Once again I have run away to the land of fire and ice, and for the next week I shall be in Iceland. It still amazes me how easy it is to get here, a one o’clock flight from London on Iceland Air has you standing in the river by five o’clock. My old friend Haraldur Eiriksson picked me up from the airport and we drove directly to Laxá I Kjos, a fantastic river located 45 minutes outside Reykjavik. Laxá I Kjos is in the top seven producing rivers in Iceland, but is totally unique. This river demands technical skill and light tackle fishing with single handed rods and tiny flies. Size 14 is common and sometimes size 16 flies are called for. The river is full of hard laval rock bands that produce incredible holes and runs. The nearest one can liken it to would trout fishing for salmon.
Halli and I arrived to fish the evening session and after checking in with Gulvi the lodge manager we headed for the river. The weather was stunning with bright sunshine and blue skies, perfect for lighting up the stunning valley, but not so good for salmon fishing. As we moved down beat five the fish were in evidence all around, but unfortunately not in a taking mood. They looked to have their heads down and were running hard. I hitched and swung, nymphed and stripped but to no avail. It did give me a chance to become fully acquainted with my new Hardy Angel 2 TE 9’ 5# which I have to say I have completely fallen in love with. Halli and I watched from lofty vantage points as the fish moved up through the pool, clearly visible in the crystal clear water. This is what Icelandic fishing is all about, sight fishing for salmon on small flies and hitched tubes. We headed home for an incredible dinner at the Laxá I Kjos Lodge before turning in.
The following morning the call came at Six o’clock and we were out the door before Eight. There we new fish visible under the bridge, and we hoped that they would have settled down to take fly. Halli took me down to the meadows section of Laxá I Kjos to start with, a feature of the river that is truly unique. The river winds its way through the flat alluvial plane cutting through the glacial moraine. The result is something that resembles a mini Rio Grande in Argentina with gradually sloping banks moving to cut banks. These meadows hold some of the best sea trout fishing in Iceland, especially so early in the season. Point in fact as we moved down one of the pools we saw over 50 sea trout from 3 lbs up to double figures. They are quite spooky, but unfortunately it was flat calm and not ideal for fishing for them. These sea trout are much sort after and many fisherman come to Laxá I Kjos just for the experience. The prime time to target these fish is the beginning of August.
We moved own to beat one down by the bridge to try our luck and Halli caught a fantastic silver grilse that gave him a good fight. He then took me below the bridge to a small hole in the bed rock. I cast the hitched sunray over the current and as the tube created a fantastic wake there was an aggressive boil. We both sucked in our breath…. I paused before casting again… again the small sunray skimmed across the run and the fish flashed under the surface, egging me on further. Again I loaded up the Five weight and the line sang out. The fly moved over the lie and this time I was rewarded with a big splash and a heavy thumping on the rod as the fish engulfed the fly. There really is nothing quite like taking salmon on a hitched fly. The reel sang as the silver flanked fish came clean out of the water before heading off across the river. I have to say the scarlet Hardy did not struggle at all, and coped with everything the fish could throw at it. After a short ten minute battle he rolled over and I raised his head pulling him gently towards Halli’s waiting hand. We quickly removed the hook from the roof of his mouth and I held him gently in the current to revive him. With a sharp buck he was off back from whence he came. Perfect. With that we headed back to the lodge for lunch. That afternoon we threw all the kit in the back of the car and headed for Nordurá to meet the incoming group.
For the next three days on the Nordurá we have eight clients fishing, and the river is on fantastic condition. Halli and I arrived at the lodge to be met by the guides telling us that over 100 fish had gone through the second set of falls meaning there were fish right though the system now. The lodge is located at the top of the lower beat overlooking the famous Laxfoss and canyon. The Nordurá is Iceland’s top producing natural river and last season had over 3500 fish in a 90 day period.
As soon as the group arrived from the short drive from Reykjavik we allocated rooms and helped them to set up tackle and get them on the river as quickly as possible. There is nothing quite like the arrival of a new group, buzzing with anticipation and burning to find out the answers to countless questions. The beats were allocated by Halli and the guides scooped them up seamlessly and headed for the river. Almost immediately we began to get updates from the guides of fish caught and lost . In the mean time we headed for our own beat. The first pool we were to fish is called Berghylsbrot, number 98. (There are over 200 marked pools on over 40 km of river, so there is plenty of fishing.) We carefully crept out onto the cliff top to peer into the depths below and were greeted with tails jogging in the current. The pool was packed, and as we were up at the top of the river this was an excellent sign. There was also one fish ahead of the rest of the group that we estimated between 18 – 20 lbs, a huge fish for Iceland. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of large springers entering the Nordurá system.
We gained access to the pool by wading 500 yards above and then walking down. I cast a small size 14 Hairy Mary across the tail of the pool where we had seen the larger fish and began to strip the fly across the current. This I think is another fairly unique element to fishing on these rivers as the fly is often stripped rather than leaving it to the dead drift. After half a dozen casts I was rewarded with a bang and the fight was on. It was only a small fish of about 5 lbs, but a welcome none the less. I was fishing with another new rod, the Hardy Angel 2 13’ 8 weight and I quickly landed the fish and released it back into the pool. As there seemed to be a large number of fish there we made the executive decision to call the other Magnus, the other guide on our beat, and ask him to bring Andrew and Tony up and made our way back to the car. With time to kill before dinner Halli suggested going to a pool not fished much called “Leggjabjótur” which translated meant “Leg breaker” ….. hmmm… when I stepped out of the car I saw why. The bank was an overgrown lava field. We headed down to the river and managed to nick out one more from a lovely V before heading home for dinner.
Chris and Geoff were already back by then sipping a beer on the deck looking at the river. Their trip had started well with Chris catching two and hooking a further four, and Geoff having had one fish of 15 lbs which is a cracking fish for Nordurá. As we all chattered around the dinner table it transpired that 13 fish had been caught in the first session with twice as many having been lost, so the week is showing great promise already. Dinner ensued and I can only describe the food here as incredible. The food would be better suited to a top restaurant in Reykjavik rather than a fishing lodge. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.