See the Light!

Custom sun glasses could help you spot more fish.

Field & Stream Online Editors

If you wear prescription glasses, or if middle age has sentenced you to reading specs, you've no doubt found that ordinary, mass-produced fishing sunglasses no longer do the job. I spent 20 minutes at my local franchise optical store asking questions about the difference between amber and vermilion tints only to discover that the store offered gray lenses only. The clerk even questioned my decision to get polarized lenses. The result was a pair of gray fishing glasses without bifocals that were so dark they didn't work well in tea-colored water and were useless in low-light conditions. One year later I left them on the roof of my truck, and the glasses disappeared on some dusty trail in the Ozarks.

A few days later one of my buddies, Phil Lilley, a guide and resort owner on Missouri's Lake Taneycomo, showed me his custom made Costa Del Mar sunglasses, which were lightly tinted and sported lowered bifocals. "I don't know how I got by without them," Lilley said. He had faxed his prescription to "this guy in St. Louis," then talked to him for 15 minutes about what he needed his glasses to do.

Lilley's optical guru is Chris Vogler, a Board Certified Optician specializing in sports optics. My first visit to Chris's store in a suburb of St. Louis was an eye-opener. Vogler pummeled me with questions. "What kinds of fishing do you do? Do you prefer streams or lakes? What's the color of most of the water you fish? Do you fish midday, late, or early? Do you fish in canyons out west? How much salt water fishing do you do?" After that, he started asking me questions about bifocals, and then we talked tints.

Vogler explained that seeing well is more difficult than anglers most think. "When you're looking at water, your eye will receive 20 to 50 percent more glare depending on the sun's brightness," he said. "Clouds make it even worse. Polarized glasses are the only way to cut this glare. A cool looking pair of non-polarized driving glasses just won't give you much relief on the water."

Vogler includes custom tinting in the cost of all his glasses. "There is a reason that most mall stores only offer gray. Many don't have tinting equipment, and that's the way all polarized lens start," he said. Vogler's tinting trays are heated, and the lenses are dyed in one or more trays to achieve the perfect shade and color depending on the angler's needs.

If you need bifocals, Vogler will place them low and out of the way so your distance vision on the water is not impaired. Graduating and non-line bifocals are available in most lenses. His favorite frames are Costa Del Mar, but he also offers Hobie and Action Optics.

Vogler recommends lenses manufactured by KBCO for standard tints. He also offers Bell Optics photochromatic lenses that change shading due to light saturation. This allows an angler to see well in the middle of the day and at dusk--with the same pair of glasses. Both lenses are considered the industry standard in first quality polarized lenses.

Vogler's custom-made glasses cost on average about $350 a pair. They are worth every penny, especially when you're trying to track a small dry fly in a shaded pool or retrieve a plastic worm in tea-stained bass water. For more information, contact Chris Vogler, C-Sports Optical, 8920 Manchester Rd., Brentwood, MO 63144, 314-963-7567, www.csportsoptical.com