Best Fly-Fishing Sunglasses for 2023 Reviewe: Protect Your Eyes While You Cast Flies

Written by: John Baltes
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Great fishing sunglasses aren’t a luxury; they’re essential fly-angling gear.

The right sunglasses cut through glare, help you spot trout you’d miss with your naked eyes, and give you a break from the dazzling sun. They’ll also shield your eyes from branches, flying insects, and the occasional errant fly or rod tip.

But my advice is to leave the fashion brands at home, no matter how great they make you look. Focus instead on sunglasses designed by and for anglers, and you’ll be a lot happier with the performance they provide.

If you’re in the market for a pair of fly-fishing sunglasses, keep reading!

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide to help you make the best choice for your needs.

Quick glance at the best sunglasses for fly fishing:

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Best Fly-Fishing Sunglasses Reviewed

Costa Del Mar Fantail Pro - Tied for Best Fly-Fishing Sunglasses

Costa Del Mar Men's Fantail Pro Fishing and Watersports Polarized Rectangular Sunglasses, Matte Black/Blue Mirrored Polarized-580G, 60 mm

Amazon 

Lens material: polycarbonate

Frame material: nylon

Polarization: yes

Avid anglers will probably be familiar with Costa Del Mar’s outstanding lineup of fishing sunglasses, our favorite of which is the Fantail Pro. Mainstays in the salt and de rigueur on the tournament trail, fly anglers searching for glare reduction, color enhancement, and eye protection should take a close look at them.

While Costa offers a host of models to choose from, we like the Fantail Pro for their wide range of color options as well as excellent fit (especially if you have a big head, like I do!).

I regularly hit high-mountain streams for trout, and the Fantail Pro has been everything I hoped for. They sport high-quality polycarbonate lenses that are expertly polarized, crushing glare and providing excellent water-penetration. Even when I’m fishing in early spring with snow on the banks of the stream, glare hasn’t been an issue.

Costa supplies the Fantail Pro with well-crafted polycarbonate lenses, and while not scratch proof, I haven’t had any issues - and I’m not particularly careful with them. 

These sunglasses come in a wide range of color choices, including blue, green, gray, and copper. A yellow option is also on offer, giving you an array of options from which to choose. 

I typically prefer green for fly fishing, and I’ve found that the clarity provided by these lenses allows me to spot fish that I’d miss with dark gray lenses. But if you’re a sunrise angler who heads home once the sun tops the trees, yellow might be the best choice for you.

Costa’s nylon frames are top-notch, offering excellent fit and all-day comfort. They run true to size and offer larger frames that work superbly for me (I wear an XXL motorcycle helmet). By contrast, Pete has a slender face and smaller head, and his Fantail Pros fit like a glove, so across sizes, you can expect a superb, comfortable fit. 

On the water, I find that the Fantail Pro outperforms Maui Jim’s and Oakleys, rivaled only by Smith.

Pros:

  • Durable frames
  • Awesome range of colors
  • Awesome lenses for demanding conditions
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Good fit, especially for larger heads

Cons:

  • Expensive

Smith Guide's Choice - Tied for Best Fly-Fishing Sunglasses

Smith Guide's Choice Sunglasses Havana/Polarchromic Copper

Amazon 

Lens material: glass

Frame material: nylon

Polarization: yes

Quite possibly the only real competition for Costa’s Fantail Pro, Smith’s Guide’s Choice sunglasses are built to perform.

Rather than lighter polycarbonate, Smith has chosen to equip the Guide’s Choice with glass lenses, reducing the potential for scratching. That’s certainly a nod in the direction of durability, but in my experience with the Costas, scratching hasn’t been an issue at all, and I almost never use the soft cast to store them.

That said, the clarity and glare reduction offered by the Guide’s Choice is simply excellent, explaining why you'll see these sunglasses protecting the eyes of pros everywhere from the Florida Keys to Alaska. 

Smith offers the Guide’s Choice in a wide array of colors, including blue, green, gray, and copper, as well as a yellow that’s almost unbeatable at dawn and dusk.

Their nylon frames are comfortable, and fit is excellent.

For me, the lighter weight of the Costa wins out, but I wouldn’t hesitate to own a pair of Smiths - and neither should you!

Pros:

  • Durable frames
  • Awesome range of colors
  • Awesome lenses for demanding conditions
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • Expensive

Orvis Madison

Lens material: polycarbonate

Frame material: nylon

Polarization: yes

Orvis’s dedication to fly fishing is well known, and the gear they supply is typically competitive with any rival you might care to bring to the fight. On the sunglasses front, however, we feel that Orvis has lost a step or two, and the Madison illustrates why.

