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THE ARCTIC’S CHARM

Venturing into Iceland’s icy waters was a unique experience for Gareth George. One he’s unlikely to ever replicate.

In a country with hundreds of volcanoes – 30 of which are in constant, molten turmoil – you might think this an ancient land of upheaval. Quite the contrary: this pyroclastic activity is constantly creating new ground, making Iceland one of the youngest countries in the world.

Characterised by a continual upsurge of water, there isn’t a mountain from which water doesn’t emanate, with springs quickly developing into streams, and the gradient creating powerful rich rivers that feed the surrounding ocean.

Being at the edge of the Arctic circle, these ice-cold waters have created the perfect conditions in which gargantuan fish grow. Prehistoric browns that have been resident since the ice age, Arctic char and a population of migrating salmon that almost defy belief, is what had drawn us to sample the majestic lakes and rivers in the southern region of this remarkable country.

We arrived to picturesque conditions, with clear skies and not a breath of wind. It had us wondering why we’d bothered to pack thermals and winter woolies, but it also meant it would be very difficult fishing for the primeval brown trout, our first target species.

We had designed a baby Artic char pattern, having read that the big fish in these lake systems feed on little else and this soon caught the attention of the cruising trout. My fishing mate Shane Ferguson opened his account with a personal best, which is one hell of a way to start a fishing expedition!

But the bright sunshine did not make the fishing easy. Our guide Mattius was willing the faint hint of changing skyline to bring in the clouds, knowing overcast weather would draw the browns closer to the shore.

Isn’t there some saying of beware of what you wish for? Over the next few hours we encountered a weather pattern reminiscent of an approaching cyclone, but we had travelled 15 000 kilometers to experience lake Thingvallavatn, so stupidly we took on the elements. Eventually we had to admit defeat and wait it out, until we could actually cast beyond our feet. So, our first session only really kicked off at 4pm.

Dressed to impress and layered like the Michelin Man, as the wind abated we waded in and started casting to the moving trout. My better half immediately hooked up and also joined Shane in notching up a personal best, which was closely followed by Fred Poeggenpoel joining this club.

It was bitterly cold, drizzling rain and exactly what the fish were waiting for. We all know browns love a miserable day, but in this lake they positively demand it!

Over the next four hours it would be no exaggeration to say that we hammered the fish, landing 16 incredible brown trout. All qualms and concerns about the freezing water and weather were forgotten.

My very first cast yielded a 77cm 15-lb beast of a brown and my last cast a 72cm double digit beauty. In fact, our team didn’t land a fish under 60cm, so understandably the smiles on our faces were fixed. I can safely say that I’ve never experienced a trout fishing session like this in my entire life. It was off the charts!

To exceed every expectation from your first cast is a feat I doubt I’ll ever repeat, but it’s certainly one I’ll never forget. Thankfully I had some great friends to experience it with, which we’ll be celebrating for many years to come.

From here we were heading to the famous West Ranga Lodge to meet Harpa and Stefan, the pioneers behind Iceland Outfitters, hoping to tick off an Artic char on route before tackling the Atlantic Salmon. Our journey had just begun.