Fishing

Introducing the Salmon Rivers of Iceland by Roy Arris.

As a salmon fishing destination Iceland has everything going for it, including having no mosquitoes or biting midges! Sitting in the middle of the North Atlantic, hanging from the Arctic Circle so to speak, it is far enough from the hub-bub of Europe or North America, yet easily accessible by air (under three hours from London, and in less than two hours from Glasgow). Icelandic salmon also benefit from the island’s strategic position as they are relatively close to the ocean feeding grounds and they are allowed to travel back to their home rivers without being molested by any commercial fishing in the surrounding seas or along its coast.

 

In 1933 river owners and angling interests persuaded the government to ban all commercial salmon fishing in coastal waters in favour of developing the sport fishery. The wider economic benefits of having a productive sport fishery was recognised as being a greater asset to the river valley communities rather than those of a few net fishermen. The decision has proved to be far sighted because Iceland now possesses productive and reliable salmon fishing which attracts anglers from all over the world.

 

Salmon fishing in IcelandHarvesting salmon has gone on since the first settlers arrived in late 800 A.D. The first anglers to fish Iceland’s rivers came the 1800s, when pioneering rods from Britain journeyed by boat from Leith to spend the season fishing and shooting in what must have seemed like a garden of Eden.

Iceland's Top 25 Salmon Rivers

There are over 100 salmon bearing rivers in Iceland and these are spread throughout the island’s 38,000 sq. miles. Twenty five of them  are labelled as first class angling waters as they produce annual catches ranging from 400 to 3,000, and provide full service packages for visiting anglers throughout the season. Many of the best rivers are clustered on the west and north west coasts, but the north, east and south coasts all have their share of top rivers too.

The fishing is extremely well managed and the rivers are nurtured through common sense management and good husbandry in order to keep them as productive as possible. By law the riparian owners in a watershed have to form themselves into an association to manage the whole river. It is also law that the fishing rights of a property may not be sold separately to the land. In most cases the association of river owners (veiðifélag) lease out the fishing to an outfitter and the rent from this is divided amongst the farms based on the productivity of each stretch of river. Having a productive salmon river in the valley is a great boost to the local economy; the landowners receive much needed income and jobs at the river’s fishing lodge are provided for the community.

When To Go

Salmon fishing is allowed from 1 June to 30 September, and each river sets its own 100 day season within that time frame. Most rivers begin fishing between 20 June and 1 July and go on until September. The main run of salmon throughout the country takes place in July and August, although there are some forerunners to most waters in June, and late comers in early September in one or two rivers in the north and east areas. The general rule of thumb is that the rivers on the west side of the country usually get their main run from early July to mid-August, while the rivers along the northern and eastern coasts usually get theirs a couple of weeks later.

Where To Go

Icelandic salmon rivers provide a wide and varied choice and offer fishing to suit all tastes. All rivers are very well suited to fly-fishing and respond to an array of tactics. Most of the fishing in prime time is for grilse so a light single-handed rod will cover many eventualities. While this is fine for the smaller rivers a longer two-handed will be better suited to the medium and large rivers. A two-hander will also handle the sometimes windy conditions better than a single-hand rod will.

The smaller rivers provide a different challenge to the large Icelandic rivers, and rivers in Scotland and Norway. The clear water and small pools often means having to stalk the fish that one spots, often with the help of the guide. Under such circumstances the riffle-hitch is often the most successful method, and the most entertaining tactic. To see a fish coming through the water towards your fly – often several times before taking – only to turn away at the last moment is heart-stopping, and becomes quite addictive!

Rod sharing is common and popular on our rivers and during the long fishing day there is plenty of time for each sharer to do a lot of fishing. The one not fishing can have just as much fun by observing from a vantage point, especially when riffle-hitching as described above. At most lodges rod-sharers are expected to share the accommodation, which are twin-bedded rooms.

Salmon fishing is allowed for a maximum of 12-hours per day and in the high season the day is usually split into two shifts of 07.00 to 13.00 hrs and then from 16.00 to 22.00 hrs (some rivers prefer 15.00 to 21.00 hrs). With this in mind it should be pointed out that most bookings begin with the afternoon session and end at lunchtime: e.g. a week (six days) would consist of a half-day, five full days, and a half-day. This system also allows visiting anglers plenty of time to get to their river and back to the airport in good time.

