Iceland, The fisherman’s paradise and a few pointers for your first visit

Why do many including myself believe Iceland to be the fisherman’s paradise for quality fly fishing for salmon and trout? 

Norðurá - the famous salmon river in Iceland

What is a fisherman’s paradise anyway?  It’s a place with magnificent scenery, a place where you spend your day on the river undisturbed by anything man-made, where the only sound to be heard is the river, the fly line on the water (which at times sounds very loud), and even sometimes the splash of a fish jumping right next to you.  Most importantly, it’s a place with rivers and lakes that are abundant with wild game fish.  That’s the word I would use to describe Iceland’s fishing season – abundance!!  Abundant in tranquillity, silence, fantastic scenery that changes with every turn into new valleys, great fly water, 24 hours a day of sunlight, and last but not least Iceland’s record numbers of wild salmon and trout.

I consider myself to be very lucky to have discovered my passion for fly fishing in Iceland over 25 years ago after moving here from England at the ripe age of 22.  In every place I have lived around the country, I have had a quality river within a short drive from my home.  To me, that’s my paradise.  I have had the privilege of fishing in Norway, Sweden and Scotland, and while I enjoyed these trips and will visit these places again, nothing can compare to Iceland.  I have met several expat fishermen who set up home in Iceland because of the unparalleled fly fishing.

Monster brown trout from Lake Thingvellir Iceland and the Einarsson Fly Fishing team

Iceland’s fishing season is short compared to that of other countries, mainly starting first of April for the sea trout and brown trout.  My first day of fishing (weather permitting) will be the 21st of April at the superb Lake Thingvellir, a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik.  I’ll be fishing for the large browns that are gaining in popularity amongst fishermen around the globe.  We do offer guided trips to this lake for a day or two, but be sure to bring warm clothing as the temperature can still hover around the minus.

The salmon season starts on the west coast around the first week of June, but after last year’s record season, nearly every river is fully booked in June and July.  The season starts to close in September and October.


Proper Preparation for Fly Fishing in Iceland

Before leaving your country, make sure all your tackle is disinfected by a vet and get a certificate from your vet stating that everything is clean.  This includes your boots and waders too!  You can have the choice of handling this on arrival at Iceland’s airport, but you will be charged around 150 euro.  Iceland is very protective and proud of its rivers.  We look after them well and want to protect the wild stock like its gold, so if you didn’t get your gear cleaned at home and you’re not stopped here, please have your gear cleaned at the airport.  Please don’t take the risk just to save a few euro and maybe spoil the fun for everyone else in the future.


What to Expect at the Top Full-Service Rivers

You can expect total quality.  The lodges in Iceland are world-renowned for being very comfortable, the food is cooked by the top chefs in Iceland, and three meals a day are served. The guides all have their own transport, and are the best guides in the business.  If you get a chance to fish Nordura, I would suggest using Nonni.  He is known as the legend of Nordura, Nonni started guiding on this famous river in 1973 and some say he can walk along the river blindfolded.  He actually has a wonderful summer house at the river bank where I have had the honor of staying many times.

Upon arriving at your river, fishing starts the first day at 1600 and goes until 2200.  Fishing begins again the next morning from 0700 until 1300, followed by a three-hour break to rest the river.  Believe me, fishing like this for a couple of days can be hard going and this break in the day will give you a chance to catch up on some energy.  There are a few exceptions where the fishing the first day starts in the morning, but these rivers are usually booked for one day only and are self-catering.


Fly and Reel Recommendations

Atlantic salmon and Einarsson Fly Reel

Salmon flies:  I would suggest taking large tubes to even down to size 20 salmon flies.  Salmon will rise to the smallest flies and the hitch is a very useful and exciting method to see salmon rise to the fly, so when it comes to rods I would pack a double hander with sink tips plus a 9ft single hander.

Trout flies:  If you’re coming in April, then larger flies and streamers are likely your best bet.  In April, there can still be snow on the banks and can be cold; that said, bring smaller flies too because the weather can change to warmer conditions.  I personally would not fish trout with anything over a 5 weight line, which can easily handle larger flies and can be delicate enough for upstream if needed.  For fishing from May to August, I would use mostly dries, wet flies and nymphs.

Reels:  Well, of course I have to suggest investing in Einarsson reels, not only because I’m blogging here but because truly I believe them to be the best in the world.  I’m not alone in saying that – professional and leisure fishermen just love these reels for keeping fish on the end of your line with the patented brake and spring systems that prevent fish shaking the fly out.

Alan Matthews with a nice fish

If you’re seriously considering the idea of coming over then yes there I think everyone should try Iceland, yes its expensive compared to other fishing destinations but that chance of catching improves dramatically with the quality of fish here. as I mentioned above about the places I have visited often ended with blank days and only catching a couple of fish for the week,  But saying that I dont think fishing should be a numbers game, if your fishing for the numbers that you might catch in my personal opinion fishermen who do this are totally missing the point of fishing, I have had days blanking but they have been fantastic days, fishing is about being out there in that place where we can’t really put into words the feeling we anglers experience but we all know what it is, but when that magic happens were everything we do is right and we get those pulls on the line, it makes up for those blank days,

May you all have a great season in 2016 regardless of where your line is cast.


Alan Matthews

yours sincerely,

Alan Matthews


Alan Matthews was born in Lincolnshire England. At the age of 22 he moved to Iceland and has lived here for the last 27 years. Alan has been a passionate fly fisherman for 25 of those years and now owns offering guided tours on some of the most prolific rivers and waters that Iceland has to offer. Also offering groups tours fishing for salmon in Norway with Gaula river NFC beat being the favorite destination. 

Alan can be reached through phone +354 7757336
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