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Having been addicted to fly fishing for 33 years now (10 of them as a guide), I have managed to tick off some of the top places in the world to cast a fly rod, and fly fishing in Iceland is certainly one of them.
You have probably heard about how fantastic Iceland fly fishing is, as it is a mecca for trout, salmon, sea trout, arctic char, and more. The health of the fisheries is incredible and the scenery is simply mind-blowing.
From crystal-clear rivers to mountains, blue lagoons, and more – it is simply somewhere you have to cast a fly rod at some point in your life.
More Fly Fishing Destinations
My Experience Fly Fishing in Iceland
Fly fishing in Iceland is a rather expensive thing to do and if you stay at Iceland fishing lodges, you are looking at some of the most costly fly fishing on the planet.
Being a guide, this kind of experience was way out of my budget but, renting a car, camping, and DIY fly fishing around Iceland was not.
I have fly-fished in Iceland numerous times now, and while I might not have experienced the best fly fishing in Iceland that comes with exclusive lodges, it was still incredible.
Catching huge sea trout, arctic char, and stunning brown trout unguided was a dream come true for me. However, I did have some help from the staff in the local tackle shops with regards to techniques and flies that would work.
Why Fly Fish in Iceland?
If you are a keen freshwater fly angler, Iceland needs to be at the top of your fishing bucket list. The size and numbers of the fish in its rivers and lakes are nothing short of amazing. Throw in the scenery, the local culture, and the feeling of being in one of the most special places in the world (nature-wise), and you really can’t beat it.
5 Best Salmon Rivers For Fly Fishing in Iceland
Some of the best fishing in Iceland comes in the form of salmon fishing. It is one of the top places in the world to catch Atlantic salmon on a fly with an excellent returning population of fresh fish every year.
However, access to the best salmon rivers in Iceland is often usually owned by an expensive lodge, so it is hard to do as a DIY fly angler. Nonetheless, if you want to go salmon fishing in Iceland, these are the rivers you want to have at the top of your list.
East Rangá River
The East Rangá River is world-renowned as an incredible Atlantic salmon river. You will find it in Southern Iceland about an hour’s drive from the capital Reykjavik. This river is incredibly consistent when it comes to catch rates and being fed by a glacier, it doesn’t require rainfall for the fish to run up from the sea.
In order to fly fish this river you will need to book through or stay at Aurora Lodge. Book at least a year in advance as it is incredibly popular. You can fish it with a single or double-handed rod and a pro guide will collect you every day in a 4×4 to help you catch Atlantic salmon.
West Rangá River
The West Rangá River is another of the best Atlantic salmon rivers in the world, alongside the East Rangá. It is also found in the south of Iceland not too far from Reykjavik and is spring-fed, not relying on rainfall for its consistent salmon run.
Again, to fish this river you will need to book through or stay at the West Rangá fishing lodge which comes with pro guides, all meals, and lots more. It is not the biggest river so you can fish with a single or double-handed rod.
The Laxá is a rather long river in northern Iceland that is split into three different sections – Laxa in Kjos, Big Laxa, and Laxa in Adaldalu.
Each of these sections has different fly fishing opportunities for Atlantic salmon and booking through or staying at the lodge home to each section is required to fish any of them.
Laxa in Kjos is known for its abundance of smaller fish with an average of 6-7 lbs the river is smaller here and using single-handed rods is the norm. The Big Laxa and Laxa in Adaldalu are excellent places to fly fish if you are hunting for a 20+ lb salmon and the river is very large here requiring double-handed rods.
The Vatnsdalsá River sits in northwestern Iceland in the Vatnsdalur Valley of Hunavatnssysla. It is about a 3-hour drive from Reykjavik and is renowned for its large salmon. While not “lots” of salmon are caught here every year (around 800 on average), their average size is bigger than most other salmon rivers in Iceland.
Access requires a 4×4 and booking through an agency such as Aardvark Mcleod or you can find more info on the Vatnsdalsá River website. You will need to wade deep, fish a two-handed rod, and have a guide to show you around this river.
The Hofsá River is found in northeastern Iceland in Vopnafjörður. It runs for some 80 km with 30 km of fly fishing beats available. The water is crystal clear, the salmon are large on average, and it is strictly fly fishing and catch & release only.
