Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gear Review - A Lesson In Lenses

As preparations for last summer's trip to Beaver Island were coming together, I spent some time on the Costa website trying to figure out what the best lens would be for the flats style angling that I would be doing on the trip.  I ended up getting a pair of Double Haul frames with 580G Green Mirror lenses and packed them in the gear bag along with a backup pair of sunglasses with amber lenses, just in case there was an accident.

Fast forward to the first day out looking for carp on Beaver Island, and conditions were all but perfect as Steve Martinez motored out of the harbor and to the barrier island flats.  We had a day of full sun, carp moving into the shallow water to feed and soak in the warm water, and very little wind to screw up my mediocre casting.  I didn't realize it until I was in the boat that in my excitement to get out the door, I had accidentally grabbed the backup pair of sunglasses instead of the new green mirror lenses.

I was thinking "Damn... big deal.  I'm sure these lenses will be fine." but when Steve (who has tremendous "fish eyes") stood atop his cooler and started calling out a carp over here and a carp over there, I was able to make out a dark shape from time to time under the waves, but was having a hard time calling the head from the tail when getting ready to make a cast.  This might not seem like a big deal, but when flats fishing for carp (along with a long list of other species), your first shot is your best shot and really it might be your only shot.  You've got to make that first cast count.  All the pieces came together and I ended up catching several carp over the course of the day but I really relied on Steve to tell me exactly where to put the fly.       

The next day was very similar to the first with excellent conditions but with a bit more wind.  I made sure that I had grabbed the right pair of sunglasses and when Steve called out a cruiser over there or one up on it's nose farther out, I had a much easier time seeing the carp and visualizing the orientation of the fish as well.  Being able to call back to Steve that the carp we were both looking at was nose down to the left or the head of that sun bathing carp was facing right, made a ton of difference throughout the day.  I was a lot more confident in where to try to place my fly when casting.   

Halfway through the day Steve casually mentioned that I seemed to be seeing the carp much better than the day before and I agreed.  I would have never thought that a lens color would have made so much of a difference but they clearly did.  Lesson learned.  I still blew a lot of shots but seeing where to cast instead of approaching it blind was still better than the day prior.

Just a few weeks ago and I was again on Beaver Island, however the weather conditions were a lot different on this trip with gray days, fog, and rain.  I ended up wearing a pair of Corbina frames with the Sunrise 580P lenses almost everyday I was there.  This is a specialty high contrast lens that I have been wearing a lot since last fall and they are very useful for early mornings, evenings, and on flat gray days with little or no sun.  This trip was completely different than the last two and I was glad to have the Sunrise lenses along as they saved the day. 

I realize that purchasing a half dozen different pairs of sunglasses with every lens type available is not an option when we're talking $100 to $250 a pair but I want to mention these few ideas.

First, having one pair of premium sunglasses with lenses that match the conditions that you fish most is very important.  A good pair of sunglasses will allow you to see fish that you haven't seen before.  There is a noticed difference between a good pair of sunglasses over the cheapees on the rack beside the register at your local fly shop.  I know a lot of guys who are nervous about spending that much on a pair of sunglasses, since they've had a history of breaking or losing previous pairs of sunglasses, but I'm proof that if you make the investment on a pair of sunglasses that you'll remember to put them in their protective case and in a safe spot every time they are not on your face.   

Second, adding a second pair of sunglasses with high contrast lens, such as the Sunrise lens, can be more useful than you might at first realize.  You'll start and end the day with this pair of sunglasses and you might even wear them all day long on limited sun days.  I've gotten so that even on days that are a mix of sun and clouds that they are completely fine to wear instead of switching back and forth between a second pair.  I'll never not have a pair of them in my gear bag as these lenses literally turn the lights on above and below the water allowing for much better vision and are needed for eye protection as well when flies are flying past your face.    

Third, if you are planning for a big trip, especially where sight fishing is involved, it's very possible that your time on the water will be that much better if you have the correct lens for seeing the fish.  There are few things as frustrating as when the guide can see a fish, and is excitedly calling it out, and you're standing at the front of the boat saying "Where? Where?" as you get ready to cast blindly.

In this case, seeing is believing.    

Want to know more about the lenses in your sunglasses and what makes them work?  Give a listen to a recent Itinerant Angler podcast where Zach Matthews interviews Ed Moody of Costa Sunglasses.  Of course a lot of the talk in the interview speaks specifically to the technology and lenses that Costa uses in their sunglasses but there is a lot of general information as well that you might find helpful in choosing your next pair of sunglasses.

All the sunglasses that were a part of this review were made by Costa and were either provided for demo and review or purchased at full price on my own dime.

Check out the Costa website to see the wide array of styles but even more importantly the lenses that they offer.  The Lens Color Selector page is very helpful in determining which lenses color might be the best for you and the fishing that you do.


Lance Milks said...

Hey Cameron, I always preach about how important lens color is. I wear Natives (same company as Costa) and have there new N3 lens in copper. I cant tell you how many times I've been guiding and can easily see fish that my clients can't. Even though they are wearing even more expensive glasses. All of the crew that I fish with regularly have switched to Natives as well. Great write up.

Lance Milks said...

Oh, and to your point about not buying a bunch of different glasses. You can get extra lenses for Natives since they are made so you can switch them out.

Malcolm said...

+1 on Zach's podcast. One of his best.