H2O Magazine

Fishing in Iceland:  Fossá and Sandá Rivers

It is Saturday and already September 7th. My colleagues, Garðar and Óli, and I have been looking forward to closing the 2013 season together fishing the Fossá and the Sandá rivers.

These two rivers run into the upper part of the river Þjórsá. That river is the longest river in Iceland, about 230 kilometres (143 miles). Its huge water flow provides power for some hydro-electric plants in the far upper part of the river.

Although we have been planning this trip for a long time and have reserved the licenses for all the four rods allowed, things have changed. Garðar needs to attend a wedding on Saturday, so he plans to meet us on Sunday morning. Óli and I will drive from Reykjavik to Selfoss to  meet at a local fly fishing store, Veiðisport. Their slogan is: “Where the fishing trip starts” so we find it appropriate to meet there. The owner of the store and his wife welcome us and we receive some good advice, and Óli can add some promising flies to his arsenal. Then we drive on to the Þjórsá valley, stopping on the way to take a picture of Mt. Hekla, the famous volcano.

Fishing salmons in Iceland

We  start fishing at four in the afternoon and we can choose to fish at  Hjálp waterfall or  at Hjálparfoss. The salmon can only swim as far as the waterfall although many salmons try to leap into the waterfall  right in front of us when we are fishing close to it. Óli starts on the north side and quickly gets a 60 cm salmon on a Black Snælda. I am too busy taking pictures to do some serious fishing so he adds one 65 cm salmon to his catch.

The lower part of the river is unexplored, so we decide that Óli will take the truck and drive down to where Fossá meets the glacial water coming out from the Búrfell power plant. I plan to walk along the river  to the junction where the two rivers meet.

I cast my fly to all the likely places on the way but without luck. I do not detect any fish along the way but we discover fish in two places in the lower part of Fossá and also under the glacial water where the two rivers meet. The clear water is colder so the glacial water is on top providing shelter to the fish in the clear water underneath. I was expecting more fish under the glacial water but only one trout took my Green Butt tube. Now it is getting late so we call it a day. We grill a tasty meal on the barbeque and have a good night sleep until we wake up early to greet Garðar who meets us for breakfast.

We start again at  Hjálp waterfall, Garðar on the north side and Óli on the south and at first I watch them: there are only two rods allowed below the waterfall. Garðar gets two salmon on the north side, one on Skröggur and the other on a Black Snælda. Óli gets an Arctic char on the south side while I hook a 53 cm salmon on the north side on a Collie Dog cone head tube.

After lunch we decide to explore the lower part of Sandá and the stretch where it runs into Þjórsá and before we go up to Fossá Garðar we try the junction of Sandá and Hvammsá but don’t not find that spot promising.

There are so many tourists at  Hjálp waterfall that we decide to go directly to the lower part of Fossá to the places marked #27 and #28. We enjoy some good fishing there in the afternoon and also in the evening.

Now, the sun is starting to go down so we decide to move to the pool in Sandá and finish where I had left off earlier in the day. I start with the fly Skröggur. It is a 4 cm long tube fly. The salmon does not hesitate and takes the fly firmly. After a short struggle, I release a 60 cm long salmon back into the river. It is starting to turn red and so  the landscape in the sunset. When I take off my red cap and bid the salmon farewell, my colleagues suggest that the pool should be named Rauðhylur (Red Pool). I find the name appropriate and we decide to use that name in the future. This was a fine ending to a good day.

After a good night sleep Garðar and I start to explore the upper part of Fossá, and possibly Rauðá that runs into Fossá.  The road is not good and it helps to be in a 4 x 4 wheel car.  The bright side  prompts me to come back and I decide to start fishing up there and then walk all the way down to Hjálparfoss fishing on the way. It is now getting close to noon and our time is up. We have not  tried the upper parts of Sandá yet. There is plenty of water in Sandá now due to the rainy season this summer and my guess is that a number of salmon may have ventured up into the river to look for some good spawning grounds. Garðar and I decide to test my theory.

There is one promising stretch in the river that I think worth exploring. We walk down the track in the forest where I think that we might split company and explore the river in two directions independently. After fishing for a while I get second thoughts on leaving my rods on the car where it is parked in a place frequently visited by tourists. I decide to walk back to the car and put my rods into storage. When I come to the car I  notice that Garðar has hit the jackpot in the pool below: he landed a 62 cm, 2.13 kg salmon on his #3 trout rod using a Skröggur fly #10!

Salmons protection in Iceland

Catch and release can be a topic for debate. In this part of the river system we need more fish to spawn to increase the run of salmon, sea trout, and Arctic char. The breeding grounds are good and fertile and provide good shelter for the young ones. The three proposed power plants in the lower part of Þjórsá have been put on hold, but may, however, present a more serious danger to the habitat of the salmonoids if erected. Anadromous fish can travel upstream but it can be more life threatening for the young smolts if they travel through the turbines of the three possible power plants on their passage to the ocean. A surface passage will no doubt be installed at each dam to assist the young salmon to travel to the ocean with the least harm. The salmon feeds in the ocean for one or two years before returning to the feeding grounds of its youth to reproduce. At present, only one plant is being returned to the drawing board, but in my mind the one that is most damaging to the scenery and the future of salmon fishing in Þjórsá and its tributaries. On the other hand the plant farthest down would mean that catching salmon in nets would cease permitting a larger number of salmons to travel freely to the upper parts of the river winning new territories and habitats.

Fishing technical details

The fishing will be split into two six hour periods during the day during the summer of 2014. It starts at seven in the morning until one in the afternoon, and again from four in the afternoon until ten in the evening. The fishing is divided into two parts or sections of the river providing for either trout fishing or salmon fishing:

The salmon fishing is in the upper part of the river Sandá and from Hjálparfoss in Fossá to the place where it runs into the river Þjórsá. It starts from July 20th and runs until the 30th of September. Two rods are allowed, and it is fly fishing only with catch and release.

The upper part of the river Fossá (above the waterfall Hjálparfoss) offers trout fishing up to Háifoss. There is trout fishing in Rauðá as well. The species are local brown trout (Salmo trutta) and Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus). The season starts on May 1st and runs until September 30th. Two rods are allowed, and it is fly fishing only with catch and release. The trout fishermen are allowed to try for sea trout in Fossá below the waterfall Hjálparfoss until July 10. The sea trout starts to run in the South Western part of Iceland in July, but usually not until later in the month.

Arni Arnason

For licenses, we were in contact with Hregnasi ehf., Nóatúni 17, 105 Reykjavík. Their e-mail address is: [email protected] and their telephone number at the office is +354 577 22 30. The Angling Club Hreggnasi is, however, no longer selling permits to the river but they have an interesting web page, www.hreggnasi.is presenting many interesting offers of fly fishing pleasures in Iceland.

The river Fossá is presently rented out by a new company, Laugardalsá ehf. It can be found on the web at www.fishingiceland.com and the contact for licenses is Helgi Guðbrandsson. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

He can be reached at +354 823 49 90. His offices for Fishing Iceland are at Fjarðargata 17, 220 Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.

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