8 rods, 3 days, 62 Salmon, 7 Sea Trout & one very unlucky Duck! Salmon Fishing in Iceland. July 17th – 23rd 2017
Having had little luck when it comes to catching Salmon, it was time to seek more favourable odds, save up and look further afield for the elusive aquatic canary that is the Wild Atlantic Salmon.
The obvious choice was Iceland, a country increasingly becoming the mecca for those seeking success at the lower end of an already frightening budget scale.
According to the Salmon Atlas, Iceland is home to more than 50 salmon rivers, many of which are world famous for not just their beauty, remoteness, and variance but for their ability to consistently offer rich rewards to those that dare.
For us, it was the Laxa i Kjos, and its tributary, the Bugda which would provide the stage for the coming days as our party, a group of 9 friends shared the 8 rods on offer.
For an amateur like me, the schedule was somewhat punishing but worth every ounce of energy required. On the Kjos, you fish in pairs, spread over the four beats, rotating every session, of which there are two per day. The morning session runs from 0800-1300 at which point you break for a delicious lunch and rest, before returning to the river at 1600 for the evening session which concludes at 2200. In our case, followed by a lengthy celebratory gathering by the river where we drank the delicious and highly recommended not to mention, generously donated, World’s Finest Sipsmith Gin (plug), before dining at circa 0100. Bed before 0230 was a rarity and so the days took their toll.
H.Keane with the mighty Skuli doing us proud on day one (circa 9pm)
Throughout, we saw an abundance of activity with over 10 fish making it to the net in the first session alone, whilst several more slipped the hook at the eleventh hour escaping the catch report in the process.
Expecting low water, we were largely armed with Fulling Mill’s Micro Trebles and Hitches, which hit the spot despite the resulting spate following huge downpours earlier in the week.
Of all the fish landed, four or five flies seemed to strike gold time and again and soon we were all fishing a seemingly proven method.
First, we’d run a sunray, collie dog or small hitch over the water until we arose some form of interest, at which point we’d pause and try again. Now I’ve hitched pools before, but until this trip, I’d underestimated just how brilliant they are at identifying a taking fish, at which point you can begin to alter the menu until they strike. If they didn’t take the hitch we’d try a black or red Francis (S12/14) and if none of these hooked the prize, then you hit them with a Zelda.
It was just mesmerizing and often these five (+) hour sessions would pass in minutes as you zoned in on one target fish after another, usually with success before moving on. Salmon Fishing in Iceland
Our host G.Percy stocking up with the latest Zeldas
Whilst the first three flies are well known and aged in their popularity, the same cannot be said of the Zelda. This pattern, the brainchild Icelandic fishing guide, Kjartan Antonsson is new to the commercial scene and has fast become one of our best-selling salmon flies, selling out all three production runs this year with one more to come.
The seemingly ‘irresistible’ Zelda Black & Green (9718)
To produce the real Zelda, each bead must be hand drilled to fit over the eye of the hook at which point it can be set into place, ready for action. As such it is one of our most labour intensive patterns, but we are thrilled to be the only approved, official manufacturer nonetheless. We currently offer the Zelda in four styles on both S10 and S12, with more versions planned for 2018, we’d encourage you to watch this space.
S.Waley-Cohen deploying the Zelda to good effect with Raven at the ready
In terms of the hardware, with quarry ranging from 3lb to 11lb we were generally fishing smallish 9ft 8# rods with tapered leaders and in my case sampling the 2018 range of FM FC, (coming soon) – I can only assure you that this NEW, comparatively light diameter, high strength, flexi fluoro was put through its paces and performed magnificently.
For me, the rod in question was an old Fulling Mill 9ft 8# from from the GX range (sadly discontinued about 10 years ago), which I paired up with the new Rio Single Handed Spey line . The line really was excellent, covering pools 30ft across, with little effort.
Aside from that, it was a wide range of flies, some decent polarised glasses, a Leatherman, sun cream and cap.
As the title suggests, we had a fantastic time and were very fortunate to hit the river at its peak with a handful of much better fishermen than I, who without exception, all had memorable fish, but here is a roundup of just a few.
