Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Egg on my face…


A trout bum clutching salmon, I could pass a single fish off as an accident, but three in succession leaves no room for manoeuvre… Caught red handed dabbling for salmon, that’s my dyed in the wool trout reputation down the swanny.  A lame excuse, but we chased them very much like you do trout…and bloody good fun it was too.  Close friends will be keen to learn the last three fish on this trip were silver tourists!




This well conditioned fish head and tailed on my fly…brilliant





~A handsome cock fish just about to be turned loose~




Our trip draws to a close and Icelandic custom dictates a wee tipple or three.  Benni wasn’t shy when it came to pouring some sort of local liqueur.  It looked like ground up lava dust to me, but thankfully tasted as smooth as a single malt  

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

An offer too tempting…

Those who know me are only too aware of my views on salmon!  In fact, it would be fair to say “I’d rather stick hot pins in my eyes than patrol the beats of any celebrated salmon river”.  Gulp…talk about eat your words… An offer to spend a day on one of Iceland’s most famous salmon rivers proved too tempting.  Two things swayed it, one, being able to wield a single handed fly rod and secondly, movie stars and wealthy folk frequently visited this valley.  We’re talking about people like Cameron Diaz, Vinnie Jones and the King of Norway, if nothing else, it was reason enough to see what all the fuss was about?

P1000558 Benni and Stjani (father and son) take it in turns to work through the hallowed waters of the Vatsndalsa where only a privileged few have fished


Call me a “turn coat”, but I’ve got to say the fishing we experienced bordered on spectacular!  Especially when you’re using a 6-weight outfit and a riffle hitch fly.  This surface method is extremely visual when salmon rise to take the fly just like a midging trout.  They really do and the knack is waiting long enough for them to turn down (painfully slow).  Timed correctly the rod kicks into life when you tighten…  Great fun and a nice alternative as we shifted between trout streams.  In fairness, I let the boys go first, just so I could get the measure of it all!









Stjani’s huge net closes around another fish that his father Benni tempted using the rifle hitch









~Next up is Viking Stjani who manages to bag himself a clean fish~









A solid looking salmon for Mat McHugh of Fly Odyssey and damn good fun on trout tackle









With the boys having scored, I could have run, but had nowhere to hide!  Thankfully, with clear water, Mat had slipped into NZ mode and was spotting from way up high.  We stalked this fish below as you would a trout, he’s just about visible upstream of a large boulder 


Monday, 26 August 2013

On the hunt:


In search of refuge from biting winds, we headed into a mountain range (right). This might have sounded odd, but towering hills acted as giant wind breakers. In their lee, swarming midges encouraged large trout to rise, which caused surface water to heave in their wake…nerve wracking!


Best of all, piles of dung left by Icelandic fell ponies attracted hordes of bibio (black gnats) that every so often got wafted onto the water



4lb odd of Viking trout that came after a long day of waiting and searching in God awful weather…well worth it


Sunday, 25 August 2013

First winter Storm:


Iceland’s weather is fickle at best that bear its teeth without warning. It’s one thing taking advantage of zephyr like breezes (right) when midging trout can be expected, but sooner or later you’ll run into adverse conditions.  We’ve just experienced a strengthening northerly which brought threatening clouds and freezing rain that eventually turned to snow.  Classed as the first winter storm this killed any hope of rising fish.


Imminent rain or in this case snow can spell disaster for the dry fly enthusiast.  Faced with such conditions, you either sit it out or knuckle down to subsurface tactics which mainly involve nymphing, or dare I say it…streamers!



Storms in Iceland aren’t to be taken lightly, clearing clouds left snow capped mountains and a drop in daytime temperatures that struggled to 5oC…brgh…


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Burning the candle:


Although chilly, early doors happened to be a prime window for feeding trout.  Thankfully, black midges had their thermals on too and readily emerged during this period.  Dragging your backside out of bed to catch any action worked out well on more than one occasion.  Though the weather Gods had to play their part too by blessing me with the faintest of breezes (above) for anything like decent sport.


