Iceland – Atlantic Salmon Fishing

Iceland fishing

Fishing in Iceland-General Overview

From the moment you arrive into Keflavik airport in Iceland you will know that this is no ordinary fishing destination. In the distance the shadowy peaks of Volcanoes rise out of vast expanses of lava fields. Explore North, East and West and the scenery changes dramatically. Amongst the peaks, hills, volcanic vents and hot-water springs, are a myriad of exquisite clear-water rivers which typically incorporate a rich mixture of waterfalls, rapids, pots, canyons and winding stretches or river. Few places offer salmon fishing with the exquisite charisma as that on offer in Iceland. Combine this with very healthy runs of salmon, the majority of which are caught on light rods, small flies and floating lines and for many you have one of the best Atlantic Salmon fishing destinations available.

Background to Icelandic Salmon Fishing

Iceland has one of the world’s healthiest runs of Atlantic Salmon. Icelandic rivers have benefited from some rigourous but sensible projectionist policies with not just numerous measures implemented to reduce overfishing in territorial waters but also wide ranging conservation minded steps that include amongst other things an intelligently restricted fishing season and limited daily fishing hours. The evidence of this far-sighted approach to an incredibly valuable resource is evident in almost all the Icelandic Rivers you care to consider; and that is rivers that are for the better part full of Salmon!

Iceland Salmon Rivers & Environment

To say that there are an abundance of salmon rivers in Iceland would be an understatement. There are approximately 110 salmon rivers which during the 2010 season produced 75,500 salmon. About 75% of this total are caught from the top 30 rivers. It goes without saying that each river will have its very individual attributes and characteristics however generally speaking most Icelandic Rivers have exceptionally clear water. The exceptions to this are rivers which flow over fine Volcanic sand which can cause the rivers to colour up, the most notable example being the East Ranga (although rarely to an extent where fishing is not possible).

Crystal clear Icelandic rivers
Crystal clear Icelandic rivers can offer a visual salmon filled spectacle that you will not forget!! -Picture Klaus Frimour

Generally speaking most Icelandic Rivers are relatively small with single-handed rods being appropriate to cover the pools. Even where the rivers appear to be quite large the pools or salmon lies are often in fairly focused channels, a result of deepish channels cut into the Volcanic bedrock. This style of fishing lends itself to light tackle with single-handed or switch rods being the most common and for most of the season floating lines are used exclusively. Again there are exceptions to this with the likes of the Hofsa, Big Laxa, Blanda, Sela and Breiddalsa being rivers where double-handed rods might be used as the norm as opposed to an exception.

Icelandic Salmon rivers have particularly strong grilse runs. This is not to say that some rivers do not have reasonable runs of Multi Sea-Winter Fish (MSW), the bigger rivers mentioned above being examples of this however tackled up proportionately on a single-handed rod a fresh-fighting grilse in the 4-7lb range will provide excellent sport.

Beautiful backdrops crystal clear emerald tinged waters
Beautiful backdrops and crystal clear emerald tinged waters symbolise Icelandic Salmon Rivers

Accommodation & Services

Most of the top salmon rivers are now served by purpose built, comfortable and modern fishing lodges which serve either the whole river or if not the main beats. This pooling of resources means that you can typically expect very high levels of accommodation with ensuite rooms as standard and for the most part individual or shared rooms if you are rod-sharing. Good food, drying rooms and lodges positioned over dramatic parts of the river are the norm. On some of the smaller salmon rivers there are self-catering lodges which are appropriate for private teams and a cook or helper can be drafted in to assist should help be required.

Hitara Fishing Lodge-Iceland Reykjavik Angling Club
Most of the main Icelandic Salmon rivers have a modern full service fishing lodge. Self-catering options are available on some rivers for smaller parties

Icelandic Guides, Fishing Hours & Rod-Sharing

Due to the relatively short season in Iceland it is common-place for guides to be professionally qualified individuals who take the opportunity to spend 5-7 weeks guiding each season. They are all without question very passionate fishermen (Most people in Iceland are), will speak perfect English and especially for those who have not fished in Iceland should be considered essential to ensure that you get the best out of your fishing holiday.

In keeping with this passion the fishing hours that you are allowed to fish are long and the guides will be only too willing to do the hours. Long hours and the opportunities afforded by the clear-water to allow a partner to 'fish spot' means that rod-sharing is relatively common amongst Icelanders. It is also a good way to keep the costs down. Beware of course – if this is your major fishing trip of the year standing on the river-bank waiting whilst your partner fishes does not suit everyone.

River Names Explained – "Laxa in ..."

First-timers visiting Iceland may be confused by the liberal use of the word ‘Laxa’ when referring to a salmon river and which precedes a great many of the rivers. Laxa literally means ‘Salmon River’ and the word that follows is typically the name of the area or local town. By way of example ‘laxa in Dolum’ literally means ‘Salmon River in Dolum’.

Seasons and Best Times To Fish

The rod fishing season in Iceland runs from 1st June until 30 September. The start date of the season will vary from river to river to meet the runs of salmon however most rivers start fishing around mid to late June and close around mid-late September. The prime weeks on the rivers will vary depending on their geographic location. As a rule the best fishing on West coast rivers is early-mid July, East coast rivers from mid-late July and those in the North around early-mid August.

Iceland Sea liced Salmon Iceland Sea liced Salmon
Silver & Sea-liced- Fresh run grilse will give a great fight on fishing light-tackle-Pics Klaus Frimour

Iceland-The Climate

Iceland is situated just south of the Arctic Circle however its climate is considerably milder than its geographic location would suggest due to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. July is the warmest month with an average temperature of around 10 C in the lowlands of the Southern & Western parts of the country. The warmest summer days can exceed 20-25 C however the weather is very variable so come expecting all conditions.

Langa River-Iceland Nordura River-Iceland
Weather conditions can jump from cold and overcast to sunny and bright in a matter of hours

Travel to Iceland

All international flights arrive into Keflavik Airport situated a 35 minute drive from Reykjavik town centre. Iceland Air flies all year round from London, Glasgow, Copenhagen, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Boston, Washington and Mineapolis and from New York, Barcelona and Milan during the summer months. Iceland Express offers low cost fares from the UK, Frankfurt and Denmark.


Booking Salmon Fishing Trips to Iceland

With so many rivers to choose from and each with its own peculiarities of season, style of fishing, cost and 101 other variables booking a holiday is no easy matter. If you would like advice or assistance in arranging a trip to Iceland then please email Justin@WhereWiseMenFish.com or call +44 (0) 208 123 3516 or +44 (0)7711 519 857


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