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Your Fly Box For Salmon Fishing in Iceland

Published: 23rd May 2022 | Author: Katka Švagrová

Iceland is one of the finest atlantic salmon destinations in the world with the main runs of fish appearing from mid-June through July and August.  The prime times can vary a bit, and rain always helps. If salmon fishing in Iceland isn’t on your bucket list, it certainly should be!

Katka with a spectacular Icelandic salmon.
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

When to arrive?

For West Coast rivers, the best time tends to be early / mid-July. In comparison, rivers in the North have their prime weeks around early / mid-August. Lastly, East coast rivers have theirs in mid / late July.

In general, Iceland offers great numbers of grilse, with every pool having the potential to hold a fish. But don’t worry, there are plenty of bigger salmon as well!

The River Laxa I Kjos

I’m lucky enough to have spent the last four summers in Iceland. Mainly, I’ve been on the river Laxa I Kjos. This wonderful and prolific west coast river is famed for its salmon and sea trout runs. It’s technically demanding water, which flows in the beautiful Kjos valley. The river is even known by some as the Salmon University of Iceland, so varied are the challenges it presents to the angler. 

There are strong sea trout runs as well.
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

The river feels quite remote but is not too far from Reykjavik. Part of upper section of the river is in a short deep Canyon, which require reasonable fitness to climb into. With that said, the mid part, lower section and the little  tributary – the Bugda river –  is perfectly comfortable for every fisherman. So, no need to worry, there is an option for everyone.

Some of the wading can get a bit adventurous!
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

The Gear

Throughout the season on Laxa I Kjos we are mostly using single handed 6-7wt rods with floating lines. Most of the rivers on Iceland can be fished with single handed rods, though there are some rivers such as Big Laxa, where double handed rod is a must!  If you plan on organizing a trip to Iceland, the outfitter will let you know what best suits the river you’ll be on.

The gin clear water in most of Icelandic rivers allows you to fish really fine tippet, such as 10-15 lb World class V2 Fluorocarbon. You can fish very small flies, too. The most common size of fly is  between 12 and 18 tied on double or treble hooks.

Having the right gear really pays off.
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

The Tactics

Fishing for Salmon on Iceland is really exciting! The clarity of water, high banks and cliffs allow you to spot the salmon in their lies. I truly love the moments when I can spot the salmon and then the fisherman casts in the exact spot where fish are lying. I strive for everyone to experience the adrenaline rush when a fish finally moves for their fly! It’s like noting else. Sometimes it takes many casts before the fish eats but then suddenly, bang! The fish is on.

When targeting these fish during the prime season, the deadliest technique is definitely fishing with a Riffle Hitch.This technique is not only productive, but also really exciting. You will see every fish as it comes to take your fly!

Katka has guided in Iceland for the last 4 seasons.
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

Icelandic salmon explosively rise to little tubes, which wiggle on the surface and skate across pools, which leaves a seductive V wake behind them. This technique is effective in slower pools with glassy surfaces, but works well in the head of the pools in really fast water as well. The key is to be able to hold the hitch by lifting the rod tip on the surface. This will make the fly skate slowly across the hot spot.

The riffle hitch works well in glassy pools, or the fast water at the head of a pool.
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

I personally make the hitch skate both by lifting the rod tip and by stripping the fly quite fast. Watch out for every single boil, even behind your fly.  Sometimes salmon sips can be really gentle, other time they will aggressively explode on the surface. But it’s vital to remember that the  key to success with the riffle hitch is to never strike! If you make this mistake you will almost inevitably pull the fly out of the salmon’s mouth.

Patience is also a virtue; if a salmon misses your hitch a couple of times give him a break and then try again.

The Top 5 Flies for Salmon Fishing in Iceland

Hitch Silver Stoat (my absolute favourite fly)

Hitch Silver Stoat

Green Butt Micro Double, treble 14,16

Green Butt Micro Double

Black and Red Frances 12,14,16

Micro blue charm 14,16

Micro Blue Charm

Haugur micro treble 16,18

Haugur Micro Treble

Don´t forget to bring a pack of Micro treble silver nickle hooks 14,16 for your little tube hitch flies!

You will never be mistaken in bringing these flies with you to Iceland.  While there are surely some rivers, like East Ranga or Laxa I Adaldal, where you will have to use slightly bigger flies such as Sunray Shadow or Classic De Monkeey. However, on the whole these are standout performers.

Does it get much better than that?
Photo: Edward Smith & Katka Svagrova 

I strongly recommend you contact the lodge or the travel agency before your trip and ask them about the right patterns for your lifetime trip to Iceland!

To read more from Katka, check out her other articles on the blog.

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