One of the hardest decisions to make when planning your fishing trip to Iceland is choosing where to go to find the best angling experiences amidst this 40,000-square-mile wilderness. In a bid to narrow down your choices but not your options why not take a moment to consider fishing Lake Heidarvatn and the Vatnsa River?
Robert Stamm had a week here with his family earlier this season and in his feedback he wrote: “It was a beautiful week at Vatnsa Lodge and all our expectations were topped by nature, surroundings, fish, lodge etc.! On some days it was a difficult fishing for us in Vatnsa: we lost many large trouts and for some hours there were no single fish for us. But at Heidarvatn we all experienced the greatest and most impressive days a flyfisher could reach! It was like a dream and we all are still looking back at our nice lodge in Iceland… We caught 63 fishes: 40 char and 23 trouts, some of them sea trouts. Thank you and tight lines!” A visiting Norwegian angler has also reported catching several 3-5 kg (6-10lbs) brown trout and a good many char weighing 1-2 kg (2-4 lbs).
This angling paradise on the south coast offers a wealth of world-class fishing for wild brown trout, sea trout, Arctic char and salmon and there are plenty of places to explore and activities to do out of waders. It benefits from being only ten minutes from Vik, the southernmost village in Iceland, which has selection of shops and services to satisfy the needs of most travellers including a supermarket, petrol station, bank, restaurants etc. The village is a 2-3 hours by car from Reykjavik (185km/115 miles) or the international airport at Keflavik (180km/112 miles) where vehicle hire is readily available.
To the north lies Myrdalsjokull, the fourth largest glacier in Iceland, which covers the Katla volcano with ice, hundreds of meters thick. The area is also rich in birdlife and one of the largest Arctic tern nesting sites in Iceland is located beside an industrial area in the village.
The lake, nestling in the valley, measures 2km in length and is 1km at its widest point. It is a haven for trout which will rise ever so gullibly towards the surface, break the water and take a fly with superior elegance. Hard-fighting brown trout and brightly-coloured Arctic char abound with the real possibility of catching sea trout when they are in residence. It fishes a maximum of four rods per day.
The average size of the trout and char caught is 1-3 pounds, but sea trout of 10-13 pounds are often hooked and landed. In Martin Falklinds film “Trout Bums and Gentlemen” Martin is seen fishing lake Heidarvatn and catching brown trout of size 5 to 7 kilograms (the equivalent of 10-14 lbs).
The Vatnsa is discharged from the eastern shore of the lake and collaborates with the surrounding mountain crags and lush green vegetation to create a breathtaking location in which to seek out that perfect fish.
Vatnsa is small but perfectly formed and flows for just under two miles (3km) before it joins the glacial river Kerlingadalsa. It has been likened to a work of art carved out by the elements, resulting in diverse rock formations and pools which hold astonishing numbers of fish seemingly disproportionate to the size of their lairs.
Fished by a maximum of two rods, it is fair to say that few anglers hardly ever fish its entire length in the space of a single day during peak times. If you take your time and stop at lunchtime you might easily walk to the end but at times you may have to drag yourself out of several pools along the way; it is often all too tempting to stay a little longer and try another fly over the shoals of salmon below.
The permitted fishing area on the river begins at the Fruarhylur pool, a few hundred yards from the lake, near the self catering lodge which is usually included in the price of the fishing. Historically this pool is a magnet for fish and anglers alike, although you’ll soon discover that salmon and sea trout hold in almost every pool, run, mirror and eddy downstream.
When To Go
The season is split into two parts: fishing for wild brown trout, sea trout and Arctic char is from 20th May until 25th July on both the Vatnsa river and Lake Heidarvatn. After 25th July salmon and sea trout fishing is to be enjoyed on the Vatnsa river until 10th October. The trout fishing is particularly revered in late May, June & July which is regarded as the most productive months. These hard-fighting fish will not only test delicate leaders but also the skills and patience of the most experienced anglers. In recent years the salmon stocks have been enhanced by a smolt release scheme which has taken the river from producing 150 salmon at best to yielding close to a 1,000 salmon in 2008. In an average year catches are 4-500 salmon and 800-1,000 trout and char.
There are some rules in place on the Vatnsa which is fly-only and was the first river to ban barbed hooks. All female salmon must be released as must all male salmon over 70cm. Anglers are only allowed to take two cock fish under 70cm so you might well find yourself releasing a good many grilse. Anglers should come equipped with single-handed rods and light tackle although shorter double-handed rods will suffice depending on your preference. Trusted trout flies include dry flies including Black Gnats and CDCs, streamers (Woolly Buggers) and Pheasant Tail, Peacock and Thingvallapupa nymphs.
The three-bedroom self catering lodge is superbly located within walking distance of several of the river’s best pools, including Fruarhylur (as previously mentioned), Karabolshylur, Horn, Svortuloft and Slagbjorn. It sleeps up to six people, is clean and comfortable and offers all the comforts of home.
Guides can be arranged although fishing on the river Vatnsa and Lake Heidarvatn suits more independent anglers in search of an affordable fishing adventure combining with variety and an element of surprise.
Vatnsa River / Lake Heidarvatn fishing packages are available from £150/per rod/day and include self catering accommodation in the lodge.