The answer to this is very simple – yes they are! We never fish without them.
But good quality polarized sunglasses are not cheap and we know some readers will take more convincing, so we’ve come up with six reasons why polarized lenses are worth it.
They offer UV protection along with the benefits of reducing glare, and in our view the extra cost of polarized lenses is a small price to pay for UV protection, outstanding sight fishing performance and protection from glare in a range of scenarios such as snow skiing, driving, boating and more.
1.You need to remove glare for sight fishing
Sight fishing – whether it is on the flats in the saltwater or in a trout stream or lake – is our favourite form of fishing.
There is something special about seeing your quarry, stalking the fish, casting to it and watching it eat that sticks in your memory far more than all the fish you’ve caught fishing blind.
In sight fishing, glare is the enemy and the best you can do to combat it is to use polarized fishing sunglasses. Believe me, they make a huge difference.
Having polarized lenses is essential for much of the fishing that we do and we wouldn’t leave home without them in certain fishing situations.
2.Normal sunglasses don’t cut glare
While non-polarized sunglasses do help your eyes by reducing the amount of light that reaches them, they do nothing to filter out that light to reduce or eliminate glare. Only polarized sunglasses can perform this function of reducing glare.
3.You only get one set of eyes
The benefits of wearing polarized sunglasses go beyond improving your vision – they are also great for protecting your eyes.
As well as reducing the amount of light reaching your eyes, polarized sunglasses eliminate the glare reflected by shiny reflective surfaces.
It’s the same principle involved in their ability to allow you to cut through the mirrored surface of a lake – by filtering out the horizontal light waves. What the human eye perceives as glare is light with a horizontal waveform. A polarized coating on a lens operates like a inverted venetian blind filtering out the horizontal light while allowing the vertically aligned waves of light to pass through. This is why you can tell if a lens is polarized or not by tilting your head to the left or right.
Think about all the times you cop an eyeful of glare or bright light on a sunny day – it could be reflected off a car bonnet, a sign, a table at lunch. Anything shiny. If you are wearing polarized sunglasses all this annoying light is filtered out protecting your eyes from the strain of dealing with glare.
4.They are great even when you can’t sight fish
All water sports -fishing included – feature situations where sun glare is a major factor. Now we’ve discussed why removing the glare is vital for sight fishing, but it is also important for reducing eye strain.
We still wear our polarized sunglasses as the sun is setting if we are looking into the sun. Are polarized sunglasses worth it in this situation? You bet. The sun’s too low and the glare too strong for us to be able to sight fish, but it still makes sense to wear the polarized lenses to protect your eyes.
Snow, sunny days, bright conditions, intense sunlight and any environment with reflected light is better handled by your eyes when you wear polarized sunglasses. The only exception would be if your polarized sunglasses are specialist low light models that are designed for overcast conditions.
5.Polarized glasses are great for driving
Driving, too, is an environment where you are confronted with a lot of reflective surfaces – road sites, concrete, buildings, other vehicles, they all reflect glare into your eyes. Regular lenses can’t really prevent this.
When you wear polarized sunglasses, this is no longer an issue and you can arrive at your destination without eye strain and fatigue even if you’ve been through some high glare situations such as driving into the sun.
6.Yes, polarized lenses cost more but they’ll save you in the long run
7.They come in a wide range of colors and VLT ratings
Polarized sunglasses are no longer the one size, one style fits all type of product. Major manufacturers such as Smith, Oakley, Costa Del Mar and Maui Jim’s make a huge range of styles of frames and lens colors (see here for our views on choosing the right color lenses).
They also come in different VLT levels. As you can read here, VLT is a measure of how much light the sunglasses let through. A VLT of 10% means 10% of the light gets through, the other 90% is filtered out.
The best sunglasses for bright conditions will typically have a VLT of 10-15% and blue, green or gray lens colors.
Sunglasses that can be worn in both full sunlight and shady conditions like on a deck or verandah have a VLT of between 15-25% and have a variety of different lens colors.
And sunglasses that are for specialist activities, like fly fishing in low light conditions should have a VLT of between 25 and 40% and usually have either yellow or copper color lenses.
FInal word on why polarized sunglasses are worth it
Polarized glasses are more expensive than conventional sunglasses (especially for people like me who are short sighted and choose to buy prescription polarized sunglasses) But you are paying for extra UV protection. Normal sunglasses don’t filter out the glare-creating light, they just reduce the overall amount of UV rays reaching your eyes. This is nowhere near as effective and makes these non polarized counterparts a poor choice in our eyes.
We strongly recommend that when you buy sunglasses spending that little bit more to get the best polarized sunglasses that you can afford (here are our top picks) and take great care of them. That way they’ll last a decade and you’ll find over time it will average out to a lower spend than if you’d bought cheaper sunglasses that didn’t have polarized lenses and you didn’t care for them as well.