Tiny midge hatching at first light prompted me onto my knees more than once



Fast-forward to evening time and once again a fading breeze prompted fish to rise.  Without question this was the best time to tangle with prize trout like this heavily spotted lump below. That said, you felt compelled to be on the water from first light for fear of missing out…Long days!


Friday, 23 August 2013

A bit of a Paradox…?


You’d be forgiven for thinking the above pic had be taken on a fertile chalkstream somewhere in southern England and if I didn’t know better myself, I’d have assumed so too.  Yet the location was Iceland’s northern reaches, which is supposed to be a barren, moonscape where life struggles to cling on, so what’s with the lush looking weed?  Well, in certain situations you’ll discover a wealth of life.  This usually exists close to river banks where nutrients leaching from nearby fields enrich the margins, giving vegetation an opportunity to gain a foot hold.







The contrast between marginal weed and a more barren riverbed of volcanic lava is clearly visible.  Little wonder that fish choose to station themselves close to this verdant band that provides them with perfect cover.





With few trees and trout holding tight in, keeping low when edging forward massively increased your chances of success


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Back on the Browns:

Leaving behind Iceland’s highland streams that are home to Arctic Char, our journey took us to low lying rivers in search of trout.   This is where volcanic lava dust accumulates to make the perfect habitat for midge larvae.  Miniscule these might be, but such tiny chironomids form the staple diet for brown trout.  Granted, a much broader river might have made the art of watercraft difficult, but giving calm conditions (below) the trout went go bonkers of emerging midge.






Not that evidence was required, but midge shucks drifting downstream were a sure sign of good sport.








When the surface “glassed out”, fish would station themselves close to banks.  You can just make out the tail lobe of a rising trout as it slips back to its lie.







The fish in question, not a trophy be Iceland’s standards, but it’s a stronger willed man than I who would turn his nose up at such trout…


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Best of both Worlds…


One good thing about sea run char is their willingness to feed in freshwater.  This meant we could adopt a more imitative approach in a bid to winkle them out.  Admittedly, nymphs sporting brightly coloured beads are considered the norm by many locals.  Yet, more subdued patterns worked their magic too.  The fish about to be released (above) was happily munching on nymphs before a black bead head PTN drifted past his nose.  And those that snubbed subsurface patterns often had an eye for a delicately placed dry fly…giving us the best of both Worlds!



The flies which consistently produced the goods.  In particular, a small black bead PTN worked a treat on more fussy fish or those that flinched at more garish dressings!




I watched this plump fish quietly rising on an inside bend. A size 14 Elk Hair Caddis with a CdC underwing proved her undoing


Monday, 19 August 2013

Worth the Effort:


From way up high (above) it’s easy to dismiss tiny ribbons of water as pathetic trickles, barely capable of holding fish.  Though clambering down a steep escarpment proved well worth it whilst exploring the upper parts of an Icelandic stream.  Admittedly, not every pool held char, but a stealthy approach paid off and put me on a number of solid fish.  As you’d expect, having fattened up out at sea these fish took off like a greyhound out of trap one when hooked.  And in the skinny water they often resort to a series of spectacular leaps in a bid for freedom.





…If rods could talk, my 5-weight outfit would be complaining of a bad back following the brutal tussles with Icelandic char…






It never ceases to amaze me when specimens like this stunner are discovered in water all of knee depth.  Such fish also bolt when you tighten, often tearing off line at an alarming rate.  The best bit though is the visual aspect of watching a lump like this slip inches from its chosen lie to meet your fly…magic


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Let there be light…please


Blessed with crystal clear water we were able to locate fish by sight.  That said, Arctic Char studied at the Icelandic school of camouflage and with their green mottled backs blended well into any type of background.  However, that striking white leading edge of their fins (above) is what betrayed them.  Odd then to be wishing for sunny weather (great for fish spotting) when back home, cloudy days are more our thing… And where you located a fish then others were never far away.  Of course, finding them is one thing, extracting them was a different story!




