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Fly Fishing the Langa River Iceland

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Iceland had been one of my top 3 bucket list trips since the first time I outfitted a client to go. I researched fishing in Iceland to make sure he had the right gear and it has stuck in my mind ever since. Iceland’s incredible scenery, anadromous fish, low population density, and excellent food all make it worthy of a bucket list trip. Then it happened I was sponsored by a local group of tech entrepreneurs and VC to fish in Iceland.

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We landed in Reykjavik Wednesday morning at 6am. A sleepless flight transitioned quickly into running a few errands in Reykjavik. I made a quick trip to the fly shop to pick up a few local flies and drop off a Lost Coast Outfitters hat. The biggest fly I bought was a size 14 tandem hook Atlantic Salmon fly. Most of the flies we fished were 16-18 treble hook flies. I was surprised by how sparse and expensive they were. My next stop was to buy a hand-knitted Icelandic wool sweater. My work in Reykjavik was complete. The group had business to attend to at Reykjavik University followed by an excellent dinner with Mayor of Reykjavik. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to the energy commissioner of Iceland. We had a lengthy discussion after I heard that they have begun damming their rivers for hydroelectric power. A copy of Damnation is already in the mail to him.

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We jumped in the van and headed about 1.5 hours north. My excitement grew as we hit the tidal bay of the Langa River. Then, as with most great fishing trips, the road turned to gravel and I knew we must be close. A few more miles down the road we saw the first glimpse of the Langa River Lodge perched atop of a bluff in a beautiful part of the Langa River Valley.

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We geared up and were met by our guides. My guide Siggi was an attorney for the Icelandic Supreme Court. I am always wary of guides with a nice cars, but Siggi was awesome. Salmon fishing in Iceland is a short season and cost prohibitive leaving you with very few full time guides.

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Every pool known to hold fish on the river is marked with a small sign giving the name and number of the pool. Our search for Atlantic Salmon had begun. My fishing partner and I fished hard alternating pools for most of the day with just a few grabs. At about 10pm, an hour before dinner was to be served, we came to a very  slow moving pool. It had a few boulders scattered through out the pool and it was my turn to fish. I began to swing my fly around the nearest boulder first. The pool was so slow and clear that I nervously presented the fly delicately around the boulder. I started with the front corner nearest me and worked my way all the way around it. On the far back corner a fresh Salmon attacked my fly with a certain aggression that only anadromous fish can delivery. The fight was on. The Atlantic Salmon is strong and as acrobatic as it is fast. If you really want to piss it off, let it catch a glimpse of you and hang on. As the fish was netted we exchanged high fives and a flask of Port Charlotte Scotch. The smoky scotch came in handy as the 40 degree weather made colder by steady ocean wind was becoming harsher by the hour. The pressure was off and it was time to revel in the rivers stunning beauty.

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Back at the lodge we enjoyed the tradition wherein those who opted to keep their first Atlantic Salmon (catch and kill culture is strong in Iceland) bite the adipose fin off of their pray. A task that is surprisingly more difficult than you might think. This ritual is topped off with a shot of Brennivin, an Icelandic anise schnaps that can only be described as worse than biting the adipose off of a dead salmon. The lack of darkness sent the party to the wee hours of the morning until the inevitable 3am breakfast sandwich cook off capped off the night. 

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The constant driving between beats detracted from the experience for me. With a much better understanding of the water the Salmon liked to hold in, I opted to get dropped off a few miles up river in the mountain section.  A buddy and I hiked our way back fishing every little spot a salmon could hold. In the canyon of the mountains we were alone with river far from the road. This was by far was my best day of fishing hooking 8 and landing 7.

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Over all it was an incredible experience. I will leave you with a few more photos of Iceland.

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