Dale Martens, who fished with us last fall send us the following article. Thank you Dale!
My experience searching for Arctic Char in Iceland….
Just as I sat down to write this, I read Brian OKeefe’s article on Iceland in Catch
Magazine… Great magazine and great article! To be honest, it gave me a
serious inferiority complex. However, the O’Keefe article dealt with a dedicated
lodge experience. This article deals with an approach that is more budget – and
spouse! – friendly.
Almost as soon as my partner Deb and I finalized our flights to Reykjavik, I
booked a trip to the Kaldavisl River with Fish Partner. I figured that a day fishing
would be the perfect complement to some sightseeing. Hopefully, the rest of this
article will give you some insight into just what a day on the river might be like…
I was picked up by Bjartur, my guide for the day around 8 AM. He was driving a
Toyota Land Cruiser, which is the perfect vehicle for penetrating Iceland’s rugged
interior. It was the first vehicle I have ever seen with gauges that displayed pitch
and roll! On the 2 hours drive out to the Kaldavisl River, it became apparent, that I
was in good hands because Bjartur simply loved to fish.
The last bit of the journey included bumping along mud tracks through a sheep
pasture. After that, we parked beside a beautiful stretch of tundra river. Just
upstream us, a lively tributary poured in. Just downstream, the river dumped into
a lake. Directly before us, a cliff overlooked a massive series of riffles. Bjartur
explained that char fed on midge larvae in the riffles. We even spotted a pod of
them from the cliff – the bright white edges of their pectoral fins gave them away.
We skirted the cliff and hit the river. Bjartur had me rigged with a tungsten bead
chironomid beneath an indicator. We combed the vast riffle far and wide,
sometimes methodically covering water and sometimes sightfishing.
Again, those white fin edges were like beacons.
However, it was a pretty chilly morning in early September – somewhere in the
40’s – and the fish were definitely tight-lipped. We climbed back in the truck and
drove across miles of ancient, black volcanic ash to our second spot.
At the next stop, further upstream on the Kaldavisl, we hiked along the river for
perhaps a mile and fished the kind of canyon and waterfall that fly fishers dream
about. They were drop-dead gorgeous.
Brown trout were now on the program and Bjartur switched me to a streamer.
However, the water was a bit cloudy, likely due to thermal activity in the
headwaters – not something that typically colors most water.
Although the canyon and waterfall looked amazing, they were definitely not producing, so Bjartur
drove us back to our original spot at the riffle.
By this time the late afternoon sun was on the river and we saw plenty of white-
edged fins. I was sight fishing exclusively, and Bjartur had the business end of
my indicator rig switched to the ultimate in finesse – a size 20 midge larvae on 6X
After about 20 minutes, the indicator dipped and I was tight to a char. But only
until it dove into some rocks and worked itself loose. No matter. Soon after, we
spotted a nice pod of loosely-grouped fish. Bjartur actually stuck his phone in the
water and photographed a few of them. After quite a few drifts, the indicator
This char was angry… It showed me the backing knot and led us about 50 yards
down the river. Finally, it hunkered down tight to the bottom. Bjartur had to
excavate a good patch of river bed to scoop it into the net. Although the bite was
on, the sun was starting to sink and we had to start the drive back to Reykjavik.
My advice: Sampling the fishing is mandatory for any visit to Iceland!