Iceland is definitely one of the best destinations for fly fishing folks when it comes to catching a large salmonid within Europe. Besides spectacular landscapes, shaped and created by volcanism, tectonics and post-glacial events, it is the local and unique populations of brown- and lake trout – both residential morphs of the salmo trutta species – that make the lakes located in Þingvellir National Park particularly interesting.
Together with my friend Daniel I spent a week fishing the Þingvallavatn catchment for both trout morphs and the arctic char that are found in the bigger lakes.
Fishing for 12 hrs. and more in daylight was possible due to the never sinking midnight sun and an après-beer in the hot tub of our lodge at 2 am was surely another superb event to remember.
Lake Villingervatn, which is connected by a narrow channel with the large and famous Þingvallavatn lake, has a size of about 84 km². Nestled in an ever-wet marshland, its bed is clayey and the lake is rich in nutrients. The submerged vegetation is rich and the population of spectacular-looking brown trout is immense.
The deafening silence that surrounds the lake is interrupted only by the howling, chattering and screeching of the countless waterfowl. Icelandic horses graze in small herds around us and the freshly born lambs call for their mothers wrapped in thick wool felt.
Apart from all this idyll, the trout are extremely wary and shy. We spent the early June fishing initially presenting small midges and caddis to the high numbers of fish rising under the midnight sun. Unfortunately unsuccessful. When my travel buddy Daniel finally and rather out of despair grabbed an inconspicuous buzzer nymph and carefully presented it along a weed edge, he was able to entice a fantastic fish to take the pattern. Within seconds, the backing was tugged from his reel and the massive head of a gigantic brown trout broke the surface of the water at a safe distance.
An eternity later, the beautiful fish lay snugly within the landing net in front of our feet. The affectionate term “banana-trout” that Icelanders sometimes use for this particular population of long bodied and deeply yellowish fish seemed very appropriate to us.
Even a small family of sheep showed up for the photo shoot and watched with interest my hasty preparations to shoot and release the strong milter into its habitat as quickly as possible. A wonderful moment and a fish as spectacular as its homeland.
Article and photo from Frank Steinmann, a freshwater ecologist, and photographer based in Germany, follow along with him at @franksteinmann.