It was day two of the trip, technically at this point in Australia, it was already my birthday. That morning we had split into two groups of 3, Alex, Havard and I worked the northern beat (learned this slang while there, referring to good fishing section) which was historically the more producing of the two while Robert, Kjetil, and Elias worked the southern beat. We were fishing the northwestern section of Lake Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir) in the municipality of Bláskógabyggð in southwestern Iceland, the country’s largest natural lake. The lake had just opened for the season a few weeks prior so the hope is that the fish had forgotten what flies looked like haha.
I think the first time I saw a pic of the browns that come out of this lake my jaw literally dropped. For two years this lake had been on my mind and I have been determined to see one of these giants in the flesh. I originally thought that these fish were sea-run but after a hydroelectric dam was put in place these giant beings remained trapped. However due to the strength of their ancestral sea-run DNA and the immense body of water in which they have to roam the lake continues to produce 20-30 lb brown trout. I have fished quite a few places but none compared to the windiness of this place.
You could backcast as hard as your heart could take and the fly would simply land a few inches in front of your feet. I was also quite taken back by the beauty of the landscape. Cliffs burst from beneath the surface of the lake only to be iced with lush and brilliant layers of moss so soft that when the bite was off and the sun broke through the clouds, naps were undisputable.
One day it rained so hard that it felt as though you were under an inescapable waterfall. And coming from the PNW where torrential downpour is regular during the winter months, I thought I was prepared…but I thought wrong. One day I had to completely abandon ship! Every inch of my underlayer somehow managed to become drenched. Anyhow, back to the good stuff. The fish! MY OH MY. He was my birthday fish and probably the most beautiful birthday fish that I will have for a very long time. It was in the afternoon, Alex, Havard and I switched beats with the other 3.
First cast Alex lands one hell of a brown. We are all in awe of its size and coloring and of course how hard it fought. WOW. A few snaps of his fish and it was off with the splash of a tail. The beat was along a rocky lavascape with 2 max 3 good holes. But one hole a little deeper than the others, the one that Alex’s fish came from. They encouraged me to take a shot so 1, 2, 3 false casts and my orange/yellow/red sculpzilla streamer disappeared into the horizon. I stripped slow with a quick jerk at the end, once, twice, and a bite?! Stripset! Nothing. I questioned myself as to whether that was a real bit or not. Who was I kidding I know a bite when I feel one, that was a bite. I exclaimed to the guys, I had a bite but I missed it! I tell myself, quick cast again! 2nd cast. Strip…strip bite! Strip set and nothing! I looked around and they agreed it was definitely a bite.
Without a thought I cast again much farther than the presentations before, I was determined to hook this fish. 4, 5 jerky strips later BOOM! The hardest hit! I set and nothing! I could not believe it. With rod tip still oscillating from the aggressive bite I knew something was wrong. I checked my fly… what in the flying fish!! The hook had wrapped around the eyed, oh haaaail no! This time when I cast Alex reassured me, Its ok just focus stay calm, you’ll get him. As I cast I thought there is no way in heaven this fish would bite a 4th time. But first strip. He had been waiting for me and I had been waiting for him. Line instantaneously tight next thing I hear is one of my favorite sounds in the world. The sound of a run. Ziiiiiipppppppp!!!
In a moment he was headed for the middle of the lake. I try to slow my reel with my hand but after the duration of his 1st run I just blanked and imagined me holding him and how beautiful he could be. He stopped for a second I looked down at my reel. Holy bejesus this is not happening… Noooooooo. I had forgotten to reset my drag after I changed lines the day before and a rats nest the size of China just had formed on my reel not allowing me to let line out or reel. I shrieked!! Somebody help me my line is f**ked! With a quick skip and a hop, Alex came to the rescue carefully and calmly he worked the knots that made a home just a few feet from my backing. In the background, Havard filmed glimpses of a fight that I will never forget as long as I live.
Time… I have no idea how much went by but right when he started to run again Alex had freed the knots. OH, MY LANTA I may just land this!! I focused hard, tip high, fish on the reel. And now began the fight. I have never in my life had a fish take me to my backing 3 times with the power that this brown did. I’ve caught wild Olympic Peninsula steelhead, Chinooks that fought like a rock and still little can describe just how magical this moment was. I stayed intent on meeting this beauty. Before I knew it Alex was stepping out into the deep banks determined to net him.
I never really get excited until a fish is in the basket. The moment I saw his tail flip into the net barely fitting, I knew he was mine, all mine, I did this! We did this! I stopped unable to realize what just happened, the odds against me, the immeasurable concentration, his colossal size. I simply could not believe what just happened. Running to high five the guys still in a daze I knelt down beside the net and in complete and utter awe I said, Happy birthday to me! Hahaha jokes I didn’t say that I actually don’t remember what I was thinking my adrenalin was at an all-time high and I was in a state of complete and utter bliss.
This trip we fished hard in the burliest conditions, wind, rain, storm, and sunshine for 7 days straight, 10-12 hour days and this fish was the only one I caught the whole trip. I wouldn’t change that for anything. During this trip, I met some of the most humble, hilarious and gifted fisher people I have ever met. I experienced a landscape that looked like it came right out of the land before time. And I caught a fish I had been dreaming about for a very long time. I will never forget this place or these wonderful people.
Definitely, want to thank @arcticsilver_flyfishing, @eliaspeturth, @alexanderfredagsvik, @howsn87 and @kjetilhovda for the most amazing company during my time this breathtaking country. Iceland, I will be back.