How To Go

Landssamband Veiðifélaga is the representative body of all the riparian owners of salmon and trout waters in the country and has the most comprehensive list of Icelandic rivers and lakes, with information for each water, on its website www.angling.is   As well as all the information about the fisheries the site also contains details of the tackle disinfection requirements, fishing regulations, catch and release, and information about the country and how to get there.

2013 saw fantastic runs of fish to rivers on the western side of the country. Fishing in the north and east got off to a slow start but things soon picked up and the rivers ended up with usual healthy totals.

Here are the top 25 salmon rivers, by region, and in alphabetical order. For detailed information about each river´s fishing please click on the name to be taken to its page on the angling.is website:

WEST COAST

Laxá-í-Dölum

Laxá í Dölum153 km north of Reykjavik, near the village of Búðardalur.

(Photo Credit: Hreggnasi)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout.

Season: 1 July to 25 September

5 year average: 967

Max. Number of Rods: 6 per day

Prime time: mid-July to 20 August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge

ElliðaárIn Reykjavik.

Species: Salmon.

Season: 21 June to 15 September

5 year average: 1033

Max. Number of Rods: 6 per day

Prime time: July

Fly Only: No

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: No

Flókadalsá15 km north of Borgarnes, about 1 hour north of Reykjavik.

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout.

Season: 18 June to 26 September

5 year average: 636

Max. Number of Rods: 3 per day

Prime time: 7 July to 15 August

Fly Only: No

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: Self catering

Grimsá Iceland

Grimsá15 km east of Borgarnes, about 1 hour north of Reykjavik.

(Photo Credit: Hreggnasi)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout.

Season: 22 June to 24 September

5 year average: 1,360

Max. Number of Rods: 8 per day

Prime time: July to mid-August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

Haffjarðará – On Snæfelsnes peninsula, 30 km N.W. of Borgarnes.

Species: Salmon. Sea trout.

Season: 17 June to  September

5 year average: 1,686

Max. Number of Rods: 6 per day

Prime time: July to early August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

Laxá í Kjós IcelandLaxá í Kjós40 km north of Reykjavik.

(Photo Credit: Hreggnasi)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout.

Season: 19 June to 22 September

5 year average: 924

Max. Number of Rods: 10 per day

Prime time: July to mid-August

Fly Only: 19 June to 1 September

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

The Langá  IcelandThe Langá10 km west of Borgarnes.

(Photo Credit: Angling Club of Reykjavik)

Species: Salmon. Char.

Season: 21 June to 26 September

5 year average: 2,067

Max. Number of Rods: 12 per day

Prime time: 8 July to 8 August

Fly Only: 21 June to 20 August

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

Laxá í LeirársveitOn Route 1, between Akranes and Borgarnes.

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout.

Season: 19 June to 25 September

5 year average: 965

Max. Number of Rods: 7 per day

Prime time: 15 July to 15 August

Fly Only: >From 22 June

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge. Norðurá Iceland

Norðurá25km north of Borgarnes, 1+ hour from Reykjavik.

(Photo credit: Veiðifélag Norðurár)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout. Char.

Season:  6 June to 6 September

5 year average: 2,225

Max. Number of Rods: 18 per day

Prime time: 21 June to 21 July

Fly Only: All season

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge. Straumfjarðará Iceland

StraumfjarðaráSnæfells peninsula, 40 km west of Borgarnes.

(Photo Credit: Veiðifélags)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout. Sea-run char.

Season: 20 June to 18 September

5 year average: 426

Number of Rods: 4 per day

Prime time: 10 July to 10 August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Lodge, self catering.

Þverá Kjarrá

Þverá or KjarráLies 140 km N.E. of Reykjavik, and north of Borgarnes on Route 1.

(Photo Credit: Starir)

Species: Salmon. Sea trout.

Season: 12 June to 30 September

5 year average: 2,413

Number of Rods: 14 per day

Prime time: July

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge on each river.

NORTH-WEST COAST

Laxá á Ásum – About 240 km north of Reykjavik, 10 km south of Blönduós on Route 1.

Species: Salmon. Brown trout.

Season:  24 June to 11 September

5 year average: 723

Max. Number of Rods: 2 per day

Prime time: 15 July to 5 August

Fly Only: All season

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: Self-catering lodge. The Blanda Iceland

The Blanda Enters the sea at Blönduós.

(Photo Credit: Lax-á)

Species: Salmon.

Season:  5 June to 20 September

5 year average: 2,133

Number of Rods: 13 per day

Prime time: 15 June to 30 July

Fly Only: Some

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge. Self-catering houses.

