This was my third year visiting these now famous pieces of water. You can read about my first time here and my second time here with an in-depth explanation of the lake, the fish and how it all fits together as well as how this extraordinary fishing phenomenon exists.
The purpose of this short blog is to really re-affirm this amazing fishing, to reflect on its consistency and share a few more pointers on what we learned this year. My visit started with a jolt and a good reminder of why I was there. My friend was in the hotspot and I was trying various places when a fish took my fly and almost emptied my reel in one run at alarming speed with such a wonderful noise. Generous guides would have given me 10lbs but the scales said it was a shade under!
First, the fish. One of the facts that guests are marvelling at this year is that many fish are being caught (our group caught 77 in our three days with 2 x 14lbs, 13lbs, 2 x 12lbs, 11lbs and 4 x 10lbs) and yet none are showing signs of being caught before. They remain in wonderful condition and as beautiful as ever. One guest travelling with me commented “every one was a supermodel.”
If you look at the photographs from 2014, you will see that the fish are equally stunning but probably a bit smaller averaging about 4 to 6lbs that year. This year I think we are closer to 7 or 8lbs but there is also clearly a new generation coming on because I think we caught more one to two pound fish than previous years. Numbers seems to be equally good as previous years but the whole season likely needs to take place before a final judgment can be made on that. As I write I am hearing about three 20lbs fish that have been caught over the weekend (20th/21st May 2016) so size does not seem to be an issue!
Strength. Everyone has been extremely impressed by the strength of the fish with multiple long runs into the backing and their dogged determination not to give up. All agree that they outstrip a salmon by a long way.
We caught one fish which was tagged, No 107750. It weighed 11lbs and was 75 cm long and nearly cleaned Tom’s reel. It was first tagged on 31st May 2015 in the same area, then it weighed 8.75lbs. It was 68.6 cm long. It was captured on the spawning beds up the river on the 1st November (netted, not fished for) and then it was 75 cm. So it grew 6.4 cm or 2.5 inches in exactly five months and increased in weight by 2.25lbs. It was in the river in November to spawn for the first time.
What we have learned. When I reflect on 2014, I realize that neither we, nor the guides with us (not the guides now and no disrespect to them as they were as new to it as we were), had a clue about the fishery or how to approach it and although it looks obvious with lots of fish rolling around, doing well remains a challenge. I bet there is nobody who has left the lake this year that is not thinking how they could do things better the next year. But 2014 was research and in fairness it was one morning on the bay and an evening at the river. During our visit in 2015 the weather was atrocious, heavy wind, seemingly endless rain, huge waves etc but the fishing was extraordinary. I think we learned about the fish, how they were behaving and why and how to catch them effectively but we did not really learn about the impact of conditions. It was a whirlwind of strategizing and catching lots and lots of fish.
This year, in the bay, we learned that if the wind is blowing towards the warm water coming into the lake from the spring, it concentrates it just outside the entryway and therefore concentrates the fish. The best approach for two rods is one on the point and one wading casting to the fish from the beach. Such a wind direction can make the rest of the bay tough. You would think that this would mean an offshore wind would make for poor fishing and that can certainly be the case as we experienced one afternoon however last year, we had onshore and offshore winds and the offshore though less productive was more interesting and a chance to catch fish on dries and hanging nymphs. The experience of 2015 therefore leaves a mystery of why the offshore wind produced poor fishing in 2016 for that one afternoon. Maybe it was actually another factor?
The other main area of learning was the conditions surrounding the river which comes into the lake. There are always fish there in numbers but the temperature of the river, the power of the river and the colour or amount of matter it is carrying into the lake are all factors both in how many fish there are there and how free taking they are. The warmer the river compared to the air temperature the better because it draws more fish in because they are seeking the warm water. The power or volume of water entering the lake also encourages the fish to come in and gives them greater security to come closer and be less spooky. The sediment it carries can also be impactful because less clear water also offers the fish security. In 2015 we had warm, high, coloured water! The wind is another factor, especially if the power of the water coming into the lake is reduced. If it is a strong onshore wind then it can dissipate the water and stop it fingering into the lake and the fish disperse or are less concentrated. Keep in mind that these considerations all have an impact but rarely do they cause bad fishing.
Stealth. We did not learn this on this trip but it was again very apparent that crashing into the water on either beat, being above the horizon or generally being clumsy did not serve you well. Again, you will likely still catch fish but you will do much better if you are careful and do not underestimate the need for stealth.
Terminal Tackle. There has been a lot of chat about matching rod strength and action to hook size as well as leader strength. Perhaps the biggest cause of fish loss is when the fish is towing a flyline and 100 yards of backing around. It either breaks the leader or pulls or bends the hook. Another reason for loss is stiff rods working with small hooks. This year we caught most of our fish on nymphs in the size 12 to 14 range in simple patterns like hare’s ear, pheasant tail nymphs, Prince nymphs, small black nymphs etc but white (black ghost size 8) and olive streamers performed from time to time. Fish were also caught on dries such as black hoppers (almost hawthorn size) and black gnats in about size 12. On the leader front there has also been much debate and our current feeling is two options.
The Airflo Sightfree G5 Premium Flurocarbon – we recommend 13.1lb for streamers, 11.2lb for nymphs and if you think the fish might be shy (which I think they can be in calm conditions) go to 8.4lb or even 6.9lb for dries.
TroutHunter Flurocarbon – the same strengths apply.
Fishing two nymphs at the river works well but I would not recommend it at the bay because the rocks are too numerous and sharp.
I cannot conclude this piece without recognising someone very special, a client of 25 years or more yes, but really a true friend. Paul is now 88 but he is out there with the best of them doing what he loves and enjoying himself with a superb sense of humour. My role is to look after him but other than a very gentle hand on the tiller, he needs no looking after. It is he that looks after me, setting an example in so many ways. You would think that someone of that age would be a drag and a responsibility and frankly who could blame them if they were but not a bit of it with Paul. He is the most charming, best mannered, most amusing and the life and soul of the party keeping up with the group in every way. He is truly remarkable and an absolute pleasure to be with and Paul, as long as you want to keep fishing, please be there to look after me! Here are some pictures of Paul in action, some of them joking setting him up with the cognac and towel etc as he battled with a fish he eventually lost after 45 minutes.
As I conclude this, the season has progressed and so far, the extraordinary productivity of this fishery has continued with four guests catching 50 fish just yesterday. It is very heartening to see the recovery of this strain of fish and all credit to the Icelanders for seeing the danger and doing something about it. I leave you with some client comments which sum up the reaction to the experience so far this season.
We absolutely loved it, what an amazing place and so convenient. Guides were fantastic and so pleasant to be with. We got plenty of fish and some really good double figure ones. Stunning fish. Thanks very much.
Best, Andrew “
“Quite a trip! Dry fly fishing for an endless series of enormous trout is the stuff of dreams. Stunning scenery, hotel was great, food delicious, guides were delightful, I feel like I have been away for two weeks and have memories that will last forever.