Darkness had descended upon a cold looking fjord yet despite the chill North Wind that was blowing I was perspiring beneath my fleeces and windproof outer layer. For the last four hours I had been casting out a two-hook rig baited with strips of bluey to reel in codling and dabs on virtually every cast. Each side of me anglers were also catching fish at a steady rate.
My friend Haruldur sat upon the rocky foreshore chatting to me about the fishing and the dramatic landscape that surrounded us. A couple of miles across the water; snow-capped mountains towered above the sea. A few hours before, we had seen the plumes of water as humpbacked whales breached out in the fjord.
Haruldur knew that I was hoping to witness the spectacle of the Northern Lights and explained that the cloudlike wisps of white that stretched across the sky were the forerunner of the phenomena and that if the sky remained clear we could be in for a display.
The mountains behind us were silhouetted against the cold glow of the faded day. Slowly the intensity of light increased until a greenish glow was emitted as if from a far off land behind the mountains. After several minutes a green luminous light stretched across the entire star-studded night sky. The light then began to rotate almost like those lava lamps so popular from time to time. Ever faster the lights began to swirl and surge with greater energy; I can only describe the awesome sight as like spirits dancing in the sky. A truly moving experience the majesty of which I struggle to convey.
The competition we were fishing in had almost reached its conclusion but in a rare moment I had lost interest in the fishing content to enjoy one of nature’s great spectacles. As we packed away our tackles the aurora borealis continued to illuminate the night. At the far end of the fjord a brilliant moon highlighted the dramatic silhouette of an old herring factory. We bundled our kit into Helgis four-wheel drive and bounced off along the rocky road. The radio blasted out the rasping voice of Motorhead’s Lemmy singing, “Born to Raise Hell”. I smiled to myself at the surreal feel of this place far from the world I knew. We were sixty miles from the artic circle near to the Northern Icelandic town of Akureyri.
I had been invited to this inspiring area to test the fishing potential in the run up to next years European Federation of Sea Anglers shore championships. I had been told that it would be a fish a cast and I had treated this with a degree of scepticism. When we had set off for Akureyri on the six-hour drive from Rejavik a few days prior to this I had wondered what I had let myself in for. The dramatic and rather barren landscape had seemed a little hostile at first but since then my impressions had totally changed.
Our Icelandic hosts had given Phil Lustig and I an extremely warm welcome and showed great generosity in ensuring our stay in their country was memorable for all the right reasons.
On the first morning of our adventure we had fished from a stone breakwater from which we caught codling from our first casts. Not big fish but two at a time averaging 2lb with double shots common. When we tried dropping in short we also caught codling and the occasional dabs. The dabs were really impressive averaging over a pound in weight; fish that would have been classed as specimens back home.
From an old stone breakwater we set off for Akureyri and a commercial quay giving access to deeper water. Again the rod tips rattled and codling and dabs were swung ashore. Helgi caught a huge rough dab that would again have topped the pound mark easily. After a couple of hours of hauling in fish it was time to return to our hotel for a hot meal and a few drinks.
The next day we were greeted by a brilliant blue sky that illuminated the snow covered mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to our fishing excursion. The mark Helgi took us to a rocky outcrop at the Northern end of a long pebbly beach interspersed with black volcanic sand. The water was deep and the rocks caressed by a moderate tidal current. From this vantage point we could look northwards to the open sea with the mountain slopes flanking the clear blue waters of the fjord.
Again sport was constant with codling and dabs rattling the rod tip virtually every cast. The catch rate here was slightly slower but the size of the codling slightly bigger with several fish topping 4lb. After two hours of productive sport Helgi took a call on his mobile and informed us that we were going in search of bigger sea creatures, whales!
An hour later after a hot drink at Harulders house we were steaming out onto a flat blue expanse of sea. Stood at the bows of the boat we peered to the horizon searching for a glimpse of a tell tale spume of water as a whale surfaced. I glanced at my newfound friends and the dramatic landscape. It felt like a scene from “Moby Dick”; with Captain Ahab taking us in search of leviathans.
“Whale! Over there!”. The boat cut through the calm clear water. Cold icy air stung the face bringing tears to the eyes. To the starboard side the dark shape of a pair of minke whales cutting through the water. We watched in awe at these graceful creatures, a taster for the spectacle that was to follow.
The spumes of water were from humpback whales and what a spectacle these mighty creatures provided when we caught up with them as they surged, dived and frolicked around the boat. For close to an hour we were privileged to share the fjord with a couple of pods of humpbacked whales. That hour will linger forever in my memory as one of life’s highlights.
Back on terra firma we headed to a pier for another couple of hours fishing. Helgi wanted a few fish to keep for friends back in Akureyri. It did not take long before a dozen codling and several dabs were lying on the quay ready to gut. It was here that I landed my biggest cod of the trip a modest sized fish of around 7lb that gave a spirited account before appearing in the crystal clear water.