Spey casting with a double-handed rod is best on this river and you will need to book your fly fishing through a guide service such as Anglers.is or Aardvark Mcleod and therefore be fishing with a guide too.
5 Best Sea Trout Rivers For Fly Fishing in Iceland
Some of the best fishing spots in Iceland, in my opinion, are the sea trout rivers. Unlike the salmon rivers of Iceland, these can mostly be fished by DIY anglers as access is not controlled by exclusive lodges. Here are my favorites.
The Varmá River is just outside of the town of Selfoss in southern Iceland, just an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. It is a geothermal river meaning it stays warm thus providing excellent feeding grounds for sea trout, brown trout, and char all year round. It is easy to access and is best fished after some rain when the water is a little dirty.
The Tungufljót River sits on the southwestern end of Iceland in an area called Biskupstungur.
It is about a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik and an hour from Selfoss. You can access it with a car, a 4×4 would be better though.
The river is known for its large sea trout and it is easy to fish with a single-handed rod. This is a fly-fishing and catch & release river, ensuring an excellent stock of fish year after year.
The Vatnamót is a stunning sea trout river in the north of Iceland, an 8-hour drive from Reykjavik. It is home to some of the best sea trout fishing Iceland has to offer with fish reaching the 20 lb mark. Access is easy with a car and there is plenty of space to throw a backcast. You can only book this river through Battle Hill Lodge.
The Eldvatn River sits close to the small village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur in southern Iceland and is an excellent place to target sea trout, as well as brown trout and arctic char. It is rather a remote and a 4×4 is recommended to access it. The scenery surrounding the river is to die for and swinging an orange streamer is a wise move.
The Eyjafjarðará River is in northern Iceland just outside of the town of Akureyri. It has some excellent sea trout fishing but can get booked up by locals from the town quite quickly. It is quite a wide river and you may want to use a double-handed rod while fishing it. If you are lucky, you might also catch a sea-run arctic char!
5 Best Brown Trout Rivers For Fly Fishing in Iceland
Iceland is predominantly known for its excellent salmon and sea trout fishing. However, it is also one of the best brown trout fly fishing destinations in the world. I would highly recommend adding some Iceland trout fishing to your itinerary while you are there and here are the rivers to do it on.
The Hólá River is in southern Iceland about a 45-minute drive from the town of Selfoss. It is a wide river that is home to brown trout of 10+ lbs as well as arctic char.
You can access it easily by car, it is easy to walk along the banks, and there is not much to get in the way of your casting. Big streamers and sink tips are key here.
Laxa in Myvatnssveit
The Laxa in Myvatnssveit River is one of the best fishing spots in Iceland with regards to brown trout. It is fed by Lake Myvatn and the size and numbers of fish here are nothing but astounding. You will find it in northern Iceland around an hour’s drive from the town of Akureyri. Midge imitations and streamers are the way to go.
The Laxardalur, also being fed by Lake Myvatn, is just next door to the Laxa in Myvatnssveit River in northern Iceland. It is another of the best Iceland fly fishing spots for brown trout with fish pushing the 10+ lb mark. Big streamers and sink tips are the best flies to target the large browns that live there.
The Jónskvísl River is another great brown trout river in Iceland with a good sea trout and arctic char population too. It is a 2-hour drive from Reykjavik and is close to the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, access is easy via a 4×4 or car. Big streamers or midge patterns are the way to go and you won’t have any trouble casting.
The Mýrarkvísl River flows out of Lake Langavatn in northeast Iceland and has spectacular brown trout fishing. It is a small river that is perfect for both dry fly fishing and nymphing with a 4/5 wt rod, midge imitations being the most deadly fly to use. The river also has a good run of salmon.
4 Best Lakes For Fly Fishing in Iceland
Iceland is also home to some incredible lakes that hold some of the biggest fish in Iceland you can catch with a fly rod – most brown trout. If you are looking to catch a monster, here are some of the best fishing lakes in Iceland.
Lake Thingvallavatn is the biggest lake in Iceland and is a short 45-minute drive from the capital Reykjavik. It is world-famous for its giant brown trout that reach up to 36+ lbs and its good population of arctic char. However, to catch a monster, you will need to book a specific beat next to the warm geothermal inflow.