First of the trip, a broad shoulder hen fish that sidled over to inhale a #18 hare’s ear nymph (I think the flat cap helped…)




Thankfully, Alan Swann brought along his traveller's vice, allowing us to top up with the tiny nymphs these char preferred.  It fell to us though to crank out several flies as dawn broke, which at this time of year up north is 4am…


Friday, 16 August 2013

Back o’ Beyond:


Landing at Reykjavik, a domestic flight (right) took us up to Akureyri, Iceland’s remotest airport.  Jumping in a truck we headed further north into the back o’ beyond, a desolate place with no street lights, villages or public services of any kind,  Just shy of the Arctic Circle, our destination was a distant stream thought to contain a population of sea run Arctic Char.




…Even at the height of summer, snow still lingers on surrounding peaks…





Having scurried across the tundra…time to draw breath and assess our situation…Summer snowmelt had kept levels high and although icy to the touch, thankfully water clarity remained unaffected


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tundra Time…

Iceland’s tundra offers a number of opportunities for those who enjoy pursuing wild trout in a truly rugged, windswept environment 


Loaded to the hilt, I’m just about ready to hit Iceland’s tundra tomorrow.  Mat McHugh of Fly Odyssey and myself aim to head for the remote north and check out a number of different rivers.  Despite some pretty hostile weather up there of late, I’m champing at the bit…

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Swings and Roundabouts:


Only last week we were enjoying good stints during both the day and evening.  A fickle month though, August often throws in a curve ball, which we know better as “the dog days of summer” when regardless of what you try, the trout just don’t want to play ball.  With the main river out of sorts and long walks between drinks, a recent day saw Matt Eastham and myself tackle a sea of verdant undergrowth. Our destination, a hidden tributary were we hoped to find trout in a more cooperative mood.


Bar the odd B-WO or Autumn Dun, fly life was scarce which reflected in the intermittent rise forms.  However, following a shaky start, we eventually found a few willing takers.  There was the odd cock-up too with those trigger happy tendencies rearing their ugly head causing me to tighten a fraction too soon on a couple of occasions…Sod’s law, it always occurs on a better stamp of fish too!  That said, we sampled enough sport and excitement to make the assault course well worth it.  Fingers crossed, the nights drawing in should soon see a return to daytime hatches of fly and something like more consistent sport.

~Matt successfully prises a decent fish away from menacing willows~









…Fish might not have been on ever corner, but those we found were in good fettle…Matt displays a handsome looking trout taken well away from civilization…







~Another stunner…only a couple of these are needed to make your day~


Monday, 5 August 2013

A Whiff of the Day Shift…


~A secluded pool where trout can feed undisturbed even on bright, sunny days~

A drastic change in weather has also brought a shift in the trout’s movements too.  Only last week the best of any action seemed restricted to that witching hour, just before dark.  Obviously, a spike of fresh water livened things up when trout felt more comfortable when something like normal flows trundling over their heads.  Granted the evening B-WO carnival could still be enjoyed, but some fish had other ideas about venturing out during daylight hours.



Naturally, hatches of fly were non-existent and any spinners from previous evenings could be found cowering on the underside of broad leaves (right).  Of greater interest were the army of aphids (greenflies) watching over the odd upwinged fly.



The calling card left by these tiny pests is a deposited of honeydew found on a leaf’s upper surface.  This sugary secretion is visible as a waxy sheen (left) easily seen at distance.  And where branches reach across a pool then trout will gather to pick off any unfortunate aphids that inadvertently take a tumble!



Generally, it pays to copy the dominant food source of fish and where aphids are concerned a miniscule imitation is often vital.  However, trout sipping down dot like aphids occasionally have eyes for something that bit more meaty, especially when your presentation is on song.  An unassuming fly is more likely to score too, a little black number like the All Purpose Terrestrial (APT) seen firmly planted in the scissors of this trout (left) is my first choice these days.



~Even solid trout will turn to aphids…this beauty had got tucked-up under sycamore tree and fell for the APT first chuck~P1050263