June 23, 2014 Share

Iceland – Angler’s Dream Destination

Originally Published on Oct 14, 2011 “From the Docks” NBC Sports

Famed angler Stu Apte published an article in the early 1960s about the world-class Atlantic salmon fishing available in Iceland. I still have the piece at home, but can’t remember if it ran in Outdoor Life or Field and Stream; I mention it only because the piece inspired me to fish Iceland sometime in my lifetime as an angler’s dream destination.

I’ve now scratched that trip off my bucket list!

I’m still battling a bit of jet lag as I write this, a small price to pay for the chance to visit this amazing country. Do yourself a favor and type “Iceland” into Google Images and you’ll see that the country doesn’t lack insanely beautiful scenery. Now picture yourself fishing sea-run trout and Atlantic salmon in rivers so clear you notice the pebbles are polished lava, not river rock and quartz.

Fishing was not the focus of my trip, but I did spend two hours on the West Ranga River, Iceland’s most productive salmon water. The West Ranga has produced an average of 8,300 salmon annually the past five years with an average weight of 8 pounds per fish.

The salmon season in 2011 ran June 24 to October 10, with the best fishing in July and August.

My guide for the day was Stefan Agustssonr with Lax-A Angling Club (www.la-a.net/iceland). We fished a beat just above the famed falls on the West Ranga, sharing it with another casting spoons on spinning gear.

We fished a variety of tube flies like the German Snaelda, SunRay Shadow, and Black and Blue, using a sink tip fly line to get them down deep. Per Stefan, the water was close to freezing and when temps are that low salmon become lethargic and less apt to rise to a fly.

I asked Stefan to fish the first stretch of water to learn how and where he works a fly using a two-handed spey rod, which is essentially a 12-16-foot fly rod that can throw massive amounts of line with a simple roll cast.
Stefan would cast the fly quartering downstream and then let it swing through key fish-holding areas. He ended each cast with two slight up-stream strips to tempt any salmon following the fly.

I took over at the next pool, making a couple cast to current seams before moving downstream a couple steps at a time before casting again.

Stefan and I were down to the last 10 minutes of my trip when a bizarre thing happened

as I was walking downstream! The fish wasn’t massive, maybe 5-6 pounds, but it fought well even on the powerful spey rod and it gave me two great jumps.

Fishing salmon in Icelands is not cheap. Access to private waters (all rivers in Iceland are privately owned) runs a few hundred to thousands of dollars a day (especially during peak season). In exchange, you’ll enjoy targeting a noble species in an enchanted land that you will never forget. Yes, I do hope to go back some day.