Fly Fishing Adventures - Laxardal - 66°N
For some time now I have heard whispers of the trout fishing in Iceland and I was dubious at best. The idea of rivers with browns averaging 4-5lbs and the chance of 10-12lb fish like in New Zealand but then with the population density resembling a river more like that of Southern England, it just seemed inconceivable! So I ventured North-West to go and see if any of these bold statements were based at all on truth.
The travel to Iceland is so simple and easy taking just 3 hours to get over to Keflavik and another couple of hours travel internally to reach our destination, Laxardal. This was my first visit to Iceland and it is an intriguing and unusual country. The landscape displays millennia of volcanic activity and glacial carvings, and the distinct lack of trees allows the breeze to remind you that you are just 50 miles away from the Arctic Circle.
As we arrived at the river we were greeted by a daunting expanse of water resembling a small lake. We were also met by some of the friendliest guides anywhere in the world who were optimistic that we would experience amazing Icelandic fishing. The first afternoon session on the water did nothing to raise my hopes; we were battered by 15 mph northerly winds and an air temperature of 7°C. This first experience of fishing in Iceland, in retrospect, actually laid the foundations of one of the most exciting trout trips of my life.
Over the week the weather just seemed to improve, as did the fishing! Laxardal that week played host to numerous personal best trout for the entire group, including myself. I opened my Iceland account to a brown trout deceived by a Pearl Spider fished upstream; this was the first time that I felt like I was beginning to understand the river. One of the most unique things about this river system is the lack of diversity of food for the trout, they really only eat midges (chironomids) and Bibios, oh and the odd duckling as displayed in a photograph on the wall of the lodge! The lack of diversity is most certainly made up by the sheer number of midges that fill the crystal clear waters, and although it is so clear the fish are hard to spot as they sit over black lava sand which is the perfect setting for their camouflage.
I then raised my bar with a fish feeding heavily on the surface; it was proving very difficult as it repeatedly took every other fly coming down in its field of vision apart from mine! After multiple fly changes I hit gold, quite literally, this prehistoric looking brown trout then surged past me and off towards the North Atlantic, there was nothing I could do! The fish tore off 200 yards and put up one hell of a fight, my trusty guide Guðmundur (Gummi) swatted the fish into his pan net and the celebration could commence!
The fishing is organised on a rotation of beats for morning and afternoon sessions, the morning session is 8am – 2pm and the afternoon is 5pm – 11pm which is disconcertingly light when you are that far north! For the 2nd morning session we were taken up to Ferjuflói (Ferry Pool) which is one massive waist deep riffle stretching the full width of the river. From high up on the bank the pool looked unbelievably fishy and called for a big indicator fly and a heavy nymph below it. I made my usual choice of flies in this situation, a big #10 indicator dry, now nicknamed Gummi’s Streamer, and a #12 Vlad on the point. After about 10 drifts, using the stiff upstream northerly wind to aid turnover, the indicator stopped and then dipped under the current, my strike was met by a solid stubborn object. The bend in my rod stretched from the handle to the tip at which point I felt the dull thud of a fish, the battle commenced and was more akin to that of a Barbel. The fish stayed deep and my leader sang in the breeze, it showed all the hallmarks of a big Icelandic brown. The big spade like tail finally broke the surface after what felt like hours, by this point my arm was aching from the pure strength that these fish use. Eventually the brownie showed signs of defeat, Gummi prepared with the pan-net which was dwarfed by the fish. The fish was then scooped into the net tail first, and I just stood their in silent admiration of my catch, a beautiful hen fish of 63cm (25”) weighing over 5.5lbs.
I rounded the trip off with a lovely fish that was slightly smaller than the others, in the calmest conditions of the week. I was stood mid-river and surrounded by rising fish; I have never seen so many big noses breaking the surface. Some of the fish you would have sworn were Black Labradors coming up for air! I reluctantly pulled myself away from the river to head back home…I will be back!
I am now a convert! The incredible trout fishing should be believed, and when it’s so close to the UK it is a perfect place for a long weekend to go and start your own Icelandic trout whispers.
Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: +44 (0) 1980 847389