Released in the sea pool.

Reflections on Iceland’s poor season.

It has been a long while, in fact I am not sure that I remember such a season, when all my clients have been unlucky and had poor fishing. Of course there are always the unlucky weeks when there is too much or too little water and then of course there are those that benefit from the extra water once it settles down. This year in Iceland has undoubtedly been poor and made worse by a lack of water. In fact, not just a lack of water but the longest drought that Iceland has ever seen. As those who live in the UK know, we have had all Iceland’s water!

Last few casts…

The harebells, indeed all the wild flowers were fantastic this year.

There were harebells in their hundreds.

First, I need to say how sorry I am that the fishing has been poor. I give my clients my best advice based on their objectives, physical condition and the time of year they are able to travel. There is of course the issue of what space is available at the time of booking too, which has been an issue the last couple of years with Iceland being so popular. I suffered too with my regular haunt being 65% or so down and it was certainly the poorest year in the 19 years I have been there.

One of Iceland’s best guides and leaseholders Ingo Asgeirsson, an old friend.

Icelandic flyboxes.

Iceland is not alone in having a poor season. Much of Canada has been poor, made worse by heat and lack of water. Some parts of rivers were closed to fishing because conditions were so bad for the salmon. The northern rivers of Russia were also down on normal though the size of the fish seemed to be up with an increased number of fish over 30lbs. Scotland has either been awash with water or dry depending on where the Jetstream took the weather. It is not really clear yet what the verdict is on Scotland yet.

Long range jump.

Guide and client, now old friends over 15 years.


The reasons for the poor season are currently only conjecture but there is talk of colder sea temperatures when the smolts went to sea. This is often the reason when fishing is down in Iceland. There is also talk of over a million tons of mackerel around Iceland, thriving as a result of the lower sea temperature and potentially eating either smolts or the food they feed on. Time will tell how quickly Iceland will recover but it usually bounces back quickly. It has been very good for many years with vagaries of catch stats mostly decided by water levels. There is no doubt that rivers which have been practicing catch and release for some years have got through this year better than most.

Silver beauty.

Released in the sea pool.

Holding on!

Like any country, Iceland is not always everyone’s cup of tea. It is often those that like to open their shoulders and throw a longer line with a double-hander that find Iceland too fiddly but for others, the intimacy is magical. Up so close and personal with salmon, fishing almost exclusively with floating line and small flies often skating. There are some that like to fish different rivers and move around from year to year, there are others who find a river and stay with it and see through the good and the bad years. I am one of those who tends to stick with a river. I have done 22 years on the same river in Norway, 21 on the Ponoi in Russia and 19 on the same river in Iceland though I do enjoy going and trying other rivers in Iceland beforehand. I think my total is up to something like 16 or 17 different rivers in Iceland. No matter what your preferred country or river is, whether it be Russia, Norway or Iceland, I would encourage you to stick with it because, for the most part, it will repay you with great years to come.

This short clip shows a wonderful slow take in the tail of a pool in Iceland. The water is normally higher and therefore the fly usually moves faster. We are a very short distance from the fish which was about 10lbs. It took a size 14 Madeleine which is a silver hook with a few black hairs. This clip is a great example of intimate fishing in gin clear water. Stealth and careful casting is always required here but even more so with the lower water.

For me, the intimacy of the fishing in Iceland is way too enticing to give up over just one bad year. I know it is very disappointing to spend so much time looking forward to a trip for so long only to suffer poor fishing but they are wild fish in wild arctic rivers and there never is, nor will there ever be, certainty.

Once again, I am sorry to those that have had a disappointing time in Iceland this year.

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