“PICK IT UP AND CAST AGAIN,” SAID ELVAR
Fridriksson, eyes focused on the eddying river. My guide spoke firmly; his instruction cut through the wind. Absent from his tone was the frustration I felt from stripping my fly and recasting the stout seven-weight, single-handed rod for what seemed like the hundredth time. Fridriksson was patient as only one could be who spent most of his life fishing and guiding Icelandic rivers abundant with North Atlantic salmon.
Our day on the West Coast of the Nordic island nation began with calm winds, bluebird skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. As the morning progressed, however, a cold front produced heavy rains and raging wind. The change made it perfect weather for salmon fishing but challenging for a burgeoning salmon fisherman like me.
This wasn’t my first trip to Iceland, nor was it my first attempt at salmon fishing. (I wrote about my travels there in the Spring 2018 issue of this publication.) My experiences pursuing this amazing fish reinforced my desire to transform myself into a salmon fisherman—and not just an angler fishing for salmon.
“Your cast must be perfect,” insisted Fridriksson, clearly sensing my frustration after another errant cast. “These fish aren’t eating, they strike for reasons that aren’t completely known, but you need to work the water in a systematic manner and ultimately get the fly right where they can see it. You need to make them angry.”
Standing in the unspoiled, icy reaches of the Haffjarðará River, I was moved by the beauty of the surroundings and reminded of the importance of our natural environment. The Haffjarðará also happens to be one of Iceland’s most prolific salmon fisheries.
Originating at Lake Oddastaðavatn and running south to the sea, the Haffjarðará meanders through lava fields, desolate stretches and dramatic outcrops. It has been a fly-only river for decades and is extremely well managed; its annual catch numbers (during the last five years averaging nearly 1,600 salmon caught on three beats) prove the effectiveness of catch and release.
I am grateful to my friend Chad Pike for giving me the opportunity to fish the Haffjarðará. Pike is an expert fly fisherman and conservationist. He and his wife Blake are the driving force behind Eleven Experience, an adventure travel company with 10 properties around the globe customized for a variety of pursuits. Conde Nast Traveler recently named Pike one of 48 people changing the way we travel.
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