While they sport a nice pair of polycarbonate lenses, ably polarized to defeat glare and provide water penetration, they’re only available in blue. That’s not a bad color choice if you’re limited to just one, and I like blue almost as much as green - almost, but not quite. In shallow water where the rocks and gravel hide camouflaged trout, I find that green excels in providing the visual acuity I need to spot fish.

And for dawn and dusk, nothing beats yellow.

We’re surprised Orvis doesn’t offer alternatives to blue, but that may not be a deal-breaker for you. If it’s not, it’s clear that these lenses are very well manufactured.

The nylon frames are light and comfortable, too, and fit is typically excellent.

For about half the price of the Costas or Smiths, Orvis’s Madison sunglasses may be a good fit for you if blue is your ideal color.

Pros:

  • Durable frames
  • Awesome lenses for demanding conditions
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • Expensive

Oakley Fuel Cell Prizm

Oakley Men's OO9096 Fuel Cell Rectangular Sunglasses, Matte Black/Prizm Deep Water Polarized, 60 mm

Amazon 

Lens material: polycarbonate

Frame material: nylon

Polarization: yes, on some models

Oakley is a well-known fashion brand with a few forays into sport and outdoor eyewear. One of these fishing-adjacent options is their Fuel Cell Prizm. If you’re a hard-core Oakley fan, these might be a great choice, but overall, they lag behind Costa and Smith in color options.

Oakley offers the Fuel Cell Prizm in a narrow range of polarized colors, including blue, gray, and orange. Be careful: not every option is polarized for glare reduction and water penetration! 

These sunglasses are equipped with polycarbonate lenses coated to improve clarity, and I can’t complain about their effectiveness. They work well, resist scratching, and offer great fit and all day comfort.

But if you’re looking for green or yellow options, look elsewhere.

For the price, which is roughly equivalent to the Costas or Smiths, I’d take a pass.

Pros:

  • Durable frames
  • Good lenses with excellent clarity
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Not all models are polarized
  • Few color choices

KastKing Skidaway

KastKing Skidaway Polarized Sport Sunglasses for Men and Women, Gloss Black Frame, Brown Base Chartreuse Mirror

Amazon 

Lens material: Triacetate Cellulose (TAC)

Frame material: Grilamidthermoplastic

Polarization: yes

KastKing’s Skidaway sunglasses are about 10 times less expensive than the Costas, Smiths, or Oakleys, while still providing glare reduction, enhanced visual acuity, and eye protection. 

If you’re the kind of angler who loses sunglasses regularly, the Skidaway may be perfect for you. And two or even three pairs of Skidaways aren’t going to break the bank.

Available in a wide range of lens and frame color options, we recommend one of the dark frame options for anglers. Yes, bright yellow and orange frames look cool, but you’ll suffer a bit with your peripheral vision if you choose them, as the frames will reflect bright light on either side of your face.

One nice thing about these KastKings is that the frames are manufactured from tough Grilamid thermoplastic. They’re tough as nails.

The low price tag the Skidaways wear is made possible by advances in lens tech. KastKing uses TAC as lens material, a far cry from either polycarbonate or glass.

According to KastKing, the coatings applied to each lens blocks 100% of UVA and UVB light. That’s important, and you should never accept anything less.

KastKing also checks each lens for optical distortion, a common issue with TAC lenses.

However, TAC is essentially a laminate plastic, and some users have experienced trouble with the lens coating wearing off - especially after exposure to saltwater. That shouldn’t be an issue on trout streams, but if you’re fly fishing for reds on a salt flat, be prepared.

And since this isn’t a wrap-around design, depending on the shape and size of your face, these glasses can leave a small gap near your cheek. That can allow bright sunlight and reflected glare in, which is certainly less than ideal.

Those drawbacks notwithstanding, if you lose or break sunglasses, or want to try a new color, KastKing’s Skidaway is a good buy.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable frames
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection

Cons:

  • Keep them out of the salt or expect lens coating delamination
  • Some issues with fit have been reported

Huk Spar

HUK, Polarized Lens Eyewear with Performance Frames, Fishing, Sports & Outdoors Sunglasses Panto, (Spar) Green Mirror/Southern Tier Subphantis, Medium/Large

Amazon 

Lens material: polycarbonate

Frame material: TR90 thermoplastic

Polarization: yes

If you like the idea of less expensive fly-fishing eye protection, but just can’t stomach the lens quality offered by KastKing, Huk’s Spar may be perfect for you.

Huk has a well-earned reputation on the water for sun-protective clothing, and their Spar sunglasses are well designed and cost effective.

Huk supplies these sunglasses with polycarbonate lenses in blue, gray, green, and brown. That offers plenty of good options for you, wherever you loft flies. The polarization kills glare and with the right color, fish will pop against the background far more easily than with the naked eye.

