A bit off topic from Jigging and Popping but I love to F.F. in both fresh and saltwater. This latest adventure took place under and around the glaciers of Greenland and the Magnificent country side that is Iceland.
My Greenland/Iceland adventure has ended and Maaaan the memories are awesome. I will try and post a few pics others took of me but here is the run down. We thought we were to have 3 days in Greenland but it turned out the best we could do was 2.25 days. It took 2 full days to get to the outpost/lodge we headed out to. This included an overnight in Reykjavik, a Smaller plane to some little spot in Greenland and then 3.5 hours at 27 knots to our camp/lodge. We negotiated around Icebergs left and right. Thousands and thousands of the suckers of all sizes and shapes. Beautiful blue tints with light shining through the leaner sections. The biggest town nearby had 17 Inuits living in it. Add in some semi breaching Minke Whales and we had a great start to the trip. Magnificent.
Everyone but me decided not to fish that night as we did not get to the lodge until about 6:30 PM in the evening and they were all beat. I was ready to go by 6:50 PM, fully wandered and layered, as I did not want to miss anything. The water temp was a bit under 40 degrees F. and the outside temp was in the high 40's with no wind. In short... Perfect for Greenland.
My guide Michelle and I took a 3 minute boat ride and a 10 minute hike to the "Home waters". It turns out even Greenland is suffering from a drought as much of the Home river waterfalls were just a slow flow with several pools. However, at the top, the Glacier runoff pool which flowed into the falls were very much alive as we watched Char of all sizes top water feeding on thick swarms of Mosquitos. Rising fish were fairly regular and as I watched the action of these fish from atop the ridge I thought about last month's Spruce Moth hatch in Montana. However, these are mosquitoes after all so the comparison is rather without merit as these little buggers, unlike moths, were mercilessly trying to find an opening through my repellant in order to feed. Apparently, these bugs are different than every other Mosquito I have encountered as these actually left me alone after about an hour.... Or maybe they liked Michelle better. Works for me.
Though there were rising fish, dries were not the hot ticket. Rather, we quickly figured out that pink streamers (Thank you Michelle) with a bit of a stimi in front we're where the action was. Since I am a devotee of the streamer these flies fit in with my plans perfectly. The Char seemed to be hip to the program as well since I started roping fish while standing on some moss covered rocks about knee high in the water. Unfortunately for me my soles were Korker rubber and I should have used my Felt/ studded soles. Oh well, slip and slides sold millions for Wham-o. Who cared, I was on the fish.
I spent the next 3.5 hours wiling away the hours pulling on Char with my G-Loomis NRX 5 wt. I matched the rod with a Nautilus FWX 5/6 and a Wt. Fwd, floating, Scientific Angler Sharkwave line. The Streamers were on the smaller size. Fish size ran from standard 3-4 pounds up to maybe a few in the 6 pound range. I suppose, as with many guide fish, these would have been called 6 - 10 pounders but as we all know that would have been a fib. Great beautiful fish.
After a great dinner and shower it was off to bed. Though the lodge had communal type showers, with no running water in the rooms, there was some heaters to be had in the shower room so all in all it was quite comfortable. Had the weather deteriorated I might be posting something different but we had great weather that night so walking back to my small wood temporary home was not an issue.
The next day found us traveling about 45 miles by boat to another bay and shorter waterfall. I switched over to my NRX/Nautilus 6 wt. and shooting head line and proceeded to find myself in streamer heaven. To be honest there were actually too many fish..... Shame on me for saying that but I just watched as schools of fish were circling the bay at regular intervals again coming up to feed fairly often. Plenty of sight fishing to the boils as well as to the schools but trying to pick out a prime fish was tough as the smaller fish would be super aggressive and often beat out the bigger fish in taking the fly. Pretty much anyone who could cast a reasonable distance was going to hook up. Those who cold not cast a fly rod were welcome to use a spinner.... Hey... I don't judge. Again, similar size fish, with a few biggers, as the ones at the home waters. All fish, but a handful to be used for dinner, were released.
