I love going back to Iceland, despite knowing that I’ll have to battle with my dreaded waders. This year, Peter and I have ‘swapped’ when we go, with my trip being at the end of June and Peter going late July/early August. Last year was unseasonably hot with low water and this year, certainly this early in the season, it looks like we have the opposite with good water but unseasonably cold weather – evidenced by the fact there is still a lot of snow visible in the mountains.
This was also the first time I have had the opportunity to fish Nordurá and the dates worked perfectly – a three day slot falling over the weekend. I was sharing a rod – another of Iceland’s bonuses as the fishing hours are long – with Jason ‘Logo’ Bowen (Grangers Fishing Tackle in South Kensington). We were a group of seven made up of three single rods and two rod shares with Ian, Marcus, Jason and myself coming in from the UK and Peter, Matias and Hans from Germany.
Jostling in my opinion for first position in the lodge stakes (against Langá and Nes on the Big Laxá), Nordurá is very comfortable, with 12 en-suite rooms and great views of Laxfoss. The big attraction here (apart from the fishing) is the food – Gummi, the Chef, is a master in the kitchen and the food absolutely superb.
With the afternoon session already underway, it was a matter of how quickly we could all tackle up, wrestle ourselves into waders and head out onto the river. It was a wonderful surprise to find out that our guide was Arni – not only the vice-President of the Reykjavik Angling Club and responsible for managing Laxá I Dolum through the season (where I fished with him last year) but also one of Reykjavik’s pre-eminent policemen. When I voiced my concern that the law of the land turned into a ghillie for the entire summer, he replied that it didn’t matter as those in need of a bit of law enforcement were also out fishing. Iceland really seems to come to a standstill through the summer as a huge percentage of the population are out fishing, guiding or managing lodges and you can just as easily find that your ghillie is a surgeon as a farmer, bank manager or a professional musician.
The water was cold and air temperature noticeably dropping as the evening drew on. We had the upper beats on the river, moving up into the valley and while we knew the fishing there would be quiet as the run up over the falls hasn’t really started yet, we set off in high spirits and with tucked in thermals. Jason’s first Icelandic fish wasn’t quite what he had expected and I’m pretty sure that the trout he landed was as surprised as he was. It wasn’t really a fair test of his 10’ 7# Hardy Zenith but it was to be the only fish we landed that evening. Back at the lodge we found that both Ian and Marcus had landed salmon of 7 lbs and 6 lbs respectively although the rest of our group had not been quite so successful.
It does feel rather odd to be going to bed with the sun still up and the birds singing but I don’t think that anyone had too much trouble sleeping after the first of Gummi’s fantastic offerings. The alarm clock went off way too soon and it wasn’t long before we were all breakfasted and ready to go. Overnight the temperature had only dropped as low as 5 degrees (positively tropical), the morning was clear and the river had risen. Whilst warm, the north wind was still keeping the temperature down and the water temperature was noticeably colder in the early part of the day. Although not part of our group, Jason and I were fishing with a delightful English couple, Geoff and Jenny, who were also sharing a rod. We had Laxfoss in the morning session and having all managed to get lost on the way, having ignored Jason’s comment that the wooden steps were the obvious way down. We eventually ended up where we needed to be. I persevered with my 9’ 7# Hardy Zenith but was struggling with the wind. I had one big hit but, forgetting where I was in my excitement, I strip struck ….. obviously not a tactic that works with salmon. Time to swap over and, having warmed the pool up for him, Jason caught his first Atlantic salmon. An immediate convert to fishing the hitch Icelandic style, he landed a beautiful fresh solid silver bar of about 8 lbs on a Sunray Shadow. I don’t think he stopped smiling all day.
We reconvened at the lodge for lunch, failed to have an afternoon snooze and were ready to go at 1600 for the evening session. The weather had improved a little and the water level had dropped during the morning so we headed down into the canyon for the evening session feeling optimistic. Not being overly nimble, I did view the rock wall with some trepidation but was surprised at how straight forward it was, although I could have negotiated it with a little more style! We hopped into the truckle for the ghillie powered trip across the river and headed off down the canyon and past the hot spring that feeds into the river year round. The wind was not helping and at 1900 we headed back up to the truckle to cross over and fish the rather more sheltered pool on the other side of the river. Having had no luck myself, Jason took over and (there is a pattern emerging here) a few casts later had his second salmon on, again fishing the hitch with a Sunray Shadow. We moved on, climbing out of the canyon and moving a little further up. We fished the pools there to no avail and let’s just say that the climb out wasn’t quick! It was a tough day and the end results were that Peter had hooked four and landed three (one of which was a fantastic fish), Ian had one and Jason had two. Marcus had a hellish afternoon – he lost a massive salmon and had a small mishap with the boat and taking a small dunking. Like the remainder of the group he had come back windswept and ruddy cheeked …. if slightly damper.
