It’s not always roses and butterflies.…but isn’t this exactly what we’re looking for? The extraordinary. The tad bit out of the comfort zone? Isn’t that what makes us feel alive?
8 weeks of solo travel in Iceland. 8 weeks living in my van. Well, let´s say Iceland was an experience.
I’d be lying if I said that the trip was just “awesome”. It wasn’t exactly like what you get to see on Instagram daily. No, travel is a constant up and down, especially when you travel alone. Rain was pounding sideways for weeks. Always being wet, always cold. The moisture in the van turning into ice at night.
But there´s also beauty in it. I like to call it “the beautiful struggle”. You learn, you grow every day with every challenge and when waking up to a beautiful sunrise in the middle of nowhere it all feels worth it. It all makes sense again.
Trips like the one to Iceland make you return to yourself, open your senses, help you focus and reassess.
Why Iceland? Well, I wanted to get to know the island since I´ve never been there AND I did want to catch a proper fish. The kind of fish Iceland is known and famous for.
I come from 4wt waters where we mostly catch 30cm browns and occasionally grayling. If you’re lucky and know the water well you might catch a 40-45cm fish but nowadays this is rare and very special. I fish 99% of the time with dry flies.
The last two years I basically spent both summers fishing my homewaters in the Ore Mountains of Germany. I got injured while skiing and fishing was basically the only thing I could do without a whole lot of pain. So I picked up a rod and similar to everything I do, it’s all or nothing so I went all in and became a little bit of a nerd. I spent almost every day on the river and well…loved it!
Fishing felt like this little getaway, a break from daily life. It helps me find the balance, it teaches me patience and I´ve found this great connection to nature that I find in skiing too but in a very different way. The two simply move at a different pace and so do I as well.
I felt I was ready and hungry for a new fishing experience. I had big expectations and zero plans. I hopped on the boat from Denmark to Iceland relaxed and knew that I’ll have the next 3 days on the ferry to make somewhat of a plan. Honestly speaking there hasn’t been a real plan at all because I didn’t need one, rather wanted to focus on the here and now and go with the flow, do whatever floats my boat.
The first couple of days were challenging. I found out how difficult and expensive it was to get permits. I then was told to try ring doorbells at the closest farm from the water I wanted to fish. I found it weird at first but this seems to be the way to do it.
Shortly after arrival, I connected with Maros, (@jungleindatrout) who’s a guide in the Southern part of the island. Originally from Slovakia, he decided to move to Iceland chasing and catching big trout. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s really good at but hey, he’s a good human too. He helped me a lot, gave advice, and much-needed beta.
After it was super dry for weeks it started pouring right when I arrived. So we basically went from no water to a lot of colored water, not what we were hoping for.
I went to Southwest Iceland because I was lucky enough to connect with the local fishing club SFVR whose manager and guides were super helpful and happy to work together.
I got to fish some of their truly magical rivers and for sure some of the most beautiful waters that I’ve ever fished. Such as the river Leirvogsa with its 30km long winding bends, rapids, pools. This river is located just outside the capital Reykjavik. It’s small enough so you can read it but holds incredibly big fish.
I went there the day before to scout and get to know the river a little. For some reason, I put so much pressure on myself to finally catch THAT fish so I barely could sleep. I woke up, being super nervous just like before a big comp.
“Calm tf down, Anne. It´s just fishing and it´s fun!” I packed up and went down to the pool I liked the most when I walked by it the day before.
I fished for approximately 30 minutes and already got the first strike on a simple black and silver Sunray Shadow and heck, what a strike it was!
After fighting it for about 5 minutes it jumped and showed its full size and beauty. Holy crap, this was the biggest fish that I had ever seen… and hooked. My heart started racing.
Since I was alone I knew that the only chance to land this monster was to make him tired but obviously still wanted to make sure to do it quickly so I could release him as fast as possible.
I fought him for about 20 min and when I thought he was finally tired enough, I reached for his tail. He quickly turned, released himself from the barbless hook, and managed to escape.
Wow. Soooo fricking close! I lost the fish of my life and oh well, it was quite emotional.
A 100cm male salmon, as my friend and guide Arni (@icelandic_troutbum would call it a “fricking crocodile”). I couldn’t help it and cried like a baby. I get it that most people won’t understand and that’s okay. But for me at this moment…well, it sucked.
The last couple of days were been tough, physically as well as mentally. Crazy bad weather for two weeks straight, still I tried really hard, made 10000000 casts, and tried to catch THE fish. Nothing.
It felt like nothing was coming together and despite the shitty weather and conditions, I kept going. At some point, I felt that it was me. I’ve put quite some pressure on myself, and it just did not work out in my favor.
After the huge one, I fought two more really good fish that morning. The 2nd one jumped and ran like crazy. Beauty of a fish, bright silver! My leader broke.
The 3rd one just took a lot of line and was raging upstream. Then swam into some rocks, my tippet got stuck and the fish broke off.
“Well,f*** that sh**!“
I was tired and sad. These fish were just too big to land by myself I thought.
The same day I finally managed to catch my first two salmon thanks to my friend Arni who joined at night and helped netting.
These two salmon were still babies and nothing compared to what I had experienced that morning but hey- it’s a salmon.
So yeah, bittersweet day…But…at least I must have done something right.
Apart from fishing, this is how I’d sum up the trip to Iceland. I met more sheep than people, got to see the most mind-blowing places, experienced winds so strong you couldn’t open the car door, visited a gazillion gorgeous waterfalls, hiked up to mountain tops that came with stunning views down to the deeply cut fjords.
I fished perfect waters, watched the Northern Lights sitting in a hot spring. I went up Fagradalsfjell, the active volcano, 5 times until I finally got to see the lava flowing. And damn, what a feeling that was! Like having a one on one with nature, feeling the forces, so rough, so pure, so fierce.
I like giving myself the time and really diving in with what surrounds me. This is where photography comes in for me. It gives me that extra purpose, that reason to push a little harder, experience a little more.
I use fly fishing in a similar way too. Similar but different. It slows me down. It gives you this physical, tangible connection to the water, to nature, that’s unmatched by anything else.
I think by adding these extra pursuits to your exploration of the world, you create a far more compelling and fulfilling connection with the outdoors. It puts you in places you otherwise wouldn’t reach and grants perspectives that could simply slip you by.
I experienced a place that´s still so wild and vast. The kind of place that makes you feel small and humbled. A place that doesn´t compare to anything that I had ever seen before…
And the thing is, I more than experienced it, I felt it. The extraordinary and the butterflies, “The beautiful struggle”.