I see a pearl moon ris­ing

The Prof en­lists the help of a young guide called Sibbi in a quest to conquer salmon and sea trout, in­clud­ing the big­gest fish landed on the Grimsa this sea­son, on some of Ice­land’s most pro­lific rivers

Country Life Every Week - - Reel Life - Pho­to­graphs by Glyn Sat­ter­ley

RENOWNED for its vol­ca­noes, Vik­ing sagas and the de­feat of the English soc­cer team, Ice­land has a pop­u­la­tion roughly the size of Cardiff, but can boast nearly 100 salmon rivers. Bri­tish sports­men have been vis­it­ing since the 1880s and a favourite des­ti­na­tion is the lovely Laxá í Kjos—a medium-sized ‘first XI’ river flow­ing through a ver­dant glacier-forged val­ley on the west coast. When I ar­rived this Septem­ber, they had ex­pe­ri­enced a tough sea­son, with a month of near drought. The water was weedy and piti­fully low. ‘It’s been the Costa Kjos,’ lamented Sibbi, my young guide. But we do like a chal­lenge.

With more than 80 named pools of strik­ing va­ri­ety, from minia­ture canyons to long, pas­toral me­an­ders, the Kjos is some­times called ‘the salmon fisher’s univer­sity’; if you learn to fish here, you’ll ac­quire ver­sa­tile skills that last for­ever. Grad­u­ates in­clude Kevin Cost­ner, Jack Hem­ing­way and Mick Huck­nall.

De­pend­ing on con­di­tions, you might try mul­ti­ple tech­niques in one day (this used to be Lob­worm Cen­tral, but is now strictly fly only). You can swing a con­ven­tional wet fly, quickly re­trieve a mi­cro-tre­ble, work a sur­face lure, such as the clas­sic Sun­ray Shadow, ‘chuck ’n’ duck’ a pon­der­ous Cone Head or work the Rif­fling Hitch. The lat­ter method in­volves a con­trolled skat­ing of the fly to scratch an en­tic­ing V onto the stream and such vis­i­ble of­fers ef­fec­tively dou­ble your fun. The fish can be fickle and there are nu­mer­ous cur­rents to de­ci­pher and hidey-holes to ex­plore.

As top English guide John Hotchkiss, who ar­ranged our trip, told me, the river is also no­table for its run of hefty sea trout. A del­i­cate up­stream nymph is used for these beau­ties and, often, you can sight­fish for them in the aquar­i­ally-clear water. Bring light tackle and your finest po­lar­is­ing glasses.

We thun­dered up­stream the first morn­ing in Sibbi’s 4x4 and, de­spite a Thor-ham­mer wind, we en­coun­tered fish in al­most ev­ery pool. We tried Kamb­shy­lur and Skuggi, then, in gar­gling Stekk­jarfljot (these Ice­landic pool names sure do test the spellchecker), my Sun­ray was in­ter­cepted by two coloured fish, which I then dis­ap­point­ingly ‘long-dis­tance re­leased’. On boul­dery Kroarhamar, Sibbi called in the shots from atop a bridge para­pet. He could see six salmon dawdling in an area the size of a card ta­ble. I missed the first, but nailed the se­cond on a tiny Un­der­taker pat­tern.

In ret­ro­spect, four strikes in one morn­ing looked semi-mirac­u­lous. An av­er­age sea­son here pro­duces some 1,300 fish, but, this year, they were just reach­ing 500. Those sea trout are a won­der­ful bonus, mind. On the last morn­ing of our three days, Sibbi took me up to… let’s call it Pool 35. Drift­ing my twin Bead Heads down below a cliff face, I saw the sight-in­di­ca­tor dither and I lifted

Guide Sibbi nets the au­thor’s 7lb sea trout from pool 35 of the Laxá í Kjos

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