Day 3, S.Galsworthy lands an 11lb Hen Fish after a 40min fight and a 300m run
On the run, having played the fish for the best part of 20 minutes in the initial pool, Sam is taken down stream at a fair lick, followed, in hot pursuit, by our brilliantly cool calm and collected guide, Raven.
Just below the bridge, Raven steels a chance to net her in, but she heads out to the deeper channel before, once again, taking off downstream.
Landed! A fine fish which took the Fulling Mill Micro Black Francis – note the guide holds the net, they were very keen we handled the fish as little as possible and only with wet, cold hands, before releasing the fish as soon as possible.
T.Yeadon’s hooking into a duck on the Bugda
Not quite going to plan…
Three or four rods took lovely fish from this gin clear pool over the course of the trip. You can see the salmon stacked up, some as large as 20lb, and if lucky, you get to play them downstream from this cliff above whilst the guides do their best to keep the line clear of the rocks below. Salmon Fishing in Iceland
It was 9.30pm on the last day when I joined Harry and George on the free for all beat, the Meadows, for a whisky and to have a go at nymphing for the reputedly huge and powerful sea trout. For me, casting a long line from a small rod into a slack pool is about as dull as it gets. Still, Jack Selby of Roxtons kindly rigged up a fine outfit tailed with his secret nymph pattern and so I had to give it a go.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
No sooner had I started flogging this ‘dead’ bit of water, when my fellow guests called it a night and came to top up their drinks and witness my awful casting. Just as I was heard to say how boring this was, the line ripped out and I was clearly into something decent. The fish torpedoed down stream about 40m and just as the backing was beginning to show, it fully breached raising a chorus of expletives in the process.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
At this stage, it was made abundantly clear by all around me that this was a ‘fish of a lifetime’ and that we’d be lucky to land it in under an hour at which point the line went out to the middle of the channel, sank and parked up, solid as a rock. We waited. I sought advice from the audience and we waited some more. Then we advanced, nipple deep, and tried everything to determine if the fish was still on or if it had slipped the net and left us anchored to the bottom. I should add, that at this stage neither Jack, Raven nor I could tell for sure if the fish was off or if it was just sitting there preparing to shoot away again. The line seemed to move under pressure consistent with a fish of this size making it almost impossible to tell.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
Prevented by the depth of the channel, yet determined to do all we could to free the line, ideally with the fish still attached, the only option was to swim out, get up stream of the fly and unhook it from whatever obstacle it might have been anchored around.
And that’s what we did, but sadly after a few seconds, the line gave and it was game over.
2220 on the last night. Slack line. Game Over.
The disappointment in losing a fish like that, for me at least, was soon overridden by the joy of having connected with it in the first place and is further bolstered by what will be a lasting memory of a cold dip under the late-night skies of Iceland.
Our fantastic hosts, S.Holland and G.Percy (top rod)
Up The Bugda, A successful J.Mann with Ollie, another great guide
The Zelda proving it’s worth earlier on in the season…
Salmon Fishing in Iceland – Fact File
How to Get There – there are regular flights from London Gatwick and Heathrow to Reykjavik. We flew with Icelandic Air who were great. Allow time for the queues on the return journey though. It’s a small airport somewhat overwhelmed by the recent boom in tourism and as such long delays at security are widely reported.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
The Kjos is about an hour and a half’s drive from the airport. My advice would be to fly in on the morning you are to start fishing and begin with the afternoon session, fresh. Or do a night in Reykjavik the night before, but be warned, the Icelandic reputation for being an expensive place is fully justified.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
Hiring a car v getting a taxi is probably 50:50 so take your pick but there is no need to take a 4×4 as the guides all have huge trucks on hand.Salmon Fishing in Iceland
How to Book – We went with Roxtons who did a brilliant job, hosted perfectly by Jack Selby, left wanting for nothing however other sporting agents such as Aardavrk McLeod also run regular trips out to Iceland and have done so for years.
When to Go – We fished from the 17th – 23rd July and enjoyed the record catch, year to date. That said, speak to your tour operator as I am sure other rivers will vary.
You’re fishing well into the evening here and a pair of yellow lensed polarised glasses would be very useful.ck up on wine and spirits at the airport as these are fully priced at the lodge.