Lake Myvatn is in northern Iceland near the tiny village of Reykjahlíð.
It is home to brown trout and arctic char up to 8 lbs. It has excellent fly hatches making it an ideal spot for dry fly fishing, but they will drive you nuts if you do not keep yourself covered up. Access is easy with a car but the banks are steep in some areas which can make casting difficult.
Lake Villingavatn is just next to Lake Thingvallavatn. It is a small lake with brown trout up to 8 lbs that will happily eat nymphs, dry flues, and streamers. There is plenty of space to cast and you can access it via a car, there is no need for a 4×4.
Lake Hlidarvatn is in southern Iceland just an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. It is known for its excellent artic char fishing and it also holds some good brown trout too. It is a small lake that you can drive right up to, there is ample space for long casts, and the fish love small nymphs as well as streamers.
Iceland Fly Fishing – Fish Species
When it comes to fly fishing for freshwater fish species, Iceland is one of the best places in the world you can go to. Here are the species you should have at the top of your list to target while you are there.
Iceland is home to one of the best Atlantic salmon populations in the world.
Every year, thousands of Atlantic salmon return to the rivers of Iceland to spawn between the months of May and September. They grow up to 20 lbs with the average size being around 6 lbs. Red Francis and hitched tube flies are excellent.
Sea trout are brown trout that have headed out to sea to feed. Like Atlantic salmon, they also return to the rivers of Iceland every year to spawn. You can catch sea trout up to 20 lbs in Iceland and some of the best spots are in southern Iceland around Selfoss. Nymphs as well as orange/black streamers work well for them.
Some of the biggest brown trout in the world can be found in Iceland, specifically in Lake Thingvallavatn mentioned above where they grow to 30+ lbs. However, 10 lb browns can also be found in Iceland’s rivers such as the Hola. Big streamers or small midge imitations are the best flies to use for them.
Arctic char are stunning fish and are found all over the rivers and lakes of Iceland growing to around 3 lbs on average. You can find them in the Hola River as well as in all the lakes mentioned above. Midge imitations work best for them.
Sea-Run Arctic Char
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to fish for sea-run arctic char. Having left the rivers to feed in the sea, when they return you can find fish of 10+ lbs. The Eyjafjarðará River and Bruara River are some of the best places to find them, and larger streamers are the best flies to use.
Best Flies For Iceland
When heading on a fly fishing trip anywhere, especially Iceland, it is key to take the right flies with you.
Below you will find the best flies for all the species you might be targeting in Iceland.
When dry fly fishing in Iceland, the main two hatches you want to imitate are midges and caddis. Here are the dry flies you will want to have in your box.
- Griffith’s Gnat: This is an incredible midge imitation, use it whenever there is a hatch on in sizes 16 – 22
- Black Gnat: Another great midge imitation in sizes 16 – 22
- Parachute Adams: In sizes 14 – 22 it imitates everything from a caddis to a midge
- Elk Hair Caddis: This is a deadly caddis imitation in sizes 14-18, use it in tandem with a small midge fly
- Klinkhammer: Another catch-all dry fly that imitates both midges and caddis in sizes 14 – 22
You will be using streamers a lot in Iceland for large brown trout, sea trout, and Arctic char. Here are the best ones to have in your box.
- Hothead Zonker: A great baitfish imitation in sizes 4 to 10, great colors are orange, black, and olive
- Ghost: The Ghost is the perfect match for small melt, sizes 6-10 in black and white work well
- Killer: An Icelandic streamer that is deadly for arctic char, sea trout, and brown trout
- Wooly Bugger: Imitating everything from small fish to crustaceans, it is deadly in black or olive
- Clouser Minnow: A deadly imitation in sizes 2 to 8 as it looks just like a baitfish and has a great action
Nymphs are your bread & butter when fishing the smaller trout and Arctic char streams of Iceland and here are the must-haves to take with you.
