Matt Dickerson: Seeing trout and flies: a tribute to my sunglasses

I stood on a high bank looking down at a tundra river flowing out of Katmai National Preserve toward Bristol Bay in Alaska. Actually, I wasn’t so much looking at the river as looking into the river where it carved its way through a deep cut below a waterfall. All across the current, upstream, downstream and straight in front of me, the water was blurred and dotted with large sockeye salmon making their way upriver to spawn and die in twos, threes, fours and sometimes by the dozens or hundreds. Between their 10 pounds of bulk and their bright red spawning hues, they were not difficult to see.
But I was not looking for salmon. I was looking for the rainbow trout and Dolly Varden trout following those salmon upriver in order to dine on their eggs and rotting flesh. And unlike the salmon, the wary trout with their dark green spotted backs and sides were well camouflaged against the gravelly river bottom and green water.
And, to my delight, I was actually seeing those camouflaged trout. I was seeing them clearly, in fact. After spotting one in a riffle, hooking it, and losing it in the swift current, I soon spotted another one sitting in a depression behind a pair of sockeye. Casting against a stiff breeze, I dropped my egg-sucking leech fly about eight feet upstream of the big rainbow and two feet further out from shore so that the fly swung back right in front of my target. Aided by the sight-fishing, the fly went exactly where it needed to go. The fish struck hard, and once again I was in a battle. As the fish took my downstream forty yards, I spotted three more trout in the river. As my own quarry tugged me past them, I yelled out to my fishing partner Glen, who took my direction and a minute later connected with one of them.
This was yet another reason I had fallen in love with Costa sunglasses.
I’ve become more aware of eyewear recently. I’ve been fortunate to have slightly better than 20-20 vision most of my life. For the past few years, however, seeing small things — like letters on a newspaper page or the eye of a fly that I’m trying to thread a fishing line through — has become much more difficult for me. And at a recent visit to my eye doctor, I was told I had cataracts starting to form. I might not have to get them taken care of for another 20 years, but only if I protected them from sunlight. In other words, I should be sure to where high-quality sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection whenever I was outdoors.
I’d gotten my first pair of this brand of sunglasses two years earlier. It was a pair with gray polarized lenses for all-purpose conditions. I’m not often enamored by new outdoor products. I try to resist the allure of marketing, which tends to greatly exaggerate the actual benefit of most products in the attempt to manufacture an artificial need. Though I’ve tested many new fly rods over the past decade, my daily use rod is one I’ve had for 15 years, and I’m quite happy with it. Twenty years ago, I replaced my old click drag reel with a disc drag model. That improvement was dramatic, but I’ve not found a single significant improvement in a fly reel since then.
But when I put on my first pair of this brand of sunglasses, I saw with definition and clarity I’d never imagined. The world below the surface of the water came fully alive. I got a model with blue mirror lenses specially designed for open water — i.e. for fishing. I ordered them in the “readers” model, with built-in magnifiers on the bottom portion of the lens for tying on flies when on the water, or (I suppose) for reading on the beach.
Those anglers as concerned with the cleanliness and ecological health of rivers (or oceans) as they are with catching the fish in those waters may also appreciate the brands of sunglasses that use bio-based (rather than petroleum-based) resin in their plastic frames; some sunglasses frames I’ve encountered are made out of recycled fishing nets. I appreciated those earth-friendly (and water-friendly) features also, though at the moment standing on the bank of that Alaskan river after landing and releasing that big rainbow I was mostly concerned with seeing the next fish.
And, when a big sockeye was spooked and shot past my line, snagging his dorsal fin on my hook, I was very happy with the built-in readers. It turns out it is very difficult with a 5-wt. fly rod and trout-weight leader to turn or even stop a 10-pound sockeye running downstream in a swift current, especially when the salmon is hooked in the top fin. The fish bent my rod hard and snapped my line relatively easily. A minute later the salmon was right back in the current in front of me as though nothing had happened, but sporting some new decorative bling to wear around for the last few days of its life. And I stood on the bank making use of the magnifiers on the lenses — and not because I decided to sit down in the sunshine and read a book.

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