The frames are made from tough TR90 polycarbonate, and that’s a durable option that will resist impacts and UV damage. Fit is typically good, and the Spart doesn’t slip down your face even when the mercury is rising and sweat becomes an issue.

If the high-end fishing sunglasses are a bridge too far for your budget, take a close look at the Huk Spar.

Pros:

  • Durable frames
  • Excellent lenses
  • 100% UVA and UVB protection
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • Only four color choices are offered

Buying Guide: What You Need to Know About Fly-Fishing Sunglasses

Polarization

Polarized lenses are a must for fly fishing.

Polarization is a complex science, but its impact is easy to understand.

Scientists will tell you that polarization refers to a directional effect that screens-out discordant transverse waves. For instance, the oscillations of light waves occur at a variety of angles relative to one another, especially after reflecting from shiny surfaces like water. Polarization blocks transverse waves in all but one direction.

 

In plain English, polarization blocks some light waves to vastly reduce glare.

Polarized lenses reduce glare.

Polarization eases eye strain and lets you see more clearly both above and below the water.

That can make a huge difference when you’re sight fishing, launching flies into spots where you’ve spotted a fish. It can also pay dividends when you’re trying to keep your footing while wading.

Durability and Fit

Everything you bring with you onto the water takes a beating, and from bumps and knocks, to spray and sun, you want your gear to be tough and to stay put

Look for sunglasses that can take a fall or a hit from a high-speed lure without breaking. And check fit to ensure that leaning over, a quick shake of your head, or a gust of wind won’t steal your shades and drop them in the drink.

Fit varies from person to person, but we’ll do our best to report what the average user has to say, as well as our own experience with these sunglasses.

Lens Quality

Lens quality matters, and especially when considering durability, you’ll notice the difference between the most popular sunglass lens materials.

For fishing, three lens materials are dominant: triacetate cellulose (TAC), polycarbonate, and glass. 

Triacetate cellulose (TAC) is essentially layered and bonded plastic. Inexpensive and reasonably tough, TAC needs to be manufactured properly to avoid optical distortion and block enough UV radiation to protect your eyes from the sun.

To make a TAC lens, very thin layers of triacetate cellulose--often with different coatings--are joined to form a continuous piece. Reputable manufacturers then check these lenses for problems.

A typical TAC lens.

Nevertheless, TAC lenses are more prone to issues like coating failure than either their polycarbonate or glass alternatives - but they are much, much less expensive.

Polycarbonate is a great lens material, and it’s a much better option than layered plastics. 

According to experts like Tim Hallworth, polycarbonate “is a pure solid thermoplastic that starts as a solid material in the form of small pellets. In the manufacturing process the pellets are heated until they melt. The liquid polycarbonate is then rapidly injected into lens molds, compressed under high pressure and cooled to form a single finished lens.”

The absence of layers reduces any chance of optical distortion, and the final product is strong, durable, and very scratch-resistant.

Glass is still an amazing lens material, offering better scratch resistance than polycarbonate or TAC, as well as greater natural clarity. The downside of glass is that it offers lower impact resistance than the alternatives, and tends to weigh a bit more as well.

UV Protection

No lesser authority than the Mayo Clinic warns that sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes from harmful UV light. “UV radiation from the sun can damage not only the skin of your eyelid but also the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye. UV exposure also contributes to the development of certain types of cataracts, growths on the eye and possibly macular degeneration.”

Just as you’d be wise to wear proper sunscreen to protect your skin, the right sunglasses are necessary to protect your eyes.

The University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center recommends anglers opt for wrap-around styles. “If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially around water, consider wrap-around sunglasses that protect from UV rays that come in from the side. This design will also stop the wind that makes your eyes dry. They don’t have to be expensive. They just have to fit well—and of course, you have to keep them on as long as you are in the sun.”

Impact Protection

Eye injuries are unfortunately common for anglers.

In fact, fishing is second only to baseball in the number of eye injuries reported every year.

One poke from a rod tip is all it takes to ruin an eye for life, and all of us have snagged a lure and freed it with a few hard pulls--only to have the lure rocket back directly at us! 

I’ve been hit a few times, and I’m sure you have, too.

All it takes is one unlucky moment to get a branch in your face, so protecting your eyes should be a top priority.

Our Pick: Costa Del Mar’s Fantail Pro and Smith’s Guide's Choice

We’re in the rare position of a tie, and we really can’t call a winner between the Costas and the Smiths.

Both options offer high-quality lenses with excellent polarization and color choices. Wherever and whenever you loft a fly, you’ll find the right color, guaranteed. And whether you opt for Costa’s polycarbonate or Smith’s glass, both are tough and durable.

The frames on both sunglasses are durable and comfortable, and there’s just nothing bad to say about either choice.

We hope that this article has helped you pick your next pair of fly-fishing sunglasses, and we’d love to hear from you if it has.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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