Continuing with his trip to Iceland, Lyn Davies stumbles across an unknown lake, where the Ice-age brown trout average 3–4lb!
The Internet proved invaluable with my preparations. Iceland looked fantastic – huge brown trout to double figures and arctic char in unspoilt rivers. I was able to read the latest fishing reports, learn of the local fly patterns and generally have a feel for the island. It’s always a dilemma as to what tackle to pack – and your choice of rod can be one of the hardest decisions to make. I eventually decided to take my Hardy Zane, 9ft, 8wt. This four-piece rod seemed the ‘sensible’ option – it fitted nicely in my suitcase and it had the backbone to tackle any fish that I was likely to encounter. My fly collection was another ‘issue’ – it needed to cover all scenarios. I selected various nymphs, gold-heads and dry flies, along with some meaner looking, larger streamer patterns. Other essential items like breathable waders and boots, a wading jacket and of course thermal underwear were also squeezed into my suitcase. As ever, it was a challenge to keep the weight to a minimum – and at the airport I was 5kgs overweight, and was therefore stung £40 – I will never learn!
I’d been in Iceland for three days. I’d experienced some fantastic char fishing, but I wanted to fish the nearby lakes and sample the brown trout fishing. ‘Tiffi’, my guide for the trip had a plan for the following day. We were to drive deeper into the Highlands to visit a close friend of his – Herman Karlsson. Herman – the German (yes, who was German), manages what only can be described as a ‘fishing village’ and a series of lakes at Veidivotn – about a 30-minute drive away from our B&B at Hrauneyjum. We woke to blue skies. Sitting in the breakfast area, it looks a lovely summers day outside, but if the past few days were anything to go by, those Icelandic winds are cold, very cold, so I made sure my long johns were on. Following a continental breakfast, we load the 4×4 and set off on another Icelandic adventure. Heading South, Tiffi is certainly putting his deep through its paces – at times, it feels like I’m competing in the Paris Dakar Rally. Blasting across fast, wide open down hills, crossing rivers, climbing steep banks and picking up any resemblance of tracks – its all-great fun.
Within 30 minutes, Herman’s fishing village is in sight. It looks like a sort of self-contained holiday park; consisting of about thirty or so chalets, a tackle shop and a very useful ‘weigh-in’ area, allowing anglers to see to their daily catches. Standing outside the tiny tackle shop (a converted room in one of the chalets), there’s a hive of activity. Anglers are dotted about everywhere, most with huge 4×4’s – complete with trailers and rod holders. This is my sort of place – were everything revolves around fishing! When you purchase a day permit; you’re free to roam around twenty-three lakes – all of which contain wild brown trout, some to double figures. I, on the other hand, had an exclusive invitation to fish a nearby ‘hidden lake’ which only Herman and a very few select friends even knew existed. Herman had struck a deal with the local fishery authorities to enable him to rent the lake, with the intention of developing ‘an exclusive’ catch and release fishery. All the brown trout within the Veidivotn region descend from an ice age strain – only found in a few places in the world. These fish are renowned for their strength and the huge size to which they grow. For the past few years, he’d stocked the lake with hundreds of 2lb browns – many of which were now averaging 3–4lb (due to the abundance of natural food), with an excellent chance of much bigger fish to double figures. Better still, the ‘hidden lake’ hadn’t been fished for nearly a year! It all seems too good to be true, but I have no other option but to go with the flow and believe everything that I was hearing…
Having purchased some of the local flies (from a particularly pretty Icelandic blonde), we set off in separate jeeps. Although Tiffi knew the way, Herman wanted us to follow his exact tyre tracks in an attempt to hide the route to the lake. It’s not long before we suddenly career off to the right – we’re heading off the beaten track. Cresting a huge black volcanic sand dune, we’re presented with our first view of the lake. It looks somewhat featureless – set amongst a sort of lunar landscape. We hop out of the jeeps and stand on the shoreline looking out over the water. A light breeze blows into our faces as Tiffi pointed out some known hotspots. Herman on the other hand seemed more concerned with the mysterious tire tracks and footprints around the shoreline. Had someone been fishing here? We will never know, but he saw it necessary to investigate where the tracks had come from. It was at this point that I realised just how ‘exclusive’ this lake was. Full of anticipation, I begin to setup. The intermediate fly line seemed the ‘norm’, so I attach my Cortland Blue and reach for my 10lb fluorocarbon. Watching my every move Tiffi advises that I used his 15lb. To me, it seemed a little overboard, but hearing the stories of double figure fish, I think its best to listen to the man in the know! I attach a short 12ft leader and tie on a single size 4, Olive Cone-head.
We’re ready to fish, and the pair of us head off towards the left-hand side of the lake. Tiffi positions me in a likely looking spot just in front of a large formation of rocks – just two minutes from the vehicles. He then continues along the shoreline to begin fishing himself a safe distance away. It looks like an easy place to fish – with not a tree, or a high bank in sight, there’s nothing to make for difficult casting. The crystal clear water also seems at ideal depth to wade, enabling us to gain those critical extra yards. With no signs of any fish moving and slightly unsure of what to expect, I wade into the water to begin casting. Some 30 yards ahead, I notice the water shelves off into the depths – it certainly looks fishy. Casting with such a heavy fly proves interesting – at times the ‘hinging’ effect catches me out, but generally, I simply slow things down which helps punch out a decent line with the help of double-haul.