Hrútafjarðará Iceland

Hrútafjarðará – 160 km north of Reykjavik on Route 1.

(Photo Credit: Strengir)

Species: Salmon. Arctic char.

Season:  1 July to 30 September

5 year average: 469

Max. Number of Rods: 3 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 30 August

Fly Only: All season

Guide Service: 1 per 3 rods

Accommodation: Self-catering lodge. The Miðfjarðará Iceland

The MiðfjarðaráNear village of Laugarbakki, 189 km north of Reykjavik on Route 1

(Photo Credit:Raf n Alfreösson)

Species: Salmon. Arctic char.

Season:  24 June to 25 September

5 year average: 3,137

Number of Rods: 10 per day

Prime time: 10 July to 10 August

Fly Only:

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

The Vatnsdalsá Iceland

The Vatnsdalsá 20 km south of Blönduós on Route 1.

(Photo Credit: Pétur K. Pétursson)

Species: Salmon. Brown Trout. Arctic char.

Season:  20 June to 30 September

5 year average: 985

Max. Number of Rods: 7 per day

Prime time: Mid-July to 20 August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge. The Víðidalsá Iceland

The Víðidalsá Some 30 km south of Blönduós on Route 1.

(Photo Credit: Laxabakki)

Species: Salmon. Arctic char. Sea-trout.

Season:  24 June to 24 September

5 year average: 1,050

Max. Number of Rods: 8 per day

Prime time: 10 July to 20 August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods or 1:1

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

Svartá in Iceland

Svartá Nearly 30 km east of Blönduós on Route 1.

(Photo Credit: Lax-á)

Species: Salmon. Brown trout. Some Char.

Season:  1 July to 30 September

5 year average: 359

Number of Rods: 4 per day

Prime time: 20 July – 31 August

Fly Only: Throughout

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: Self-catering lodge.

NORTH COAST

Laxá í Aðaldal Iceland

Laxá í Aðaldal 5 km west of Husavík.

(Photo Credit: Hreggnasi)

Species: Salmon. Brown Trout.

Season:  1 July to 20 September

5 year average: 1,022

Max. Number of Rods: 18 per day

Prime time: August

Fly Only: Varies

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodges

Fnjóská – 10 km east of Akureyri

Species: Salmon. Arctic char.  Brown Trout.

Season:  18 June to 20 September

5 year average: 565

Max. Number of Rods: 8 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 20 August

Fly Only: After 11 August on Beat 1

Guide Service: By arrangement

Accommodation: Self-catering lodges.

EAST COAST

Breiðdalsá in Iceland

Breiðdalsá – 1 hour south on Route1 from Egilsstaðir, which is a 1 hour flight from Reykjavik.

(Photo Credit: Roy Arris)

Species: Salmon. Arctic char.

Season:  1 July to 30 September

5 year average: 831

Max. Number of Rods: 8 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 20 August

Fly Only: 1 July to early September

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

Hofsá Iceland

Hofsá 

Enters sea near Vopnafjorður, 92 km north of Egilsstaðir on Route 917.

(Photo Credit: Club Strengur)

Species: Salmon. Arctic char.

Season:  25 June to 25 September

5 year average: 1,071

Number of Rods: 7 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 20 August

Fly Only: All season

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Selá IcelandThe Selá

100 km from Egilsstaðir via Rt. 917.

(Photo Credit: Club Strengur)

Species: Salmon. Sea-trout. Brown trout.

Season:  25 June to 25 September

5 year average: 1,850

Number of Rods:  9 per day

Prime time: 10 July to 10 September

Fly Only: All season

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

THE SOUTH COAST

East Rangá Iceland

East Rangá – Near village of Hvolsvöllur, 50 km east of Selfoss.

(Photo Credit: Lax-á)

Species: Salmon from smolt releasing. Some sea-trout and char.

Season:  1 July to 20 October

5 year average: 4,539

Number of Rods: 18 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 31 August

Fly Only: No

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

West Rangá – Runs through village of Hella, 35 km east of Selfoss.

Species: Salmon from smolt releasing. Sea-trout.

Season:  22 June to 19 October

5 year average: 6,346

Number of Rods: 20 per day

Prime time: 20 July to 20 August

Fly Only: Until 14 September

Guide Service: 1 per 2 rods

Accommodation: Full service lodge.

 

Author – Roy Arris who lives in Iceland

 

 

 
Monday, June 16th, 2014