IF YOU GO – Thingvallavatn
Thingvallavatn is a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik, and Iceland’s largest lake in both size and volume, with an area of 84 square kilometers, and water depths of up to 115 meters. Thingvellir National Park is on the northern corner of the lake and includes the historic site where the Icelandic parliament, Altinget, formed back in a.d. 93. The park is also the home of Silfra, a deep and fascinating fault line caused by tectonic plate movements, as well as Öxará, one of the main spawning grounds for Thingvallavatn brown trout. The airport in Iceland, Keflavik, is well connected to the rest of the world, and depending on the season and departure time, Icelandair (www.icelandair.is) offers airfare for between 150 to 300 euros (US $165 to $325). The drive to the lake takes about one hour from the airport, though a four-wheel-drive car isn’t necessary. For rental cars, visit www.holdur.is.
While you don’t need a license to fish Lake Thingvallavatn, you do need one to fish the individual beats on the lake. If you intend to fish ION’s incredible beats, licenses are sold for 300 euros (approximately US $325) per rod (www.ionfishing.is). You can find information about other lake beats like Thingvellir National Park, Karastadir, and Skallabrekka at www.veidikortid.is/is/english.
There are several options when it comes to accommodations, but if you’re planning to fish the ION beats, the comfortable and super-fashionable ION Hotel (http://ioniceland.is) is the most obvious choice. There are also a handful of comfortable cottages overlooking the lake at the Skallabrekka beat (www.farmholidays.is), there is a campground at Thingvellir National Park, and 11 miles from the lake—near the city of Selfors—the Hotel Borealis offers great lodging (http://hotelborealis.is/).
Gear for Lake Thingvallavatn should be fairly stout, but for good reason. The weather is usually quite windy, there’s a solid chance of running into frighteningly large fish, and Thingvallavatn brown trout fight as if they’re on a cocktail of steroids and speed.
When streamer fishing, a 9-foot, 6-inch 8-weight rod with a floating or intermediate fly line and a 12-footlong .35 mm fluorocarbon leader (.013 inch) is suitable. Use bulky, eye-catching, weighted streamers in various sizes between sizes 4 and 2/0. Local favorites include the Black Ghost Zonker, Super Tinsel, White Nobbler, and Black Brahan—all flies that imitate the sticklebacks and arctic char in the lake.
When it comes to the incredible dry-fly and nymph fishing on the lake’s ION beats, a delicate and subtle presentation is often crucial, so I recommend a 9-foot 5- or 6-weight rod, a fl y reel with up to 300 meters of backing, a floating weight-forward line, a 15-foot-long leader with a .16 to .22 mm (6X to 8X) tippet, and small size 12 to 18 nymphs and dry flies. Anglers get spooled often on Thingvallavatn, so while 300 meters of backing seems like more than a reel can hold, some people use .20 mm spinning braid because it’s thin and easy to pack onto a spool.
Hooking giant brown trout with such delicate gear creates some serious challenges like spooled fly reels, straightened hooks, torn leaders, and broken hearts. However, the occasional lost fish is a price many anglers are willing to pay to be able to sight-cast to such large, wild fish. So on top of taking solid gear, be emotionally prepared and think through each situation in order to land fish—it’s often easier said than done, but a sharp, mental edge goes a long way.
OUTFITTERS & GUIDES
Anglers aren’t obligated to hire guides when fishing Lake Thingvallavatn, but it can definitely pay off— especially when fishing the popular ION beats. The fish there are big, and there are plenty of them, but they can be tricky, and ION’s guides really know their way around the lake. To book a day with one, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.