Ian Gordon reveals how on his first-ever trip to Iceland he caught a brown trout of staggering size
ICELAND, A LAND of mountains, ice, hot springs and fly-fishing. It was April 17 and I was there for three days’ fishing with my pal Andy Majerus at Lake Thingvallavatn. After being picked up by our Frontiers guide, Bjarni Jónsson, it was little more than an hour’s drive to the lake. As the road wound on, frequent snow showers flashing over the lake reminded me of home on a February day. There was the most amazing light, almost black as the showers peaked, and then beautiful sunshine. Hundreds of wading birds performed a pipe-and-whistle symphony to accompany the extraordinary landscape. At one of the two main fishing areas we met Joey, the main guide from Ion, the hotel that runs the fishery. The wind was so strong I could hardly hear what he said. He’s an Icelander, a big character with a smile and greeting to match. Over the first day and a half of fishing at Thingvallavatn I improved my personal best for a brown trout several times with fish of 5 lb, 8 lb, 10 lb and 12 lb. They were caught in only inches of water and were unbelievably strong. Beautifully silver, they looked like sea-trout. On the afternoon of the second day, in squally snow showers and intermittent sun, Andy and I were fishing where a tributary met the lake. The wind was blowing hard into my right side making overhead casting with a single-hander off my right shoulder both dangerous and impossible. However, as my father always said, if you want to be a successful fly-fisher you “must” learn to cast off both shoulders. As a predominantly double-handed caster I’d packed my Greys switch rod and matching switch line. Casting with the switch rod off my left shoulder was safer, easier and made it possible to cover fish a little further out. We were fishing with a sinking tip and the trout were taking as the fly dropped in around 10 ft of water. Then I saw a big head and tail coming from the waves. I lengthened the line and, using the wind to my advantage, made a snake-roll cast, launching the fly toward where I’d seen the big fish. One, two, three, four, BANG! The line tightened and I felt a weight like nothing I’d felt before on such a small rod. It was as if I’d hooked a passing speedboat. The scrap from this fish was equalled only by a 30 lb salmon I’d caught on the Alta river in Norway. For around half an hour the fish cruised around the lake, four times taking me to the end of the backing. Then we saw a tail, not 40 ft away, and we realised that this was a really big trout. Its head was massive and the back was eight inches wide. Bjarni expertly slid the net under the beast and we had him. The fish weighed 27 lb, a personal best to top them all. Andy and I recreated a picture we had of a 43 lb salmon he caught on the Alta in June last year. Bjarni and I took measurements before slipping the fish back to enjoy eating some more Arctic char and pass on those wonderful genes. The feeling of elation in the group was incredible. Our trip to the Ion fishery on Lake Thingvallavatn finished on the beach the following morning. I sat on the lava rocks gazing into a clear pool, where steam blew across the surface. My mood was contemplative, reflective. How lucky was I? How kind was my host? How happy were our guides and fishing partners? How I would have loved to tell my father the story. I looked over the lake and a large trout broke the surface. Thank you! Thank you so much to each one of you, for this most fantastic experience.
My trip was organised by Frontiers: www.frontiersiceland.com/lake-thingvallavatn More information about this incredible fishery can be found here: blog.millingtondrakecom/a-fishing-phenomenon/
Ian, right, and friend Andy Majerus cradle the 27 lb Lake Thingvallavatn trout.