Outdoors

At +2.50 magnification the Flip-&-Focus clip-on lenses by Fisherman Eyewear (left) are just right for rigors of attaching ultralight leaders and tiny fall and winter flies. The soaringly popular Clic Readers (which conveniently fit around the wearer’s neck) are magnetic magnifiers that simply click apart in the middle of the nose bridge, for easy on-off use.

This glorious 2020 fall is an early Christmas gift, especially since I wasn’t expecting such a high-level, mood-elevating surprise. The removal of an unpleasant burst spleen obliterated fall 2019. So I’m extremely grateful for another opportunity to profit from Wyoming’s grandeur, crowds and all.

Good eyesight is another gift for which I’m thankful. It’s disappointing for those who struggle with vision troubles during our shared outdoor activities. Today waning eyesight has finally caught up with me during detailed operations necessary during this fine time. Fall’s rich and exquisite but lower-angled light also regularly mandates the need of smaller trout flies, precise game spotting and efficient weapon sighting.

After investing wads for top-notch prescription progressive polarized lens sunglasses, I’ve learned that for knot-tying with tiny diameter leaders and extra small flies, as well as shooting targets, the light-robbing properties of sunglasses often are a negative. In the absence of terrible conditions I consistently wear my everyday progressive prescription, not bothering with sunglasses until searing late afternoon glare.

Non-light-robbing clear glasses make it easier and quicker to select size 18 and smaller dry and wet flies and attach them to 5X and thinner leaders.

Once this enhanced visibility solution is achieved, dwindling dexterity is the only remaining problem.

I’ve watched fishing veterans regularly tote in a shirt pocket a pair of magnified reading glasses. When fly-changing-time came the magnifiers momentarily replaced the regular fishing glasses. Regardless of the location, this was awkward. Such eyewear switching is easier in the comfort and stability of a boat or on the bank rather than surrounded by cold, fast, hip-deep water. Similar expendable magnifiers found in many pocketbooks ease the reading of menus, paying bills and careful shopping.

Some years ago several fishing product makers created flat-lens polarized fishing glasses with diminutive, clear oval magnifiers positioned in the bottom-inside of each right and left lens. Similar looking, clear oval stick-on magnifiers were also produced, to be added to other sunglasses. While compact and functional, every time I wore these glasses with their tiny onboard magnifiers, the unfocused blur projected by any sudden head movement was startling. Often it seemed as though a giant snake was leaping toward me. Friends present during such an episode asked what had startled me and caused me to jump backwards while unlocking my truck.

I soon abandoned those devices and their unintended excitement.

Next came another handy plastic fold-down magnifier gadget, the Flip Focal, suitable for clipping to a ballcap bill or hat brim. Inexpensive, available in a variety of magnification powers and transferable, this item appears in a variety of powers and is still popular. Orvis and LL Bean feature the Flip Focal whose portability and durability are excellent but it is not as focus-friendly as another flip-down product I favor.

Fisherman Eyewear (ICUEyewear.com) has been around forever, offering numerous polarized sunglasses for boaters and fishermen plus inexpensive amber and dark green-grey clip-over polarized add-ons that transition your regular glasses to fishing versions. Wind and other weather headaches challenge clip-on devices. But the Flip-&-Focus clear polycarbonate lens available in four magnification powers is a Bruun fav at 2.50X. These clip down from the top for a variety of sunglasses. They are somewhat delicate, but, at around $15, I usually extract several seasons from a pair. Mine live inside sturdy, crush-proof clamshell cases. Currently my stash is three operating pairs. One parks in my trout pack and the other is in my trout fly vest. The third is a spare. I don’t yet need the luxury of “cheaters” for fly and lure fishing in tropical fresh and saltwater where leaders and hooks are more easily visible.

Over a dozen years ago while working the Patagonia booth at the Somerset, New Jersey, fly-fishing show, my now-wife, Jean Williams, was assisting Patagonia fishing manager Bill Klyn when she discovered a unique snap-apart magnifier device called Clic Readers (ClicReaders.com). They were novel, inexpensive and easily put on and removed. With his typical sales enthusiasm Klyn soon had everyone he knew sporting Clic Readers around their necks. Although Clic has risen from being tokenly inexpensive up to the $40-plus range, they remain reliably functional. To my surprise they’re available in endless styles, sizes, colors, half-readers and even polarized.

Making subjects larger is relatively manageable. But it’s harder tying reliable knots in hair-like materials and keeping hands and eyes steady as advancing years change balance and dexterity. That’s why most of my lightweight tackle rigging, leader making and even line threading is done prior to a trip in the comfort of a well-lighted garage or office (OK, the living room, too)!

Without wind, unreliable lighting and time constraints, my knots, lines and leaders turn out sturdier and neater.

It’s no longer easy when retying a fly with either a Pitzen (fluorocarbon) or the improved clinch knot (monofilament) and connecting leader sections via proper blood knots. Begin knots with longer pieces of leader. This one change will allow you to insert leaders’ tag ends through larger, easier-to-maneuver loops without driving yourself half nuts.

And, finally, fitting everything from 4X to 6X and even 7X leader (which I’ll seldom attempt) into invisible trout fly eyes of the 18, 20 and 22 sizes means everything must get off to a good start. That begins with putting a needle through the fly eye to insure it is open and capable of accepting a leader. To make fly threading with tiny tippets easier there’s another secret device I’ve given as gifts to several aging fly-flinging friends.

C&F Designs originated a three-in-one clipper and tiny fly threader utensil as well as building the first Midge and Standard Threader Fly Boxes. Using an easy-to-grasp plastic end holder with an extended slender wire loop (like a sewing needle threader), the eyes of tiny trout flies are stored by sliding them down the easily pinched wire loop. A tiny diameter leader tippet is placed between the wire loop and above the fly. Removing the fly from the loop pulls the leader tippet through the eye. As the fly exits the wire loop the tippet passes through the eye and is knot ready.

Here again, arranging other small dry and wet flies on the wire threading device is best done inside a well-lighted location and not outdoors in interruptive conditions.

I hope these examples will reduce the stress of some pesky fishing situations.

I have also learned that my favorite everyday progressive lenses aren’t the best for walking up and especially down steep terrain. Nor are they perfect for peering through shooting scopes and binoculars. I usually try to accomplish all of the above sans glasses.

A final thought: Don’t allow petty annoyances like wrapping knots, dropping tiny lures and getting an always perfect sight picture detract from a luxurious day outdoors. Adding a pinch of patience usually vanquishes such irritation.

And you’ll feel much better than recognizing that other familiar haunting feeling of forgetting what you went to find in a different room!

Paul Bruun writes every other week on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors. Contact him at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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