The scenery is interesting in Greenland as the waterfalls, where there is enough water, are great, but much of the land where we found ourselves surrounded by was rough and lacking much green. Caribou (Reindeer) were plentiful with one nice bull coming within about 50 yds of the lodge one evening. Of course a few Eagles needed to make themselves seen. Musk Ox were a bit of a distance away but if you've seen one Musk Ox you've seen them all.... Maaaan, am I spoiled.
That night, after a great dinner and maybe a few adult beverages along with a fine cigar, it was time to go back to the home waters. This time everyone came along to try their hand at these char. I was so fortunate as I got the chance to fish new lines and gear as one of our guides, Simon, was sponsored by Loop fishing and Bullet lines. Michelle had great sponsorship as well with Hardy rods and reels along with Scientific Anglers lines. Talk about being in Pig heaven as I joyously tested out all the latest and greatest gear from these manufacturers, some of which I am not normally exposed to, while mixing and matching rods, reels and lines. All the while the char continued to find their way onto my barbless hooks with all being released. Being able to make long casts to rising fish here was very important but blind attacks were not uncommon.
As a note, all the guides were involved and or graduated from a 2 year guide college in Sweden. All three of the folks running the lodge were young and all about customer service. As one might imagine, it takes a certain personality type to survive in these conditions, have great customer service skills as well as want to exist for 3 or so months in these conditions. All three were from Sweden and the camaraderie was outstanding.
Later that night my buddy Mike and I stayed up as we were treated to the full Aurora Borealis effect across the entire sky. Though 1 AM found us oohing and ahhing to the incredible dancing light show it was not until about 3 AM that it really hit its peak. WOWOWO!!!!!. I understand these Northern Lights are rarely witnessed under such perfect conditions as we had. Now, if this had only been the 60's and I was on Acid....... Oh never mind...
Unfortunately, just after we went to bed, the wind started to pickup. By 5 AM the winds were in full force probably pushing the 60 - 70 knot range. Though the skies were clear and the sun was out fishing was out of the question. We spent the day waiting for conditions to improve but when the wood and concrete dock was blown off its steel/ concrete foundation and turned almost upside down we began to realize this day might just not be for fishing. We were forced to move the boats way inside and into the lee of the land as there was no way the anchors and ties were going to hold in this gale. The blow never ended and the temps got real cold but we had plenty of Scotch, Tequila and a few other refreshments along with some great food throughout the day. Ahhhh such first world problems.
The next day found us with a short schedule, with no fishing as we had to take the boat and plane back to Reykjavik. We had plenty of time so once again we took in the sights while dining and drinking the local fare. As a note: Iceland is the most expensive place I have ever been to other than perhaps Monaco. A lousy Burger and beer is about $25.00 - $35.00 US even in the local small joints. The High end restaurants, we enjoyed, were just plain ridiculous and made even Europe pale by comparison. Oh well, when in Rome and your friends are high rollers.......one has to make do... Even if Rome is in Iceland.
The next day we purchased some flies in the local fly shop and headed to West Ranga where we would fish some great "Beats" starting at 3 PM and ending at 10 PM for the first day. After that the time switched to 9 PM for ending the day. At West Ranga one is fishing private waters and there are only 4 rods assigned to large lengths of the river. You never see another fisherman from any of the beats other than your 4 person group and guides. Beats are changed in 6 hour intervals as we fished 6 hours in the morning, back to the lodge for 2 hours of lunch and relaxation and then another 6 hours in the afternoon/evening Awesome...... Except dinner rarely finished before midnight and we were up at 5 AM to start the process of breakfast and fishing all over again.