We’ve only been fishing for ten minutes or so and Tiffi hits into the first fish of the day. From a distance, it looks like a corker! I quickly reel in, and wade out of the water to collect my camera. I watch on as he battles with a powerful fish – a fish that takes him down to his backing line on its first run. Within 5-minutes, Tiffi beaches a huge brown trout. Estimated at 9lb, the absolute beauty of a fish (with a particularly huge head) is subject to a substantial photo shoot before being released. All the talk has suddenly become reality – this lake really is the place they’d made it out to be. Following a quick ‘high-five’, I walk back to my rod (OK, I run!) to begin fishing again. Adrenalin flowing, I settle back into fishing when I suddenly feel the weight of a fish. Hooked relatively deep, my first fish explodes to the surface and immediately heads for the horizon in an attempt to throw my hook. Watching my backing connection fly through my rod rings, I pray that the connection holds (as it rarely sees the light of day). The fight was on – I was into a big fish as Tiffi acknowledges my success with a wave. Within minutes, following a real tussle, I beach a fish estimated about 4 pounds. I’d done it – I’d outwitted my first trout from the hidden lake. Tiffi had grabbed for the camera, and with a beaming smile, I pose for a photograph before releasing the stunning brown.
Meanwhile, Herman joins us following an unsuccessful survey of the surrounding area. The three of us are lined up along the shoreline, all throwing out big Cone-head patterns. The technique is simple. Wading up to my knees, I cast out as far possible and allow my cone-head to sink for a few seconds. Sometimes, fish take ‘on the drop’, but more often than not, using a slow strip, I receive takes as my fly approaches the ‘drop off’ – just as the water changes colour, from deep to shallower water. Takes are viscous, with many fish powering off towards the horizon, taking me out to my backing. Usually of course, I would have been over the moon with just one of the specimens during a days fishing – but I’m experiencing probably THE best days fishing to my life.
Time and time again, stunning 3–4lb fish flap amongst the black sand on the shoreline. It’s a photographer’s dream – every fish is worthy of a photograph. I’m simply blown away. These trout can only be described as ‘slabs’ – with a feel and profile similar to sea trout. Strangely, we never see any fish moving on the surface – they’re obviously feeding that little bit deeper. I understand that their main diet comprises of crabs or small fish known as Hornsili – which is why our larger, cone-head patterns are working so well.
Herman and Tiffi decide to drive to the top-end of the lake – but I’m hitting so many fish that I find it difficult to move. I must admit, I’m pining for a slightly faster sinking fly line. Although my Cortland Blue is doing the job, a fast glass would get my flies in the ‘zone’ a lot quicker. The Cone-Heads seemed to be the saving grace, although they’re hard work to fish with all day. The final hour or so is spent towards the far end of the lake. Herman and Tiffi come back to collect me because they’re experiencing some excellent sport. The weather has taken a turn for the worse – in fact, we are fishing in a howling gale! The rain comes, along with a spectacular rainbow. Set amongst the failing light, it’s most atmospheric – so typical of the ever-changing, unpredictable weather in Iceland. As uncomfortable as it is to fish, Tiffi reminds me that it’s the ‘ideal’ conditions to catch fish in the lakes – and good fish at that. I notice as both Tiffi and Herman step up a notch – they fish hard into the wind. From experience, they knew that there’s an excellent chance of a better-sized fish – often close to the margins.
We stand in a row, casting into the waves and continue to take fish after fish – it’s a frantic session of non-stop action. Every fish we hook, Herman shouts out ‘average’ (in a German accent) – and he was right, these 3–4 pounders were the norm! As predicted, many fish took tight to the shore – fortunately, there was no longer a need to punch out a long line. The fish were proving to be less cautious in the rough conditions and failing light. Come 9pm, it was time to call it a day. It had been a mammoth days fishing and we were all totally fished out. It had proved to be a hard day in paradise. There were times when I wanted to kick back and take a rest – but I knew just how special this lake was – there was plenty of time to chill back at the B&B!
Driving back, following behind us, Herman came to an abrupt halt as we picked up one of the main tracks towards the fishing village. With that; he hopped out of his jeep and reached for a rake – yes, he was covering our tracks! It was one of best days fishing I had ever experienced. Between the three of us, we beached over 50 fish – averaging 3–4lb! Tiffi’s first was the largest – estimated at 9lb – an absolute corker of a cock fish. Some fish had stunted pectoral fins – a sure sign of stocked fish, but nevertheless, most were in absolute prime condition. Those ice-age browns are perfectly proportioned, boasting amazing golden shades – pure fighting machines. Believe it or not, Herman’s best fish to date is 16lb – yes 16lb! This place really is what dreams are made of – it was a day I will never forget, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity.
To sum up…
Iceland offers some unforgettable fishing. The unique landscape and extreme off-road driving makes for one big adventure. Tiffi’s jeep got us to places I never thought possible. At times, we were literally in the middle of no-where; casting to fish that hadn’t seen an artificial fly in months.
Streamers and Dog-Nobbler’s seem ‘the go to flies’ when fishing the lakes. On reflection, on the right day, in the right conditions, I would love to experience taking those fish using more imitative techniques on lighter tackle – maybe next time! I hope the pictures justify the quality of the fishing that Iceland has to offer. It is expensive, but Iceland enjoys a standard of living among the highest in the world, so you get what you pay for I suppose. When you fish abroad, local knowledge is paramount, and my Tiffi my guide was second to none. His passion for our sport was plain to see – he was fantastic company and a great angler who has the utmost respect for his quarry. I was glad I packed my Hardy 8wt rod, as it certainly earned its money. I was also lucky with the weather, but you need to be prepared for the worst – it can be a case of ‘four seasons in one day’. Breathable waders were essential, along with a good pair of wading boots (preferably with studs) – and of course, don’t leave home without your long johns. It was a fantastic fishing experience – one I will never forget, all thanks to my guide. Nice one Tiffi!