Mar 16, 2016

How Smith Optics Changed My (fishing) Life!

Those bulges are giant mature tarpon!

I may have a beard like the ZZ-Top boys but I definitely don’t like cheap sunglasses!

Anyone who has spent enough time on the water knows how important it is to see.  Whether it is sight fishing or cutting glare while you’re on the oars or running a power boat, having clear and sharp vision is paramount.  The problem I see is that many anglers treat sunglasses as a side thought, when in reality they can be as important as your rod, reel or line on any given day.   

SMITH OpticsI am not even going to bother talking you into polarized lenses of some sort, because if you fish you must have them!  What I am going to tell you is that Smith Optics has, in my opinion, the superior fishing optics on the market.  Their lenses, particularly the techlite glass lenses are the sharpest, best performing sunglasses I have ever worn.  To preface that statement; I have tried all of the top brands over the years in search of the supreme lens.  You can ask my fishing buddies how many sunglasses I carried in my boat, but I am pretty sure it was up to 5 pairs at one time…  I have tried Costa Del Mar, Maui Jim, Oakley, and Kaenon to name a few.  When I saw what Smith had to offer as they expanded their lineup I knew I had to try them.  Let me say this, after trying some Smiths I sold everything else…  I will try to explain why in the next few paragraphs.

It began on the flats of the Florida Keys targeting migrating adult tarpon as they work their way down the keys and into the Everglades backcountry to spawn.  This was my first big tarpon experience and I was geared up.  No kidding, I brought 4 pairs of sunglasses on that trip.  3 were Costa del Mars (blue mirror, green mirror, and sunrise 580 lenses) and 1 pair were my new Smith’s in polarchromic amber.  Being able to sight the tarpon at distance, especially the migrating fish, is key to any success and after running through my Costas with some difficulty I grabbed my Smith’s.  I had bought the Smiths since wanted a glass lens in a lowlight option as Costa had discontinued the sunrise in glass.  It had been blazing hot and sunny so I had been sticking with the darker lenses, but decided I had to try the Smith’s.  They were unbelievable!  I could see fish 20, 30, 50 feet further than with any of the Costa lenses.  I could much more easily make out which direction the fish were facing and heading. 

Gorge Fly Shop
These are the kind of conditions that Smith Optics show their worth.
Gorge Fly Shop
When the tarpon reach this point it is too late!
I was sold.

The contrast on the Smith polarchromic lenses was astounding in any light condition.  That is where the polarchromic technology really shines.  The lenses have the ability to change their shading based on light conditions.  I won’t bore you with the technical details, which are very cool, but if you want to learn more, browse around in their tech section.

Since that trip, I have been putting my Smiths through the paces of my various fishing exploits:  high mountain lakes, winter and summer steelheading, bassin’ and trout bumming all over.  They have never let me down, and have certainly accounted for many fish for me.  I have since ditched contacts and went to Smith Rx, which I was leery about since most polarized Rx lenses are a compromise on performance or do not come in glass.  I will tell you that there is no compromise with Smith’s Rx lenses!  So if you are in the market for great Rx polarized sunglasses, look no further.   Andrew here at the shop loves to tell the story about when I flipped my pontoon on a small waterfall in a local river and lost my Smith Rx shades and was nearly in tears, which is almost entirely correct.  I was so distraught I went back the next day and snorkeled the freezing river in search of my lost love…  Well, I didn’t get lucky, but let me say that I ordered a new pair the next day and included a set of sunglass retainers… lesson learned the hard way.

Polarchromic Technology
Smith's Polarchromic Technology

Smith has quite a few lens options available (check out George Cook’s breakdown on Smith lenses here), but in my experience, the only ones I would consider for fishing optics are the techlite glass lenses in brown, copper mirror, ignitor or low light ignitor.  Glass lenses are unbeatable when it comes to clarity and scratch resistance, and the saying around the shop is “once you go glass, you never go back to plastic”.    If you were looking for a lens just for eye comfort in very sunny locales and not too worried about sight fishing the brown or copper mirror would be a great choice.  I find the brown lenses a little too dark for sight fishing or lower light conditions.  The better all-round options are the polarchromic copper mirror or ignitor. 

Polarchromic Lenses a must
Polarchromic lenses are a huge asset here, nothing but glare and shadows.

Gorge Fly Shop SMITH Sunglasses case
Stop in and try some on!
I recently invested in a pair with ignitor Rx techlite glass lens.  I wanted a slightly darker lens than the amber for sunny days and driving, and these fit the bill.  The great thing about the ignitor lens is that it allows enough light through to wear in all but the lowest light conditions.  The color of this lens really gives great contrast and makes things pop!  I have worn them from dawn till dusk in all light conditions and they have been awesome.  The ignitor lenses have a lightly mirrored finish that will also help in reflecting glare away from your eyes.  For true low light conditions (dawn, dusk, overcast) and for serious sight fishing, the glass low light ignitor is the boss.  After fishing with these you will wonder how you ever fished without them.  This color polarized lens allows the most light to enter your eyes while still cutting the glare and refraction.  This is why they are so good for sight fishing and overcast conditions and are now my go to lenses for the PNW.  Check out Greg’s review of these lenses here.

The bottom line is this; you need to consider your sunglass optics as part of your gear.  They should be part of your daily planning in as much as your rods, reels, lines and flies are.  You will probably also like to have 2 or more pairs to adequately cover the variety of fishing conditions you will encounter.  Just as fly rods, there isn’t one model that fits all conditions.  At the very least you should have a pair with a medium dark lens (brown, copper mirror, ignitor) and the low light ignitor for dawn, dusk, sight fishing and overcast conditions. 

                                 When you wake up in the morning and the light is hurt your head
                                          The first thing you do when you get up out of bed
                                        Is hit that water a-runnin' and try to beat the masses
                                            And go get yourself some SMITH sunglasses
                                                         Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

Do your self, your eyes, and your fishing a favor and ditch the cheap sunglasses (Sorry ZZ-Top).  Grab some Smith’s (with a retainer) and you will never look back!

The Bearded Pescador
Ryan Van Duzor

Ryan Van Duzor
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist

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