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Big brown trout in the land of lava

Category: Fly Fishing Destinations | Author: Stjani Ben

Iceland - land of ice and fire. Perhaps a bit worn out cliché but so very true...

Iceland - land of ice and fire. Perhaps a bit worn out cliché but so very true. For those not living under a rock it probably hasn't gone by them that for the past few months there have been two volcanic eruptions in Iceland. One so conveniently within the cliché of fire and ice - the volcanic eruption in the Eyjafjallajokull glacier. That one was actually the second of two in 2010 and the other one was what everyone was calling a tourist eruption. A relatively small harmless opening of a crack in a rock that spewed lava for a few days. People were dining by the eruption - food that was prepared with the energy from the hot lava. „You Icelanders are crazy" was a phrase uttered by a tourist witnessing the charade.

Shortly after the first eruption began it was turned off again just as abruptly as it began. But only a few days later another one started - this time underneath a glacier with the consequences all of Europe has felt. To imagine the effects of a melting hot lava bursting from underneath the ground and encountering a few hundred meter layers of ice one can try taking a light bulb that's been turned on for a while, unscrew it and run it under the tap of ice cold water. Not something I recommend doing but I can only imagine it will blow. And blew it did - the volcano that is.

Despite the horrible delays in air traffic and the thousands of tourists stranded because of the ash-cloud from the volcano I feel it is my duty to look at the bright side and perhaps help my fellow anglers do the same. You see here in Iceland we have a few rivers where the brown trout are simply massive in size and on a sunny afternoon a few years back I started wondering about the location of those rivers. It seems as though the best brown trout rivers are lined up through the middle of the country running from south to north (or the other way around - no matter).  Looking at a map I wondered if it was a coincidence that the best rivers seemed to be on the youngest geological part of the country. The part where most of the active volcanoes are. Of course there are no coincidences in nature.... are there?

You see the beauty of cooled down lava is that water seeps through it quite easily and when rain falls it seeps through creating small streams underneath the lava that all run towards the next indentation underground where it forms an underground lagoon or lake of sorts. That's not all! When the rain seeps through the lava it also picks up minerals that provide nutrition.  Somewhere underground these streams encounter some form of obstruction forcing it up onto the surface in the form of a spring creek and those creeks make for the perfect habitat for brown trout.

So back to the most recent of volcanic eruptions. I run an angling service company in Iceland and some of my clients have been worried about the eruption and its effects on the fishing in rivers close by.  I have been assured by the Icelandic institute of freshwater fisheries that the volcano still has not had any effect on any river in Iceland and that we must wait for the eruption to end to get final results. Anyway I wanted to have a look myself and remove all doubt anyone may have so I took a day off from the office and visited the Minnivallalaekur river that is located some 40 kilometers west of the volcano.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon when we drove from Reykjavik the approx. 90 mins drive to the Minnivallalaekur lodge. As we approached the volcano we started seeing the massive gray cloud of ash that reached high up into the air. One cannot help but feel small compared to the massive forces of nature at play.

Despite clear skies and sunshine the wind was still blowing from the north bringing with it cool air making the temperature drop a few degrees.  Bright sunshine and northern wind are not the best conditions for fishing on the Minnivallalaekur so it was not until about 10 o'clock at night we hooked the first fish.  It was on the Stodvarhylur pool and it took a size 14 Pheasant Tail nymph. Somehow I managed to break off on that fish but as I sat there on the bank getting my leader ready and putting on another fly I noticed a rather handsome bend in my friend's rod. It was obvious by the movement of the fish as well as the before mentioned bend in the rod that this fish was very big.

My friend was already shaking and trying to be extra careful since he had a tippet with six pound breaking strain and quite frankly it was obvious that this fish was over the double digit mark. After a few minutes of slowly circling the pool with my friend only putting minimal pressure on it the fish seemed to dive really deep and then charge upstream with the resulting scream in my friends reel. All I could do was sit on the bank and enjoy the show that big fish was putting on. Moments later that fish was gone leaving my friend missing a fly but more importantly missing a bend in his rod.

With only a few minutes between we both hooked big fish and broke off and so evidence suggested we were fishing with too weak tippets. We managed to land one fish that evening and as it was getting too dark to see we walked back to the comfort of the lodge. On our way we had a good long look at the volcanic eruption in the far and could easily see the red hot lava being spewed from the volcano high up into the air. What a fantastic sight that was and the perfect end of a fantastic evening fishing.

We were fishing that night a mere 40 kilometers from the eruption and all it really did to the experience was taking it to another level. It is pretty amazing to fish with a live volcano erupting less than 50 kilometers away. The following morning we woke up to sunshine and chirping birds. That morning we spent fishing for these Ice age brown trout but had no takers. Maybe a bit of a breeze would have helped on such a clear day.

The volcanic eruption that has been going on for most of spring 2010 may be messing with a lot of peoples travel plans but sadly there is nothing anyone can do. No matter the damage this one is doing the volcanic eruptions of the past have ultimately helped in creating the wonderful habitat for very big brown trout and for that I am thankful - at least. The current volcanic eruption has no effect on the fishing in Iceland and only adds to the sense of adventure the landscape and scenery already provides. I urge anyone that still has not had the chance to fish for brown trout on the volcanic area of Iceland to do so and get to experience the fishing of a lifetime in a setting fit for kings.  For a chance to fish for monster trout in Iceland visit my website for further details: www.icelandangling.com

From the land of ice and fire I wish all of you tight lines and screaming reels.

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