I’m always hesitant to say how long I’ve owned a pair of sunglasses, as I always seem to lose them after I do. So to make sure no undue harm comes to my beloved Smith Guide’s Choice sunglasses, let’s just say I’ve used them extensively. Smith has a reputation of making some of the best goggles and sunglasses in the industry, and the Guide’s Choice sunglasses certainly follow suit by setting something of an industry standard in the fly fishing category.
As you might’ve guessed from the name, the Smith Guide’s Choice sunglasses were designed for, and with input from, professional fishing guides, or as Smith puts it, “their most demanding customers.” And while I can personally attest to their ability to perform on the water while fly fishing, I’ve found these sunglasses versatile enough to be my go-to sunglasses regardless of what I’m doing. In fact, I’d argue that what makes them great for fly fishing has made them good for just about everything else I do in the mountains.
At first glance, the Guide’s Choice sunglasses are just a casual-looking pair of sunglasses, but as you start to look a bit closer at their feature set, you quickly realize they’re loaded with multiple lens technologies to give the wearer the best possible field of view. The first lens technology you’ll notice the Guide’s Choice sunglasses feature is ChromaPop.
ChormaPop was first released by Smith back in 2013, and it has since been added to everything from their cycling sunglasses to ski goggles. The advantage of this technology is it makes it easier for your eyes to distinguish color where wavelengths intersect—specifically between green and blue and red and green. So by ChromaPop lenses filtering two specific wavelengths of light, the lenses actually make it easier to distinguish colors.
The next lens technology the Guide’s Choice sunglasses tout is Tapered Lens Technology (or TLT). The best way to explain TLT is to think of those cheap sunglasses you picked up at a gas station at one point or another. Did you ever notice how they made things seem either slightly distorted or farther away? Well, that’s because as light passed through the cheaper lens it was distorted, resulting in an altered or distorted field of view. TLT lens technology eliminates what we call “lens distortion” by tapering each lens from its optical center out towards the edges of each lens, giving you an accurate and true field of view.
Finally, you’ll see the lenses also boast polarization and an anti-reflective coating. Most anglers are probably acutely aware of the need for polarized lenses when fly fishing, given a quality pair of polarized lenses dramatically reduce surface glare on the water to make it easier to see fish and structures below the surface. The fact they also help filter out harmful UV rays make polarized sunglasses as essential as sunscreen and a hat whenever you go out on the water.
Apart from an array of lens technologies, the Guide’s Choice sunglasses also boast a medium-large fit, 8-base curvature, and an integrated leash that can be removed. The 8-base curvature offers exceptional coverage, and the wider temples also provide additional protection from sun, dirt, and fishing hooks.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit skeptical of the marketing claims made by eyewear companies. Mainly because it seems like each company has its own proprietary technology that does essentially the same thing as the next. I’ll also admit that the primary feature of sunglasses I’m typically sold on is their looks—they are sunglasses, after all. Seeing as how the Guide’s Choice sunglasses had a look that I liked and a quality polarized lens, I decided to get a pair. And I figured I’d might as well give ChromaPop a try; although, I wasn’t particularly sold on the technology.
It didn’t take the Guide’s Choice sunglasses long to make a believer out of me. The first time I put them on I was impressed with how comfortable they were and the amount of coverage the frame and lenses provided. I’ll even admit that one of the first features that really impressed me was the ChromaPop technology. I quickly noticed enhanced color contrasts just driving down the road with them on. Needless to say, I was excited to get them out in the mountains to see how they’d do.
I initially purchased the Guide’s Choice sunglasses for fly fishing, and for that they’ve been exceptional. The first time I fished with them I was sight-fishing for trout on a fairly large beaver pond on a partly sunny day late in April. There was just enough cloud cover that the fish were rising to the surface to feed, but you still had to be pretty strategic about where to cast, as you likely only had a few casts before every fish in the pond would know you were there.
With the Guide’s Choice sunglasses, not only was I able to see most of the fish in the pond, but I was able to spot a large cutthroat—and actually tell it was a cutthroat—and quickly cast to it and catch it before alerting any of the other fish to my presence. From that point on, I was sold on the Guide’s Choice sunglasses for fly fishing.
Due to the amount of coverage they provide and darker lens tint, they’ve also become my go-to sunglasses for backcountry skiing, especially during spring. I’ve found the wider temples on the frame act almost like a pair of glacier glasses, shielding my eyes from light reflecting off the surface of the snow. The darker lens tint (I went with the Polarized Gray Green lens) performs just as well on the snow as it does when I’m fly fishing in July.
Drawbacks and Shortcomings
In terms of drawback and shortcomings, it’s tough to find an area where the Guide’s Choice sunglasses are lacking. The lenses are exceptional, and I’ve really been impressed with the long-term durability of the frame. But if there was one area I see a need for improvement, it’s ventilation. The protective frame and close-fitting lenses do wonders when it comes to protecting my eyes from the sun and other objects, but it also has a tendency to cause some fogging issues. This is nothing major and is hardly noticeable when I’m paddling or fly fishing, but they do seem to have a tendency to fog up when I’m hiking, which usually leads to me taking them off or letting them just hang from my neck for a bit before the lenses clear and I put them back on.
The versatile design and high-end optics of the Guide’s Choice make them a well-rounded pair of sunglasses to complement the mountain lifestyle. They’re exceptional for fly fishing, good for spring ski tours, and a great all-around pair of sunnies for everyday wear. Really, if you’re the type of person that’s out in the mountains all year, I strongly encourage you to check out the Guide’s Choice sunglasses. You’ll be glad you did.
By: Jeff Sorenson, Senior Editor & Content Manager