West Ranga is a magnificent river with at least one world renowned waterfall I was so fortunate to fish under twice during our stay. Atlantic Salmon are the species Du Jour with most areas requiring long casts. Every one there use roughly 15 foot, 2 handed spey rods, as many areas had limited back casting and still required long casts...... Everyone but me, that is, as I used my single handed 7 WT G-Loomis, NRX, 7 Wt Nautilus FWX reel and my newly acquired Bullet, WF, floating, shooting head line I decided to purchase after my testing at the home waters of Greenland. Adding on a sinking tip and leader attached to various tube flies and I was right where I needed to be. 12 hours of casting this rig for 3 days, 12 hours per day, was awesome and I felt I had way more control of the drift and feel of the gentle bite than the Spey guys. None the less, bushes, hillside and weeds would, on occasion, bite my back casted tube fly.
I was startled to find out they asked us all to use treble hooks so I started to think my always 100% catch and release procedures were at risk. This turned out to be true as the moment I released my first beautiful Atlantic Salmon, which I beach landed, I could hear someone yelling asking what the heck did I do? I sort of got the impression of what it must be like to be Charles Manson but I flowed with it telling Jon the guide I do not eat fish and I practice C and R. After realizing I had not imbibed in some sort of brown acid, smoked too many blunts or had lost my mind Jon noted they really prefer we keep the fish as they can use it for feeding their families and community. How can I say no to that?? So I started keeping the fish.
I did hook many fish on the strip the majority of fish bit on the swing. Though this is not my favorite style of fishing the gentle nature of most of the bites made the game much more interesting.
As I noted previously everything I had read about fishing on the West Ranga everyone uses two handed rods with the majority of anglers using a single stroke back cast and forward cast. Some folks learn to D loop roll cast with these 15 foot long beasts but me being me I do not care for those long rods or techniques. Besides no-one from the lodge was even close to out-catching or out hooking up than me using my 7 wt. single hand, regardless if there were cliffs behind me or open fields.
Since I have not fished Atlantic Salmon before I was treated to something more related to Tarpon fishing. The bigger the fish the more they jumped and spit hooks. Dozens of full flips with massive head shakes by the fish resulted in many thrown hooks. Though the majority of fish out there are in the 4- 10 pound range and a really big fish would hit 18 pounds, we definitely hooked several of the monster "Black" fish which would have undoubtedly pushed 30 pounds but for now that is nothing more than supposition and perhaps a bit of whimsy. The really big ones got that large by figuring out how best to frustrate the angler and frustrate they did on several occasions. None the less I was well into the double digit landing count on the first day with many fish being released..... some of which being long distance release... Oh well... I won way more than I lost and my down side was not nearly as bad as the Salmon's.
Days 2 and 3 found us on both new and old beats. We were so fortunate that other than a few half days of 10 - 15 knot winds directly into my face the majority of time we were treated to perfect fly fishing weather. Both Greenland and Iceland are wade fishing meccas as I did not see any sort of fly fishing rafts or boats nor do I believe any are allowed in the Icelandic waters we fished. I have a blast working my way both up and down rivers in very reasonable current conditions... sometimes up to the middle of my stomach in order to get to certain troughs.
There was definitely a visual and physical distinction between the new Salmon working up the river and the older Salmon who had been in the area for a while. The newer models did have the usual sea lice while the 3 or more year old Salmon were darker in color and free of the hitch hikers. When you got a Black looking model on the end of your line you knew it. Fantastic.
At the West Ranga my guide for 3 days was Jon Karlsson. He and I hit it off soon after we went through the usual feeling out stage which included him not believing a single hand fly fisherman could go head to head or out perform the Spey guys on this river. Especially when I was tucked in under a 20 foot high cliff. But, quickly, as the fish count rose well beyond expectation, Jon and I got along splendidly. Again, the only mentally hard part I had was Jon insisted on netting and bopping these Salmon on the head to be used for food or exchanged for beautifully processed and vacuum sealed Smoked Salmon or Lox. I would have much preferred to release. Oh well.... More first world problems.
In conclusion, another bucket list item crossed off. The memories will last for ever while the joy of knowing there will be only a few fishermen I come in contact with who have ever experienced these amazing locations let alone experience them as my group and I were so fortunate to do. I never take my good fortune for granted but I cannot wait for my next trip starting next week.