Char on River Hòlaà (Iceland) 


At about an hour and a half east of Reykjavik, not far from the impressive Gullfoss waterfalls and the Geyser area, there is a river full of Arctic Char. It is a well-known place, thus do not expect to have it all for your own.

The Holaa river meanders peacefully in the middle of meadows. The Holaa is the outlet of Lake Laugarvatn. We park the car at the parking lot, close to the farm that is selling the license, and we walk our way to the river. The river and the lake are known for hosting arctic char.

Right at the lake's outlet, I immediately spot a rising fish. As I see no insect in the air, I tie my all-purpose favorite deer hair sedge to the leader. At the second cast, a strong char bends my rod. After a strong fight, the fish sets free before I can net it. Nonetheless, what a fantastic start to the day.

Excited by the first fish we move downstream with great expectation. No rise more to see. We will later discover that in the previous days there was a big sedge hatch and the people caught like crazy on the dry fly. Unfortunately, the hatch is gone today. The first char was a lucky catch. Likely it was still keyed on sedge from the night before.

With the sunny day, we have no difficulties seeing through the crystal-clear water that the river is full of char. They are feeding in the water column. Their mouths pop open each time they engulf a nymph. They are actively feeding, but only underwater. There is a huge drift of some sort of larvae or pupae. We try several patterns, but they are feeding on microscopic midge pupae. Too tiny for the imitations in our boxes. Mind to bring along some 22-size hook imitation if you happen to come here. Moreover, it is the weekend and the river is full of anglers that keep walking up and down and fish are extremely alerted and suspicious.

The next day we decide to change our strategy. We wake up at 4.30 AM and around 5 we are at the river. There is no one and in the cool and fresh air, we study the river. Fish are still nymphing. I walk downstream and in the mid of a 90 degrees meander, I have the impression to see something under the opposite bank. My sixth sense tells me to duck and wait. And then it happens again.

It looked like a tiny, little drop of drizzle in the water’s surface more than a rise. With my previous experiences at these latitudes, I know that the most subtle rise should never be disregarded when it is about arctic char. I scale down the leader to 0.14, tie a midge on hook 18 on it and cast as delicate as possible.

The fly falls 50 cm from the opposite bank. The current is almost negligible in that spot and the fly floats still for some seconds that seem minutes. A small sip, barely visible, strike! What a char!

There are more delicate sips at the opposite banks. I cast the same fly and again another remarkable char is on. Now it seems all easy.

The fish keep on rising for a while. At around 10 AM the surface activity stops. Fishermen are starting crowding the place now. We still fish for some time, without the success of the early hours. Beaten from the early wake-up, we decide to call it a day.