- Langskeggur: An Icelandic midge imitation that is best bought weightless and in sizes 14 – 16
- Zebra Midge: Weighted with a gold head or tungsten in sizes 14 – 18 it looks just like a midge nymph
- Higas SOS: A deadly fly in sizes 16 – 20 when fishing outflows and small rivers
- Alma Rún: In sizes 16 – 18 this is an incredible midge nymph imitation
- Cased Caddis: This works wonders in the early season in sizes 12 to 16
If you are planning on going salmon fishing in Iceland then these are the flies you need to have with you.
- Black & Red Frances: The Frances in black or red simply drives Icelandic salmon crazy, use them often
- Colly Dog Tube: Very effective thanks to its movement action. Fresh fish love it in a large size
- Sunray Shadow: Works well in a variety of sizes and colors, salmon love it in Iceland
- Friggi: Use this in any color in large sizes when fishing in dirty water, also a great last resort fly
- Zelder: Use this fly when the salmon are being fussy, it might just change your day
Iceland Fishing Season
The Iceland fishing season runs from April through to October however, there are different season opening and closing times for the different species available, at the season also varies from one fishery to the next.
Generally speaking, the brown trout and sea trout season is from April to October, arctic char from May to October, and Atlantic salmon from June to mid-September. The best time to fish in Iceland depends on the species you want to catch and we will explore this more below.
Iceland Fly Fishing in April
April is when you will find some of the best sea trout and brown trout fishing in Iceland. The brown trout are hungry after a long winter and will begin gorging themselves on midge nymphs and midge hatches. Big sea trout run into the rivers in April too. Choose a river heated by geothermal for your best chances to find a big fish.
Iceland Fly Fishing in May & June
May & June is an excellent time for brown trout, sea trout, arctic char, and sea-run arctic char. As the weather heats up and lots of fish enter the rivers from the sea, the rivers of southern and northern Iceland are the place to be.
Mid-June is also when the Atlantic salmon tend to arrive and timing your fishing with some of the highest tides can produce an excellent run of fish.
Iceland Fly Fishing in July & August
July and August are the prime months in Iceland for Atlantic salmon. This is when large numbers of fish are running the rivers to spawn and 5 fish days are not uncommon. Late August sees an excellent run of large sea trout into the rivers of southern Iceland such as the Varma.
Iceland Fly Fishing in September & October
If you want to catch big sea trout or sea-run arctic char, September and October offer some of the best fishing in Iceland for these species. However, I would recommend September as the weather in October can be very cold, and too much rain will make the rivers unfishable.
Iceland Fishing Report
It is hard to find an Iceland fly fishing report that is not glowing and mine is not going to be any different. When I was there I mainly fished for sea trout but also did some days targeting brown trout and Arctic char. It was fantastic fishing, and I ended up leaving having caught the biggest sea trout, brown trout, and Arctic char of my life.
Accessing the rivers and lakes is very easy as the services you book through are very helpful in terms of providing maps, flies, regulations, and more. The landscapes are particularly stunning and the number of fish in every river or lake is simply mind-blowing.
The only downside to fly fishing in Iceland is the costs. Staying at a salmon lodge for 3 days is around £8,000. Booking a sea trout river for a day is much cheaper, but it is still around $300 per day, as are prolific trout and char rivers.
Best Fly Shops in Iceland
Whenever you travel somewhere new to fly fish, it pays to go into a local fly shop for some advice and to get some local flies. Here are the best of them!
- Address: 44P9+8P Reykjavík, Iceland
- Website: NA
- Phone Number: +3545688410
Run by two incredibly talented and friendly fly fishermen, this is the best place to get advice and flies in Iceland’s capital. Stop here on your way from the airport to your first fishing spot.
- Address: Austurvegur 11, 800 Selfoss, Iceland
- Website: https://midgardoutfitters.is/
- Phone Number: +3545757070
A great fly shop just outside of Selfoss in southern Iceland. The owner is very friendly, full of advice, and has a great selection of gear for you to browse through.
- Address: Ungmennasamband Eyjafjarðar, Óseyri 2, 603 Akureyri, Iceland
- Website: http://www.veidirikid.is/
- Phone Number: +3545787750
If you are fly fishing in northern Iceland, be sure to check this fly shop out. The fish in the north will behave a little differently from the ones in the south, valuable advice and fly patterns can be found in this shop.
