Old(er) age eyesight and fishing

Lets be clear, I’m not ready for the knackers yard yet, mid 40’s (which if you listen to the right people is the new mid 30’s) and still in possession of my own hair and teeth, I’ve got a good few years to go before age will be slowing me down.

Or so I thought – apparently my eyesight has different ideas. Over the last few years I started to notice the need to hold books further away for me to be able to read them, needing to take my distance glasses off to see the computer or do that weird looking over my glasses thing to read the post – I can see you nodding with an appreciation gained through your own experiences.

So to continue to enjoy my fishing, I’ve found ways of mitigating my crappy eyesight, and can confidently say (for now at least) my eyesight doesn’t affect my ability to fish (notice I’m not saying ‘catch fish’ – I’ll need more than a new pair of glasses to do that).

Over the next few weeks I’ll post a series of articles describing what I use and how I use it to ensure I can see like a 20 year old.

It doesn’t look like it used to

I’ve had a very much on and off last few seasons, mainly off to be fair. The usual mix of family life, work and other ‘stuff’ getting in the way of fishing. But if I’m completely honest I’d say it was just as much down to me just not making the effort to get out on the river.

The River Wear
The River Wear near our caravan

A couple of years ago we bought a static caravan at a lovely site right on the banks of the River Wear. There’s free fishing all the way along the caravan site land – enough river for a good days fishing if you wanted. This is where I’ve been getting my fix, but it’s been the odd hour here and there, usually taking Rod, reel, a small box of flies, a pair of wellies and a net as my only fishing paraphernalia. The trout are pretty small, though there’s the odd half pounder in there, not to mention the occasional salmon and sea trout. They certainly wake you up if you hook into one, especially on a 11’ 3#!

Towards the end of last summer something in me woke up and I re-joined the Derwent Angling Association – the river I’ve fished for a number of years up here in the North East. There wasn’t that much of the season left, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a few proper days out on the river I love – getting up early, taking a flask and some sarnies, getting togged up in the appropriate gear for the weather (that usually meant waterproofs!) and spending all day, right through until the sun goes down, enjoying the outdoors – and if I was lucky catching the odd fish too.

What’s changed? Eyesight!

What was the biggest difference to your fishing now versus the last time you were going out in earnest, I hear you ask (I’m sure you didn’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway otherwise it makes this blog post a little empty). The answer is, eyesight. Specifically, how poor it’s gotten. It’s both ends of the eyesight spectrum too – I can’t see as far as I used to, and I struggle to focus on anything close to me. To cap it off, I’ve also found my ability to see in poor light has also deteriorated. For all you young pups reading this, I don’t believe I’m suffering from anything specific, this is just the effects of getting old – so you’ve got it coming too. Make the most of 20/20 vision whilst you can, fish those size 24 midges 30 yards upstream and enjoy catching on them!

As I’m sure I’m not the only one, I remember my father going through the same thing when he was the age I am now (I also remember how I used to ridicule him for being unable to tie a fly on the line or see a dry fly off in the distance, how the boot is on the other foot now!), I’ve got a few tips and ideas to help my fellow semi-blind anglers see the light (so to speak).

Suck it up, princess

A phrase a very good friend of mine has said to me on occasion before. He’s a brash Australian, so it sounds better coming from him than it does me. Put another way, your deteriorating vision isn’t going to get better, so accept it and do all you can to improve it by other means. Vanity, and not wishing to wear reading glasses, isn’t going to help you catch fish – they don’t care what eye wear you have.

Free eye test, and free glasses!

So if you’re struggling to see, first thing to do is get yourself off to the optician and get checked out. If you’re in the UK, work in an office and use a computer, you’re entitled to a free eye test from your employer. This is usually done through a voucher system. If your eye test shows you need glasses for the distance computer screens are viewed at (making you long sighted), then your employer is also obliged to pay for your glasses too. You can read more about how your employer should pay for your eye test and glasses here.