Whilst fishing this venue a young couple arrived with a small boy. Armed with a small spinning rod he was encouraged to cast a small lure out into the fjord. After several fruitless casts I suggested he add a little bait to the treble hook. This time when he cast the lure was allowed to flutter down to the seabed. Seconds later the light rod was bucking in the joyful youngsters hands. Minutes later he posed with a plump codling beside his proud parents.
And so ended an eventful, exciting day of splendid fishing, spectacular scenery and a wildlife experience I will never forget.
I started this article on the first day of the EFSA Icelandic shore championships that concluded with the Northern lights.
The venue for the second day of this match was a commercial quay in Akureyri that was opened up specifically for the event. The match started at 10:30am, the next five hours were to bring the most amazing shore fishing I have ever experienced.
On casting out I was amazed at the depth of the water; with it taking many seconds for the bait to hit bottom. I placed the rod on the rest and the rod tip bounced strongly. Up through the clear water came a brace of coalfish. At the next peg Reynir Halldorsson was battling a good fish. I took the gaff and leant over to lift a fine haddock from the water estimated at around 4lb 8oz.
The calls of excited Icelandic fishing banter drifted all along the quay as fish were swung ashore. Codling, dabs, whiting, coalfish and haddock were providing some superb sport.
The weather conditions up until midway were ideal with no wind and a flat calm sea. Then at around 1.00pm all changed as a dark cloud started pushing down the fjord from the North. Within minutes tranquil conditions changed to a gale force wind with driving sleet. Spray rained down on my position as waves pounded the pier. Still the fish continued to feed with every cast bringing more action.
From further down the pier came a triumphant cry as Phil Lustig lifted a wolf-fish onto the pier. This grotesque fish resembled a giant blenny with an impressive set of teeth that it would be very unwise to tangle with.
The basic routine was cast out, unhook fish from previous cast, re-bait both hooks get fish witnessed, reel in more fish clip on new trace, recast and repeat.
In the last half an hour of the match came another call of triumph. I looked along the pier to glimpse a massive flatfish flapping in Helgi Bergsson’s hand. I walked across to witness an awesome plaice that was to weigh 3.170 Kilos a fraction under 7lb.
After five hours of fishing fourteen anglers had landed an incredible 284 fish. I had won my section with 52 fish and a total of 2188 points. In section “B” the winner was SkarphedinnAsbjornsson with 22 fish for 960 points.
The presentation at our hotel saw SkarphedinnAsbjornsson awarded first overall with myself runner up and Phil Lustig third. In two days the fourteen competitors had landed 530 fish.
During our four days of fishing we discovered that fish were present in huge numbers wherever we fished. From what we could gather fishing is good all through the year though conditions are undoubtedly very harsh during the winter.
There are many miles of shoreline with rock marks, beaches and piers many giving access to extremely deep water. Cod, dabs, haddock and coalfish seem to be abundant with plaice, wolf fish and an array of other species. It is likely that a concerted effort would unlock further potential with the possibility of halibut from some marks.
Local angling pressure is minimal with suitable tackle scarce in local shops. This is a great shame as the potential for sea angling is massive. Most local anglers seem to be fully focussed on the game fishing for salmon, sea trout and artic char that is undoubtedly fantastic if a little expensive.
TACKLE AND BAIT
A standard beach-casting outfit teamed up with 20lb line and 60lb leader is all you need.
No need for anything technical we used simple two hook paternosters with 1/0 to 3/0 hooks. Bluey’s seemed to work well for every species with strips proving effective for even the flatfish. If targeting larger specimens half a bluey fished on a pulley rig will do the damage. I used 60lb hook lengths for all my fishing that gives a fighting chance if you hook a wolf fish. The constant abrasion caused by the teeth of cod is also a factor for if you use lighter hook lengths you will need to change them often. I found that the heavier hook-length rarely tangles and does not deter the fish.
CLOTHING AND CLIMATE
We travelled to Iceland in early October and experienced weather and climate similar to that experienced in the depths of an English winter. Snow, wind and rain interspersed with sunshine and calmer periods.
I would therefore recommend that you ensure that you have the relevant weather resistant clothing with good quality thermals, fleeces combined with a wind and waterproof outer layer. Warm boots with a good grip are essential; I used Snowbee’s excellent Rockhooper Boots that proved ideal for the task. A good pair of fishing gloves are also beneficial; though with the numbers of fish caught this can be difficult.
EUROPEAN FEDERATION OF SEA ANGLERS
Celebrated fifty years in 2011 its aim to promote sea angling throughout Europe providing an active social network, hosting competitions both boat and shore and keeping up to date line class records. Membership is £20.00.
Next years shore championship is to be hosted in Akureyri Northern Iceland in late September; details from Phil Lustig on 0164 6672504
Iceland is an amazing country with much to offer both anglers and their families. The prolific fishing is something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.