The Fishing Season in Iceland lasts from April 1st until October 20th, but within that period you will face multiple different conditions, species to target and fishing methods based on the month or week. So let us break down the season month by month
April 1st is the open day for several trout rivers and lakes. Conditions are usually cold, and wind is not surprising. Most fishing for resident brown trout and Arctic char is done with streamers or nymphs (primarily midge patterns). April 1st is also opening day for multiple sea-run brown trout rivers, April and May sees the sea-run browns run down the rivers back to the ocean after the last falls/winters spawning. Fishing for these is done with streamers and nymphs. The opening days of the sea run brown trout rivers can produce some epic fishing, but it also carries the risk of poor weather and blown-out or frozen rivers. Mid-April sees the opening of Lake Thingvallvatn and the start of the prime time to catch the trophy-sized ice age brown trout that resides within the system. April and into May the most common method to catch the big browns of Lake Thingvallvatn is streamer fishing (with patterns imitating the Arctic char subspecies “Murta” and sticklebacks, the two main food sources for the browns).
Fishing in April can be a huge gamble as weather and water conditions can be highly unpredictable but if you hit it right you can be in for a fantastic fishing day if you feel up for braving the elements.
It is all about big browns down at Lake Thingvallvatn and is the prime time on the lake. As in April, fishing is mostly done with streamers but as you get further into the month you can start catching them on caddis and chironomids patterns. The sea-run brown trout fishing is still good in May before the last fish make the trip to the ocean by the end of the month. The first of the Highland rivers, like Kaldakvísl and Tungnaá, open up in the middle of the month. Fishing is usually exceptional there in May but weather and road conditions can make it a challenge. May also see openings of more trout and char lakes and rivers all around the island, like the trout beats on Big Laxá. On good weather days in May, you can also expect the first big hatches of caddis and chironomids and the good dry fly fishing that accompanies those.
Weather improves as summer finally arrives, the midnight sun in June can make for some extra long fishing days (and nights). The more stable weather and rising temperature mean more hatches and the start of the best dry fly period that stretches from June through the end of July or early August.
The fishing in Lake Þingvallvatn for the trophy browns is usually still good until the end of June when the big browns head into deeper water further from the coast, they are replaced by Arctic char in shallows, so most anglers fishing the Thingvallvatn system swap their attention from browns to char by the end of June. All the trout and char streams will have opened up by June as the last of the Highland Lakes and rivers open. Trout and char fishing is mostly done on dry flies or nymphs this time of year. June also sees the first salmon rivers open up as the first runs start showing up in a few rivers in the southwest and north part of the country open for fishing. Usually, the first Salmon to show up is the larger 2-year salt or return spawning fish.
More and more of the Atlantic Salmon rivers will be open, as will most of the sea-run Arctic char rivers. Most people would consider July through early August prime time for salmon fishing in Iceland, but it depends largely on which river you are fishing as some rivers get much later or earlier runs of salmon. Typically the largest run comes in around mid to late July. July is still considered prime time for most brown trout and Arctic char rivers as consistent hatches are seen throughout the month. The Lake Thingvallvatn system still fishes well, but the primary catch is now Arctic char as opposed to brown trout.
Salmon season is in full swing and the sea-run browns are making their return from the ocean. Runs of these sea run browns start arriving in rivers like Tungufljót and Vatnamót Trout and char fishing is still good in most lakes and rivers but hatches start getting less frequent, so fishing for those start to switch more towards streamers and nymphs. Some of the late-season salmon rivers like Sandá start seeing fish show up. Down in Lake Thingvallvatn, the brown trout move closer to the shore again and anglers start switching attention back over to them from the Arctic char.
Primetime for sea-run brown trout as the runs get into full swing. Brown trout and Arctic char lakes and rivers start closing down, with the first closing on September 1st and the last on October 1st. Fishing switches largely over to streamers and this is often the best chance to catch larger browns and char on streamers as aggression levels go through the roof with the spawning approaches. Some salmon rivers start closing as well while others are just entering prime time like the later season rivers further inland like the ones in Þjórsárdalur.
Most fishing has closed except for sea-run brown trout fisheries and a few salmon rivers, the last of which close on October 20th. Cold weather and tough condition are to be expected but can be rewarded with some excellent sea-run brown fishing.
Tie some flies for next season!
Interested in learning more about the fishing season in Iceland? Check out our article on the Highland Fishing Season
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