I’ve come to grips with the fact that my eyes are failing since I started needing reading glasses a very long time ago. I can live with most of the inconvenience easily but some jobs call for specialty tools.
Such was the case on a trip to fly-fish the Green River in Utah and if I had not brought along my new favorite fly-fishing accessory the trip would have been a loss because I wouldn’t have been able to tie on the tiny flies we were using.
April on the Green means nymphing and very small dries in sizes of 20 to 24. Without magnification, these little flies don’t even appear to have an eye. To make matters worse, Frog Hair tippet material in the 6x and 7x range is mandatory, due to the highly educated nature of the 7,000 to 9,000 fish per mile that make up this top drawer western trout fishery.
What this spells for the visually challenged is a very long day of miserable fumbling.
Even with reading glasses, I have a really tough time working with these diminutive flies, so I was somewhat dubious when I bought a pair of Hat Eyes before my trip. While it was obvious from looking at the lens, that there was some serious magnification to be had, I wasn’t sure it would be that easy to use these magnifiers in the field. As it turned out, that concern evaporated faster than the rain, sleet and snow that we got pelted with for four days.
You have two choices for adjusting the distance between the bill of your hat and where the lens is positioned. Two different lengths of bars that holds the lens frame are provided. By changing the bar, you can have the lens extend further down, which is mainly a personal preference for comfort. I found the longer shaft to be a little easier to use because I didn’t have to raise my hands as high, or bend my head down as much.
incidents, I was a lot more careful.
The technique that proved to be most productive was a 20 to 22 dry, with a 24 emerger dropper tied behind using 6x or 7x tippet, and that’s a lot of tying. With the addition of a small split shot and a strike indicator you’re in business. When you have that much snagging and tangling potential on one line bad things can happen. Especially bad things can happen when you miss a hookset and the rig wraps a few times around your rod. With a simpler setup I might have been tempted to just cut it off and retie, but this was no simple rig. With Hat Eyes I was able to see these small lines in great detail and get them untangled very quickly. After two such incidents, I was a lot more careful.
There’s nothing worse than struggling with a tough tying job than trying to do it while shivering, but with Hat Eyes it was a breeze. In fact, even the 20 mph breeze that was blowing down the canyon was easier to deal with under the 2.25x magnification. Hat Eyes clip to the brim of your hat with a stout stainless steel clip to give you hands-free mobility for any intricate task. Once you’re done, they simply flip up or down under the brim, out of the way. With the weather we endured, I found that the under the brim method was best to keep the lens dry and free of distracting water spots. These High-grade acrylic lenses are available in magnifications of 2x and 2.25x, but I opted for the higher power and found it to be advantageous especially when untangling some of my errant casts.
When I first started using these magnifiers it took a little getting used to. At first it felt like I was working under a microscope, but in short order I adapted to the close work and high magnification and was able to tie on flies without struggling. I was even able to see into the opening of the smaller eyes and tell when they were filled with glue.
I’m convinced that the tiers dab a little glue on the eyes just for fun, but that’s just a hunch on my part.
Care should be taken when cleaning the lenses, so that you don’t scratch them. A soft, lent-free cloth is recommended and the use of a lens cleaning liquid will remove any fingerprints that can distort the image. If you find an accumulation of dust, it is best to remove it with a very light brush so that you don’t grind these abrasive particles into the lens surface and they should last a very long time.
Hat Eyes have made my fishing life much more enjoyable, and I’ll never be on the water without them, whether I’m fly-fishing or taking on species with larger tackle. Recently I’ve noticed that even larger hooks need a little magnification, which is probably a factor in the popularity of snap swivels. Too bad you can’t fool a trout using a snap swivel, but with Hat Eyes it really doesn’t matter.
You can tie even the tiniest flies and in a flash you’re fishing not fumbling!