This is really easy to answer – there are three standout models of polarized lenses (Smith’s Low Light Ignitors, Costa Del Mar’s Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses and Maui Jim’s HT lenses) for low light conditions and the more flexible solution of Smith’s Polarchromic lenses.
We explain the key advantages of each of these quality lenses below and break down lens color and type for varying conditions and what they offer beyond standard polarized fly fishing sunglasses.
Top low-light polarized sunglass lenses
The Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses have a VLT of 25%, meaning the lenses allow 25% of light through, which gives a bit more protection for normal use while still performing strongly as fishing sunglasses for sight fishing on cloudy days or for fly fishing in the evening rise. Again, this lens tint is not really good for bright light, and for those sunny conditions choose a better Costa lens color such as a blue mirror or gray lens to avoid eye strain. (See our guide to choosing the best lens color for polarized sunglasses for more detail on lens tints for the full range of conditions)
These lenses are acknowledged by many fishermen as the best choice for low light conditions. With a yellow lens tint, these specialist low light lenses let through a massive 40% of light reaching the lens compared to just 10% or so for standard sunglasses. So they aren’t the ideal choice for fishing sunglasses for bright sunny days when you are better off with one of their Chromapop lenses. But when you are fishing a shaded stream in fading light or a glassy lake with cloud above, there is no lens color or type available that will outperform these yellow lenses for sight fishing.
These are another solid polarized lens option for overcast days. The HT stands for High Transmission. Although we can’t find a precise figure from Maui Jim for VLT for these lenses, they are aimed at the same cloudy day conditions and other low light situations that the Smith and Costa Del Mar lenses excel at and the lens tint reflects that. For sunny conditions it is the same story as the others – these are not good for bright days and bright light conditions where there are lots of UV rays and please choose another lens color to avoid eye fatigue.
The other solution is to choose polarized lenses with a variable VLT(Visible Light Transmission) for your fishing sunglasses. This is Smith Optics’ speciality and their Polarchromic lenses have a VLT varying between 13% and 20% depending on the amount of visible light hitting the lens. Smith Optics Chromapop lenses have been a favourite among the fly fishing fraternity for a long time and it is easy to see why – with the Polarchromic lenses you can kind of have your cake and eat it too when it comes to fishing sunglasses. This means less eye fatigue and better sight fishing.