We had a good sleep and finished coffee and breakfast early. Ingo, Granny and I took off on the hour drive to Beat 8, the highest beat on the Selá River. This upper section not only has Atlantic salmon but also a unique strain of wild brown trout. The browns were our first target.
The skies were clear and the air was calm. This is strange weather here for late August. Nonetheless it was comfortable for fishing and great for viewing the amazing scenery of the Selá River.
The Selá cut through a canyon for several miles. Gradually we reached the top of a plateau. I’ve seen tons of rivers in my day but here the river rocks were unique, the twists and turns and drops were alluring and the surrounding land was more desolate than central Wyoming. If there’s an end of the world fly fishing this is it.
The Beats are huge on the Selá and there are over 140 salmon pools. Beat 8 alone has more than 40. We started on pool #137 and fished and waded our way down. Most of the water was fast and riffly and it felt ice cold. If I had more than a couple hours, I’d have dry fly fished but we were short on time (morning fishing ends at 1 PM). Also my lightest rod for the trip is my 7-weight Winston and I need lighter rods for dries. Instead, I prowled with streamers.
An hour passed. Ingo and I both hit good spots but nothing. We found a long run slower than any others we tried. At first glance it looked too shallow to hold a fish but there was a narrow but deep trough. I fished the channel diligently but nothing. As I reeled in calling it quits I saw a welcome boil behind my fly. I dropped to my knees hoping not to be seen and fired another cast. Success! I got this beautiful brown to seal the deal.
Either the brown trout of the upper Selá are few and far between or much smarter than we are. We went back to work on the salmon. Ingo was kind to let us trout fish so Granny and I kicked back and watched him work a famous pool for salmon that he was looking forward to. Its name is Storafljot.
Storafljot pool is long and deep. Granny and I watched Ingo hike down from above. Against the far bank the pool was so deep we couldn’t see bottom. That says a lot because the Selá is so clear and we could see bottom where it was 20 feet deep.
The next few casts Ingo made had the fish looking. On one of his swings the fish followed with his nose inches away. But then like wise fish often do, he bypassed the fly and swam right up Ingo’s leader and to the fly line as if to say “nice try bud”. I took this photo of the fish and I’m not so sure it was a salmon. If it’s a brown trout, there are some mammoths in the Selá River.
We had a terrific lunch followed by a nap then coffee. The weather changed during our rest. The blue sky was long gone and replaced by low hanging clouds and drizzle. It wasn’t so balmy out anymore either. It was such a change Granny opted to take the night off. Ingo and I went to where an old bridge once crossed the river on Beat 5.
This was the weather I remember from last trip to Iceland. For me it was invigorating and gave me some extra confidence for catching salmon. Ingo felt the same and we worked this pool thoroughly. First it was me for an hour then him for an hour. There were plenty of leaping grilse but in two hours we didn’t touch a fish. I was in my element however and enjoyed a tasty Einstök while watching Ingo.
Perplexed but not beaten, we drove a few minutes upstream and hiked down into a canyon of another pool. When we got down we realized it was nearly impossible to fish from our side due to a high bank. I went for it anyhow roll casting with my 9’ 6” Winston 8-weight. I was getting it way out and low and behold I landed a 55cm grilse.
I’ve always wished I could save that last hour of light on great fishing evenings back home. Up here in the far north of Iceland you sort of do because those evening dream times last for hours. Tonight was no exception. With the overcast conditions 5 PM seemed like 9 and that light didn’t change at all until about 8:45. From there it got dark fast but it’s also when I hooked up.
With fifteen minutes to go before 9 PM, official quitting time of salmon fishing in Iceland, Ingo suggested I fish one last pool. Once again we were on the wrong side of the river which meant I had to cast across the current, make a huge mend then feed out line. When I thought my fly was deep I jigged my fly a few times then mended again. I came so tight on my third cast I thought I was snagged but instead it was this hook jaw male salmon.
It was an amazing battle with this 76cm Atlantic salmon. It began with his stubbornness not to move fooling me to thinking I had bottom. Then he took off like a freight train upstream and jumping. It took some time to tame him after that and I’ll bet I landed him around 8:59 – just in time.
It got a little wild at dinner and afterwards tonight at the Selá Lodge. A few other fish were caught in addition to mine including this incredible male salmon caught by one of the hardcore Icelandic lady anglers here this week. Good fishing after days of struggle always leads to some party time in the north of Europe. This place is so cool. Stay tuned for tomorrow. . . . .