All polaroids are equal (sort of)

If you need glasses for seeing further away (called short sighted, or having Myopia) most of the opticians have a 2 for 1 offer. I’d strongly consider getting your second pair as sunglasses with a polaroid finish to them. You’ll probably have to contribute towards them as the polaroid part won’t be included in the offer, but it’s usually not too expensive.

I’ve spoken to a number of opticians and also the folk who sell fishing glasses, once you get away from the cheap end of the polaroid market there really isn’t any difference in how good they are at helping you see through the water – they’re all pretty good. Having said that, the effectiveness of the polaroid coating isn’t all you buy fishing glasses for, the quality of the glass (scratch resistance etc), the specific tint, the way the glasses fit around your face all plays a part in how good they are and their overall effectiveness.

But, and it’s a big but, if you do it the other way around and look to buy a specific set of Costas or Oakley polaroids WITH your eyesight prescription applied to them, you’ll be paying serious money, much more than the same glasses with no prescription applied.

If you have to buy, don’t pay over the odds

If you can’t get your glasses funded by your employer, or if you want to get a spare pair for fishing, don’t buy glasses to correct short sightedness from the optician, they’ll be very expensive and you really don’t need them to be the same quality lenses and frames as you’d have for distance glasses. Instead, get your prescription and take a look on Amazon for glasses to match it – it’s much cheaper, there’s a great selection and if you loose them you can quickly order a replacement. These types of glasses are often referred to as reading glasses, or readers.

My eye sight prescription from last year
Proof my eyesight is crap

Your long sighted prescription will show numbers with a + in front of them (one for your left and one for your right eye). If your short sighted the numbers will have a – (minus) in front of them. Use the Plus numbers to select the right strength glasses from those on offer. The picture above is of my prescription – you can see the +1.5 denoting both my eyes need the same level of correction for close work.

I’m not getting these

thought about getting a pair of those clip on your hat brim, flip down magnifying glasses, but after all I said above about not letting vanity get in the way of a good day fishing, I couldn’t bring myself to do it! Here’s a pair for you if you fancy giving them a try. If you buy them, please let me know how you get on with them.

Clip on your cap magnifying glasses
Not quite time for these

Say hello to my little friend

Instead of those, I went for something similarly quick and convenient to use, but slightly less on show all the time. These are the Nooz – Armless Reading Glasses, in bright “can’t loose them in the bank side vegetation” orange. They clip on your nose when you use them so are really quick to put on and take off. They also slot into their very protective case really snugly and can be taken out with one hand. I have them attached to my line dispenser on my fishing bag, so always close to hand.

Nooz reading glasses being held between thumb and finger for scale
Nooz reading glasses, and my thumb
Nooz reading glasses next to tippet dispenser
How I keep my reading glasses close to hand

As my eyesight is failing me at both the long and short end, I also wear glasses for distance – without them the hole world turns into an out of focus blur. When I’m out fishing I always use a glasses lanyard to ensure they don’t disappear into the depths of the Derwent – Glasses for seeing distances are usually the expensive ones and I don’t want to loose them! Having them on a lanyard also helps when I come to swapping flies. I can take them off and let them hang round my neck whilst using the Nooz glasses to effortlessly tie on an impossibly small size 22 gnat. Something, without the aid of reading glasses, I’ve not been able to do for quite some time!

I like the rope style ones like these, you don’t notice them when they’re round your neck, you get 6 different colours (there’s an orange if you want to coordinate with your reading glasses) and they seem to fit onto my glasses snugly.

Multi coloured rope glasses lanyards
One for every member of the family, even the dog!

So that’s it for the first instalment of my guide on how to enjoy your fishing when you get north of 40, and your eyesight goes down hill. If your eyesight is starting to go a little, you find yourself increasing the font on your phone to ‘large’ to be able to see it, go get your eyes tested and buy a cheap set of reading glasses off Amazon, I recommend the [Nooz] ones, but really any will work fine. You’ll notice the benefit and how much more enjoyable fishing is, soon as you tie your first fly on with them!

Next time I’ll touch on what you can do whilst tying your files to help avoid your eyesight being an issue

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