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 with brown trout to double figures and arctic char in unspoilt rivers. I read the latest fishing reports, noting prime locals and local fly patterns. 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 had the backbone to tackle any fish that I was likely to encounter. My fly collection was another issue as it needed to cover all scenarios. I selected various traditional wet flies, heavy bugs, and dry flies, along with some larger streamer patterns. Other essential items including 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 and I’d experienced some fantastic char fishing, but I wanted to fish the nearby lakes for brown trout. ‘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 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. The next morning, we woke to blue skies, but that Icelandic wind was bitterly cold – the long johns were going on again. Following a continental breakfast, we loaded the 4×4 and set off on another adventure. Heading south, Tiffi puts his truck through its paces, at times it feels like I’m competing in the Paris Dakar Rally! Blasting across fast, wide open down hills, picking up any resemblance of tracks, crossing rivers, climbing steep banks and – it was all-great fun.

Within 30 minutes, Herman’s fishing village is in sight. It looks like a self-contained holiday park; with over thirty chalets, a tackle shop, and a very useful fish weigh-in area. Standing outside the tackle shop (a converted room in one of the chalets), there’s a hive of activity. Anglers are everywhere, most with huge 4×4’s, complete with trailers and rod holders. This is my sort of place – a place where everything revolves around fishing! On purchasing a day permit, you’re free to roam around twenty-three lakes – all of which contain wild brown trout, some to double figures. I had an exclusive invitation to fish a nearby lake which only Herman and a very few select friends even knew existed. Herman had struck a deal with the local fishery authority to rent the lake, with the intention of developing an exclusive catch and release fishery. All 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 size they grow to. For the past few years he’d stocked the lake with hundreds of 2lb browns, many of which are now averaging 3–4lb due to the sheer abundance of natural food. There’s also an excellent chance of much bigger fish, possibly to double figures. Better still, the lake hadn’t been fished for nearly a year! It all seems too good to be true, but I go with the flow and believe everything that I was hearing…

I purchased some of the local flies and we set off in separate trucks. Although Tiffi knew the way, Herman wanted us to follow his exact tyre tracks to hide the route to the lake. It’s not long before we suddenly career off to the right and head well 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 lunar-like landscape. We hop out of the trucks 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 felt the need 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 setup my Cortland Blue intermediate and reach for my 10lb fluorocarbon. Watching my every move, Tiffi advised I use his 15lb instead. This seemed a little overboard but hearing stories of double figure fish, I think it’s best to listen to the man in the know! I attach a relatively short 12ft leader and tie on a single size 4, Olive Cone-head Wolly Bugger.

We’re ready to fish and Tiffi and I 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 – we both know that trout have a liking to features like these on lakes. He continues along the shoreline a safe distance away. The baron volcanic landscape makes it easy to cast with not a tree, or a high bank in sight. The crystal-clear water also seems at ideal depth to wade enabling us to gain those critical extra yards of distance. With no signs of fish moving, I wade into the water to begin casting. Some 30 yards ahead, I notice the water shelves off into the depths – it certainly looks very fishy. Casting such a heavy fly proves interesting, at times the ‘hinging’ effect catches me out, but I slow my casting stroke to punch out a decent line, aided of course with a 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 that takes him down to his backing line on its first run. Within 5-minutes, he beaches a monster brown trout. Estimated at 9lb, the absolute brute of a fish with particularly large head is subject to a substantial photo shoot before being released. All the talk has suddenly become reality, this lake really was 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, it soon explodes to the surface and immediately heads for the horizon. It powers off and I soon feel my backing connection fly through my rod rings – I pray the connection holds as it rarely sees the light of day. Tiffi acknowledges my success with a wave and within minutes I beach a beautifully marked trout, estimated around 4lb. With Tiffi behind the camera, I pose for a photograph with a beaming smile before releasing my first Icelandic brown.

Meanwhile, Herman joins us following an unsuccessful survey of the surrounding area. The three of us were lined up along the shoreline, all throwing big Cone-head patterns. The technique was simple. Wading up to my knees, I cast out as far as possible and let my fly sink for a few seconds. Sometimes fish took on the drop but often when I retrieved to the drop off, as the water changed colour from deep to shallower water. Takes were vicious, with many fish powering off towards the horizon, taking me out to my backing. I was experiencing THE best days fishing to my life. Time and time again, I beached stunning 3–4lb fish amongst the black sand shorelines. It’s a photographer’s dream, every fish is worthy of a photograph. I was simply blown away. The trout can only be described as ‘slabs’, solid and a profile similar sea trout. We never saw fish moving on the surface, the were obviously feeding that little bit deeper with their main diet comprising of crabs and small fish known as ‘Hornsili’, which explains why our cone-head patterns worked so well.

Herman and Tiffi decided to move position and drove to the top-end of the lake, but I was hitting so many fish, I stayed put. I must admit, I was pining for a faster sinking fly line. Although my Cortland Blue was doing the job, a fast glass would have got my flies in the zone a lot quicker. Cone-heads were the saving grace, although they were hard work to fish with all day. Soon Herman and Tiffi came to collect me because they were experiencing some excellent sport elsewhere. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, in fact, we found ourselves fishing in a howling gale! The rain came, along with a spectacular rainbow which looked dramatic amongst the dark volcanic landscape. Casting proved difficult but Tiffi reminded me that it was the ideal conditions to catch fish in these lakes, and the better fish too. I notice both Tiffi and Herman stick it out and continue fishing hard, from experience they knew there’s an excellent chance of a trophy fish, often close to the margins.

Again, we stand in a row, casting into the waves taking fish after fish – it’s a frantic session of non-stop action and something I will never forget. Every fish we hook, Herman shouts out ‘average’… he was right, these 3–4 pounders were certainly the norm! As predicted, many fish were now taking us tight to the shore – there was no longer a need to punch out a long line. The fish were proving less cautious in the rough conditions and failing light.

Come 9pm, it was time to call it a day. It had been a mammoth day’s fishing and we were all totally fished out. We experienced a hard day in paradise! There were times when I wanted to kick back and take a rest, but I knew just how special the lake was, and there would be plenty of time to chill back at the B&B. Driving back, 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 truck and reached for a rake – yes, he was covering our tracks!

What an adventure we had. Between the three of us we beached over 50 fish – averaging 3–4lb! Tiffi’s first fish was the largest, an absolute beast of a cock fish estimated at 9lb. We did notice some fish had stunted pectoral fins, a sure sign of stocking but nevertheless most were in absolute prime condition, perfectly proportioned boasting amazing golden shades – pure fighting machines. Believe it or not, Herman’s best fish to date was 16lb – yes 16lb! Unbelievable, this place is what dreams are made of – it was a day I will never, ever forget and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to visit some a unique lake.

To sum up…

Iceland certainly offers some unforgettable fishing. The unique landscape and extreme off-road driving make for one big adventure. Tiffi’s truck 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, I would love the opportunity to fish 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. As ever, local knowledge is paramount, and 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 ‘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 thermals. Until next time!