Iceland, Day Two: Cold Lava

The appalling weather was somewhat offset by the beauty of the fishing spots in the highlands of Iceland.
Photo by Phil Monahan

What a difference a day makes. The second morning of Orvis Week in Iceland with Fish Partner brought colder temperatures, driving rain, and howling wind. Every fly-fisher’s dream, am I right? But with the successes of the previous day still fresh in their minds, everyone geared up and headed gamely into the gale.

I headed out with guests Brint and Fred, lifelong friends who had grown up together in Pennsylvania, and their guide, Óli. The plan was to start at the spot where I had caught my first arctic char the day before, but when we arrived, we found the river about two feet higher than it had been and off-color with the addition of glacial water from a dam upstream. The wind was causing whitecaps, which rolled upstream against the current.

Eric drifts flies through a run below a stunning waterfall.
Photo by Auke Van Der Ploeg

The other guests and their guides, spread out across the three nearby river systems, were running into similar situations. As a former guide, I remember those days when you knew you’d have to work really hard, trying everything in your toolkit, to have any hope of bringing a fish to the net. Dry flies were certainly not an option, so everyone tried a variety of nymph and streamer setups in order to entice the sulking trout and char, who seemed to be enjoying the weather as much as we did.

I was really impressed by Brint and Fred’s willingness to power through a long, tough day without complaint, and the effort paid off, as Brint was able to hook a gorgeous char in a deep run below a waterfall. Our cheers were short-lived, though, as the hook pulled out deep into the battle. Brint switched up to a small black-and-red streamer and was soon fast to another nice fish, though, and when Óli scooped the colorful char into the net, there was much rejoicing.

Óli and Brint plan their attack at a new location.
Photo by Phil Monahan

We weren’t the only ones finding some success, though. Eric and Samantha had headed upstream from the lodge with their guide, Auke, to fish below some stunning waterfalls still draped in snow and ice. Eric hooked a big brown trout, which ran under the waterfall and refused to come out. After taking a ton of line and running downstream, that fish, too, came unbuttoned. But Eric’s smile suggested that the fight itself had been a thrill that aded warmth to his day.

The colors of these coldwater char are something to behold.
Photo by Auke Van Der Ploeg

Next, Auke found a spot downstream where the wind would actually help Eric and Samantha make an upstream presentation with their nymphs, and each of them landed a nice char. Once they had each released one fish, they declared the day a success and headed back to the lodge to warm up and go over their photos from such spectacular fishing spots.

Samantha and Auke smile like folks who have worked hard and found success.
Photo by Eric Melvin

When it was all over, about half the group had a caught a char, but everyone was in high spirits–especially after their hands and toes had come back to life. Everyone had seen fish, but in most cases no fly could draw a bite. The forecast for tomorrow is sunny and warmer, so our last day in the highlands promises to be the best of the lot.

Stay tuned to for daily updates on our trip. After one more more day in the highlands, we’ll head to Lake Þingvallavatn (Thingvallavatn) in southwestern Iceland, home to some truly giant brown trout.

Click here for Iceland, Day One: Volcanic Char

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