Near the top of every flyrodder’s wish list is a trip to the mystical land of fire and ice, Iceland. Each summer, anglers from around the globe are drawn to Iceland’s dramatic landscape and nearly a hundred crystalline rivers with fantastic runs of Atlantic salmon.
Unlike many other salmon venues, Iceland’s rivers have remained consistently productive, with annual catch rates equal to those recorded 25 – 30 years ago. This is due largely to strict river management policies restricting the number of “rods” each individual river is capable of supporting. With the implementation of newer conservation measures such as catch and release and fly-only on many rivers, many expect the fishing will be even better in the very near future.
Easy to get to and closer than many Americans realize (just a 4 ½ hour non-stop flight from New York or Boston), Iceland attracts more and more anglers from the U.S. each season. Through our longtime affiliation with Iceland’s premier outfitter, Angling Club Lax-á, Angler Adventures is pleased to offer prime weeks on many of Iceland’s very best salmon rivers.
The upper branches, Vestura, Nupsa and Austura offer every conceivable type of water with classic pools, pocket water, runs, falls pools and eddies, all of which hold salmon. The lower stretch of the main river is more pastoral with wider, more conventional pools. One of the highlights for many is fishing the spectacular Canyon on the Austura branch. Starting at the top, it takes the better part of a 6-hour fishing session to work your way to the bottom. A stealthy approach and delicate presentations are absolutely essential for success on this water. In many pools, your guide can climb to a “spotters” position where he can observe the salmon’s reactions to the fly. It can be a bit unnerving when he says, “here he comes – HE’S A BIG ONE!” It’s some of the most exciting and intriguing salmon fishing I’ve ever done.
Like many of the north coast rivers, the catch on the Midfjardara is cyclical, and judging from historical statistics, Midfjardara may be due for a big season in 2003. During good years, Midfjardara can produce annual catches of over 2000 fish and has a 25-year average of over 1200 fish to 10 rods. Thanks to voluntary catch and release and the adoption of "fly only" from early July to the end of the season, the river has had excellent spawning escapement in recent seasons. Coupled with extremely high numbers of parr in the river the past several years, biologists are predicting big seasons for 2003 and several years to come.
Prime time on Midfjardara is from early-July to mid-August and there are still a few vacancies during peak weeks. Please call for availability.
Blanda was long written off by visiting international anglers due to the glacial feed that discolored the river rendering it unfishable with fly. It was left to “locals” to fish with spinning gear. However, the Blondous Reservoir, built in the late 80’s, now acts as a giant settling pond for this glacial tributary, and the river flows clear throughout June, July and much of August. Depending on the amount of summer rainfall in the area, the river may remain clear until September. I fished Blanda August 25th and 26th two years ago, and we had clear water and excellent fishing with bright two sea winter fish up to 18 pounds, and a few seatrout to boot. But to be safe, we recommend booking prior to August 10th.
The Blanda boasts the highest ratio of salmon to grilse of any river in Iceland, as well as one the highest average weights of around 9 pounds (grilse and salmon). It has an unusually early run providing quality angling almost a month before other rivers, with good catches recorded from the June 1 opening day. This 8 rod river also produces impressive numbers with a 25 year annual average catch of around 1100, and good years can see catches soar to nearly 2000 salmon. This is particularly impressive given most of June is fished by only 4-rods on the lower beat below the falls. As temperatures warm, fish ascend the falls in late June and an additional 4 rods commence on Beat 2 above the falls.
Since opening to the international market, Blanda has benefited from widely practiced catch and release as well as fly only management. There is a counting facility on the fish ladder on the falls at Svarta, the main tributary for spawning, and biologists have estimated the escapement at over 2500 salmon above the falls in 2002, the best ever seen. This, of course, bodes extremely well for some fantastic fishing a few years down the road.
Blanda is a big river and is best covered with double-handed rods. Early June fishing may require sink tips and weighted tube flies, but typically by mid to late June, floating lines and small flies become the method of choice.
Prime time is June 15th – August 10th and there are still a few open rods during this time. Blanda can be easily combined with Midfjardara, or especially in June, with Asum.
Laxá in Ásum
Asum is a relatively small river, easily covered with a light, single handed-rod. Floating lines and small flies are the norm, even in early season. Uncharacteristic of north coast rivers, Asum is primarily a grilse river with the average size fish 6.5 pounds. But what they lack in size, they more than make up for in numbers. Many regulars routinely fish 6 or 7 weight single-handers.
Asum is the most expensive river in Iceland, but despite the high price, is usually sold out year after year. While prime time is mid-July through mid-August, it is such a productive river that “shoulder” periods are extremely worthwhile. There are still a few open dates, and it may be possible to combine a few days on Asum with time on either Blanda or Midfjardara.
Hafralonsa is not a producer of great numbers of fish. However, it is one of Iceland’s best big fish rivers. Two sea winter fish average 14 pounds and each year salmon in the 20 – 30 pound class are hooked. It is best recommended for the experienced and reasonably fit angler as there is a lot of water to cover in order to find fish. For those who revel in the challenge of large fish on small flies in a remote wilderness setting, the Hafralonsa is hard to match.
Problems with the timing of smolt releases in 2001, resulted in
somewhat disappointing returns in 2002. The East and West combined for just over 2000 fish last year, still
ranking it among the top 3 rivers in the country. Biologists believe the 2002 release was extremely
successful and are predicting strong returns for 2003.
For more information, please contact Doug Schlink at Angler Adventures
by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (800-628-1447 in the US, 860-434-9624 internationally).
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