Iceland Fly Fishing Licenses
To get a fishing license in Iceland is a little tricky as all rivers and lakes are private. In most cases, you have to buy a day ticket for the specific lake or river you want to fish.
Some lakes and rivers can be booked through guide services which you can find below. Other more exclusive rivers and lakes have to be booked through the lodges that own the access, these can also be found below.
In some cases, you can buy a fishing license for your chosen lake/river at the local gas station, so it is also worth checking there. There is also the Iceland Fishing Card which gives you access to 34 lakes.
Fly Fishing Guide Services in Iceland
It is always a good idea to book a fly-fishing guide in a place you have never fished, at least for a day. They will show you the ropes and you’ll learn how to fish the river/lake a lot faster. Here are some of the top Iceland fishing guides for you to consider.
- Address: Hafnargata, 230 Keflavík, Iceland
- Website: https://anglers.is/
- Phone Number: +3548973443
This is an excellent guide service to buy licenses through for rivers and lakes all over Iceland. They are very helpful, have excellent advice, and their guides are fantastic.
Go Fishing Iceland
- Address: Hraunbraut 17, 200 Kópavogur, Iceland
- Website: http://gofishing.is/
- Phone Number: +3548669354
Go Fishing Iceland is very similar to Anglers.is. You can book rivers and lakes through them, get great advice, and book excellent guides too.
Iceland Fishing Guide
- Address: Hrafnagilsstræti 38, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
- Website: http://icelandfishingguide.com/
- Phone Number: +3546601642
One of the top fishing guide services in northern Iceland. If you are heading north, these are the guys to speak to about getting licenses, what flies to use, and booking great guides.
Fly Fishing Lodges in Iceland
All the fly fishing lodges are high-end and come with great accommodations, guides, and access to some of the best salmon and sea trout fishing Iceland has to offer. However, this kind of experience comes at a very high price.
Address: Eystri Rangá, 861 Hvolsvöllur, Iceland
Phone Number: +3548938110
A beautiful lodge overlooking one of the best salmon rivers in Iceland, the East Ranga. The lodge comes with incredible guides, great food, comfy rooms, and lots more.
Battle Hill Lodge
Address: Klængshóll Lodge, 621 Dalvík, Iceland
Phone Number: +3548583000
This lodge has access to some of the best sea trout, arctic char, and brown trout fishing in Iceland. The lodge is in the north but they also have cabins in southern Iceland too.
West Ranga Lodge
Address: Rangá Veiðihús, 851 Hella, Iceland
Phone Number: +3544662680
West Ranga Lodge is a lovely fishing lodge on the shores of one of the best salmon rivers in Iceland, the West Ranga. The accommodation is excellent, the food is amazing, and the fishing is out of this world,
FAQs About Fly Fishing in Iceland
If you are planning a fly fishing trip to Iceland, you probably have some questions. Below I have answered the most frequently asked questions about casting a fly in Iceland to help you out.
Yes, the fly fishing in Iceland is some of the best in the world for brown trout, Atlantic salmon, sea trout, and Arctic char.
The cost of fly fishing in Iceland varies from one river or lake to the next. On average, expect to spend around $200 a day to access a good sea trout river. Salmon fishing can cost upwards of $1000 per day.
The best month to fish in Iceland depends on the species you are targeting. April & May are great for trout and char, June & July are ideal for salmon, and September is perfect for sea trout.
The best lake in Iceland for fly fishing is Lake Thingvallavatn as some of the largest brown trout in the world live there. However, there are lots of incredible lakes to fish.
Yes, you need a permit to fish in Iceland. Unlike other countries, in Iceland you need a permit specific to the river or lake you are fishing on as every lake or river belongs to the landowner and is not public water.
If you love fly fishing then going on a trip to Iceland with your fishing buddies is going to be something you’ll never forget, and honestly, it is an absolute must. After all, it does have some of the best fly fishing on the planet.
The country is simply incredible in terms of culture and landscapes, the rivers and lakes are incredibly well looked after, and the infrastructure makes fishing easy. When you add the size and number of brown trout, Arctic char, sea trout, and Atlantic salmon, it is hard to beat.
If you are put off by the prices, don’t be. You can do it cheaply by camping and booking day tickets, just be sure to book the rivers and lakes you want to fish well in advance.
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