Sunday morning dawned bright but very windy and we were all really impressed with how early Marcus was up, kitted up and ready to go out until we realised it was just an excuse for him to get to use the yeti slippers. His morning run had been rather more of a challenge as the wind was definitely up on the day before and with much ribbing on our part, Ian was under pressure to get out early. We missed the first two hours on the valley beats to go to Langá as I wanted to see how the water was doing as well as popping in to the old lodge. It was also good to catch up with Ole, the head ghillie on Langá and Mjöll before driving back to Nordurá and kitting up by the river. We were fishing below Glanni, and, having managed to avoid doing a ‘Marcus’, rowed over to the other side. By this point I had appropriated Jason’s 13’ 8# Hardy Demon as I was really struggling with the wind with my 9’. As I had never used a double handed rod before, both Arni and Jason sensibly retreated to a safe distance but it was the only way I was able to get any line out in the wind (remember I’m a novice at this). I also decided it was time to fish the hitch. Watching the fly move over the water, I was in such a state of suspense that I completely forgot to breathe! Two fish were hanging in the pool and although I kept covering them, they just weren’t interested, regardless of what fly I had on. I was just stripping in my line when Jason pointed out a large salmon, cruising sedately past about three feet in front of us, without a care in the world to vanish into the white water under the falls. As we prepared to swap over, I bet Arni my bottle of vodka that Jason would come in after me and land a nice fish. Five casts later (Jason was counting) and he had another lovely fish on, so fresh it still had sea lice attached and Arni was a bottle up.
Lunchtime saw us being joined by Haraldur Eriksson, the Director of fishing at the Reykjavik Angling Club and the four of us fishing two rods and three ghillies set off for Laxfoss. Sedately, we crossed over below the falls and found ourselves nooks out of the wind. Jason went back round with Haraldur to fish directly under the falls while the rest of us remained where we were. Jenny hooked but lost a fish and we saw several fish running. We said goodbye to Arni mid way through the session and moved on down the river for the last section of the evening. We called it a day a little early and returned to the lodge for a much needed hot shower and G&T. That evening Ian and Marcus rechristened Jason ‘Mr Greedy’,and I got a ribbing for ‘giving’ him all my fish. The end tally for the day saw Marcus, Peter and Jason with 1 each, Ian clumsily had lost his (and Brad Pitt), Matias had 2 and Hans and I returned empty handed. Peter kept us up late (yes, we had nothing to do with the lateness of the hour or the empty wine bottles) and eventually repaired to bed at 3 am.
Too soon the alarm clock went off and we were off for our last session. The wind was incredibly strong and cold, the toughest day fishing that we had yet and we were back down into the canyon, around the rock wall and on to the truckle. We were fishing to the left of the truckle and the wind was howling through there – it was incredibly tough for me. I had one big hit and, heart pounding, cast again. This time I managed a reasonably square cast, and the yellow and black fly began to make its way in an arc over the lie. Suddenly I felt a huge pressure on the end of the line as it began to sear out of the rings and finally, and fantastically, I had my first Atlantic salmon on. What a different feeling it was hooking a fish on a 13’ rod compared to the single handers I am used to – I felt rather detached from the fight going on at the other end. A lot of head shaking later (by the salmon, not me) my fish was off and I freely admit to having a huge lump in my throat. My very first salmon vanished off into the depths and, having rested the pool for a bit, Jason picked up the gauntlet. Still casting beautifully in that horrendous wind, he wasn’t able to repeat the trick of previous days – perhaps he felt sorry for the dejected figure on the bank – and when our time was up at 1000 we went back over the river and met up with Jenny, Geoff and Klaus. After a quick chat, Jason and Haraldur went back over the river and walked on down past the hot spring and frustratingly lost two there. All too quickly 1200 came around and we had to head back to the lodge. Hans landed 1 as did Marcus, Ian and Peter. A quick lunch later it was time to say goodbye and head back to the airport.
It was undoubtedly tough conditions and unseasonably cold but I had an amazing trip to what is a stunning river and have everything crossed that the forecast for a change in wind direction in the next few days is correct. My thanks, as always, to everyone for making it such a memorable three days.