Lake Thingvallavatn (Black cliffs beat- 2)
The Black Cliffs beat is a shoreline in the northwestern part of Lake Þingvallavatn. The beat is known for its giant brown trout. The brown trout seeks nourishment in the mouth of river Móakotsá which runs into the lake. Off the Black Cliffs fishermen can wade far into the lake, out to a lava drop-off where one can often find one of those brown giants. The bottom of the lake is diverse, going between lava, gravel and sand. Since the area is fairly shallow one can wade rather easily around. Here a belly boat can be useful. The beat often holds large groups of brown trout and in the right conditions these magnificent fish can be seen dancing on the surface on their tails. As common in Lake Þingvallavatn the evenings are the best time to catch the brown trout although the daytime can also be productive.
Thingvallavatn is 83.7 km² and it lies along the North Atlantic Ridge, sitting where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates separate from each other. The lake is considered to be 12.000 years old and formed by land subsidence and lava dams. Canyons and fissures mark the National Park’s landscape and cut the lake bottom in many places reaching its deepest at 115 meters. Here the bottom is 13 metres below sea level though the average depth of the lake is 34 metres. The greatest length of the lake is 14.5 km and its greatest width is 9.5 km. The lake's catchments area is 90% underground and the water from thousands of cold springs has a constant temperature of 3-4°C the whole year round. The spring water is filtered through layers of the surrounding lava making Thingvallavatn gin clear and easy to spot fish. Three out of the five species of fresh water fish found in Iceland live in Thingvallavatn; brown trout, arctic char and the three spine stickleback.
Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
The giant brown trout of Thingvallavatn became isolated there in the wake of the last ice age. This legendary fish is the most desired catch of many Icelandic and international anglers alike. The stories of battles with these mighty fish sound like fairytales and will never be forgotten by those who’ve had the privilege of playing a part in them. The huge and fertile water mass of Thingvallavatn provides excellent living and growing conditions for Thingvallavatn’s brownies which are different to other brownies due to their unique habitat. They have shining silver skin in the spring and their average size is 3-4 kg or 7-9 lbs. These extraordinary brown trout can grow up to be over 15 kg, and during prime time in spring 2013 many 20 pounders where landed. The record fish this spring was 13.7 kg or 30.2 pounds, but the all time record brownie caught on a rod in Thingvallavatn was 36 pounds.
The brown trout is spread in populations around the lake but it needs moving water for spawning. The best-known population is connected to the Efra-Sog river, which was the natural output of Thingvallavatn in the south, while another well-known population has its spawning site in the river Öxará. The main reasons why the lake's largest brown trout population stayed in the Efra-Sog were the strong current and river gravel that created perfect conditions for spawning and production of black flies as a good food source. With the arrival of Steingrimsstöð Power Plant, the lake’s drainage on the Efra-Sog was damaged when a temporary dam on the reservoir broke. A thick layer of gravel washed downstream, ruining most spawning beds of the brown population. Lake waters dropped two metres and dead fry were left piled around in puddles along the lakeshore. The catastrophic effect on Thingvallavatn´s brownies seemed to be irreversible. Artificially reared fry were released and repairs were attempted to former spawning areas near the dam on the Efra-Sog where fertilised roe was stocked. No change was apparent for many years but in the year 2.000 giant browns started to reappear in larger numbers making the hearts of Thingvallavatn enthusiasts beat faster again. In Thingvallavatn you never know what the next cast will bring.
Thingvallavatn supports four varieties of the arctic char making it unique in the world. Many cases of lakes with two char varieties exist throughout Iceland, but this quartet is not found in any other lake in the world and reflects the variety of habitats within Thingvallavatn. The arctic char in Thingvallavatn is a clear example of how species evolve and adapt to their surroundings, each with its own ecological niche, as these four varieties have evolved from one species in only 10,000 years.The arctic char (bleikja in Icelandic), have adapted themselves to two main lake habitats, the main body of water and the bottom of the lake. In the main body of the lake, the food source of the arctic char is constantly on the move and the fish themselves have little shelter from predators. The arctic char that have evolved under these conditions are streamlined and have a long lower jaw. The fish-eating type, the piscivorous char (sílableikja in Icelandic), can grow up to 40 centimetres in length, while the plant-eating planktivorous char (murta in Icelandic) is a lot smaller, usually only about 20 centimetres in length. The lake bottom is the main habitat of the large snail-eating char and the dwarf-char. There is enough food there and also plenty of places to hide from predators. The snail-eating char can be up to 50 centimetres in length, while the dwarf-char stands up to its name and is usually only 10-13 centimetres. The dwarf-arctic char can often be seen in the Flosagjá fault (Money rift), where it darts among the coins that tourists throw in the rift.
Three spine sticklebacks
Sticklebacks have adapted themselves to their surroundings in the same way as the arctic char, as two varieties of Sticklebacks have evolved. One variety stays in the vegetation belt at a depth of 25-30 metres, where a suitable habitat is found, while the other frequents shallower areas amongst the lava stones. Sticklebacks are by far the most common fish in the lake; their number estimated at 85 million. An old Icelandic proverb says "Fertile is water that runs under lava." The proverb is particularly appropriate for the water that flows into Thingvallavatn. The close relationship between the ecosystem of Thingvallavatn and geological history gives Thingvallavatn a special place amongst the world's lakes. Mountain panoramas are incredibly diverse at this popular natural oasis and there are three islands in the lake whose volcanic origin is clearly visible.
Thingvellir National Park is the site of events most important to Iceland’s fate, including the establishment of Althingi (parliament) in 930 AD. It´s history lives in the lava, the moss and chasms. Thingvellir was accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004.
Good to know
Distance from Reykjavík: 45 km.
20th of April to 15th of June
Prime time (Brown trout)
1st May-15th of June
Prime time (Arctic char)
1st June-1st of August
Brown Trouts 6-8 pounds.
Average size: Arctic char 2 pounds.
Number of rods: 4
Lodge: Few options.
Do not drive offroad!