was able to catch a few fish, it was a struggle and a grind. I've never missed a piece of gear more than I missed my sunglasses this past weekend.

These trials and tribulations got me thinking about why you should invest in a quality pair of polarized sunglasses and what you should look for in your next pair. To start, (1) polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays, errant hooks, weights, and other objects that might temporarily or permanently damage your vision. (2) A quality pair of polarized sunglasses will reduce the amount of surface glare that you see over the course of the day. This has two benefits: (a) You won't spend your day squinting and your eyes won't tire quickly on the water and (b) With the reduced glare, you have a better opportunity to see fish and underwater structure, which leads to more and more success on the water.

So, what should you look for in a pair of Polarized Sunglasses? There are four features to take into consideration: (1) Lens Color, (2) Lens Material, (3) Fit, and (4) Coverage.


Lens color, in my humble opinion, is the most important factor when choosing a pair of sunglasses. Trouts exclusively carries polarized sunglasses from Costa Del Mar. Costa currently offers 7 different lens colors including Blue Mirror, Green Mirror, Gray Silver Mirror, Copper Silver Mirror, Gray, Copper, and Sunrise Silver Mirror, each designed for use in specific lighting and environmental conditions.

graphic courtesy of Costa.

Lens colors for TROUT FISHING...and Flats Fishing

The best all-purpose lens colors for fly fishing for trout are Costa's Copper, Copper Silver Mirror, and Green Mirror lenses. The Copper lens is the most versatile lens and performs well on both sunny and cloudy days and is an excellent lens for sight fishing. The Copper Silver Mirror lens is also super versatile and thrives in a stream environment. The Green Mirror lens is best suited for super bright, sunny days where there are high contrast lighting conditions. It should be mentioned that the mirrored lenses have the added benefit of reducing glare. The mirrored lens won't perform as well in a low-contrast situation. In Colorado, we are blessed with more sunny days than we can count, so a mirrored lens is definitely worth a look.

If you are fishing at sunrise, sunset or very low lighting conditions, Costa's Sunrise Silver Mirror is the perfect lens. These lenses let in a great deal of light (30% light transmission compared to the 10 to 12% let in by the Copper, Copper Silver Mirror, and Green Mirror lenses) and allow the angler to reduce glare and still "see through" the water during instances of low-light. This is a big deal. Some of the best fishing can happen during these low-light conditions and to have a tool like the new Sunrise lenses on your side is a huge advantage for any angler.

If you are looking to fish saltwater flats, these same lens colors are preferable for the flats. Mirrored lenses are generally preferred on the flats to help with the additional reduction of glare.

Lens Colors for OFFSHORE

The best lens color for offshore fishing and boating is Costa's Blue Mirror. With a gray base, this lens is best suited for open reflective water and harsh sun.



Pros: Glass lenses provide the best clarity and are the most resistant lens material to scratching.

Cons: Glass lenses are heavier than plastic, aren't as impact resistant as Plastic lenses and tend to be more expensive.


Pros: Plastic lenses are the most lightweight and most impact resistant material.

Cons: Plastic lenses tend to scratch easier than glass lenses.


This should be a no-brainer, but if the glasses don't fit you won't wear them and what's the use in a pair of polarized sunglasses that you don't wear. You'll be wearing these glasses for the whole day, so find a pair that fits your face and won't annoy you a half-hour into the day.


Obviously, comfort plays a huge role, but coverage by the frame itself can reduce the amount of sunlight that hits your eyes. I prefer a frame that wraps around my face and prevents light leaking in the side of the frame.

We certainly hope that you found this helpful. If you have any questions about polarized sunglasses feel free to swing by the shop, call us at 303-733-1434, or shoot me an email at ivan(at)

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