Memorable days on Haffjardara
A 20 pounder from Haffjardara. Photo by Einar Guð.
Only a few years back the editor of this web had one of his more memorable days while fly fishing for salmon. I was not fishing myself though but having my first and only taste of acting as a guide, helping out one of Iceland‘s best known tailors and (then) local fashion icons Saevar Karl. We were fishing in mid August on Haffjardara.
Saevar had not caught a salmon on a fly before, but did have a few worm caught fish to his name. He wanted to learn to fly fish and as we knew each other, he asked me to find a good river and help him out. There was little time but I found an open rod on Haffjardara.
We had an extremely eventful three days. To start with, we met two of the most amusing fellows ever on a salmon river. They were English, sharing a rod and started on the Whiskey before rigging up their rods. While never sprawling all over the place, they were never sober either and it was raining jokes from the first minute. They found my name, Guðmundur, to be a tounge twister and asked what it actually meant, as many Icelandic names have some ancient meaning. Guð means God and mundur means hand or arm. So I told them that my name meant: Hand of God. They soon changed it to: Instrument of God. We would meet them at the lodge and they would say: Tell us Instrument of God, how was your day? And there was no end to it.
The first afternoon Saevar and myself drew blank. We had a beat that was mysteriously barren of salmon so we went to the eastuary and caught a few sea char. So we were pretty pleased with ourselves and had a good sauna and a few drinks before and after dinner, where the two Brits found a new name for me with every sip of their Whiskey.
The pool Kvörnin.
The following morning we were far upriver and landed two grilse in pools called Upper and Lower Luncheon. Alas, they both fell to me as Saevar wanted to take a walk and voluteered to transfer the jeep from one point to another for our convenience. While he was stretching his legs I ambled upon these two pools and pulled a grilse out of each of them.
In the evening however, for the final three hours, we were to fish the Kvörn, which is not only Haffjardara‘s best pool, but without a doubt one of Iceland‘s best salmon pools. It is a complex yet short stretch of water below a low falls. The foss is no obstacle for the salmon but they hold there for various lenghts of time nevertheless. Sometimes by the hundreds. The pool often changes as well as there are sometimes new boulders in it following the winter floods.
To start with, the fly had to reach a particular point, and swing over a mirror just above a submerged boulder. Saevar couldn‘t reach it so I went to his side and made the cast. I just managed to hand him the rod before the strike and as the rod doubled over, a very good looking salmon went hurtling skyward.
Suddenly the cook was at our side. There was another open rod in the group and he was allowed two hours of fishing before returning to make our lunch. We both coaxed Saevar on and we really needed to tell him to cool down. He was exerting far to much pressure. He was using a Blue charm microtube with a number 14 treble hook. When he landed his sea liced 11 pounder only 6-7 minutes later, the hooks were all but erect, every one on them! The fish would have been off and away in a matter of seconds, had Saevar not landed it when he did. So again we were pleased with ourselves and turned our attentions to the pool again, while the cook went to a pool called Bakki, somewhat further downriver, and closer to the lodge.
Nothing much more happened from a fishing point of view and eventually we where back at the lodge. There was the usual...“Instrument of God.....“ quips but the cook had turned up late from his two hours on Bakki. We met him in the dining room and his face was as whiter as a sheet of paper. He hardly had time to tell us due to dinner being late, but it came out anyway. He had hooked a monster and lost it. When he arrived at Bakki he had hooked and landed a fine grilse. Then another. Two grilse in no more than ten minutes and he was delighted. He carried on, tried one fly after another. Nothing more happened until there was just under an hour left before he needed to head back to the lodge to start cooking dinner. He was stripping a number 12 Black Sheep when a huge swirl and a heavy tug told him that this was no grilse.
A beautiful day. Photo by Einar Falur.
The poor cook didn‘t have time to give us minor details but what was obvious was the fact that as the hour wore on, the huge salmon, a fish in its twenties, showed few signs of giving up. As dinner started to loom large on the horizon, the strong arm tactics were deployed. The cook started to pull harder, testing the leader, the rod and the hold that the fly had in the mouth of the monster salmon. The leader turned out to be the weak link. It finally broke and the cook was back at the lodge ten minutes later, twenty minutes late, shoving the wracks of lamb into the oven. For a while at least, hating his job.
We all felt for him. But to tell him that we would have understood, eventually, had dinner been one to two hours late on this account, would only have rubbed salt into his wounds.
Deep into the evening the cook had joined us and the Brits in the sitting room. He told us the story quite a few times. There where further tall tales and among them was something Saevar and myself had seen on Kvörnin over the last half hour before dusk. After Saevar had landed his maiden fly caught salmon we had fished on, hooked two more but lost them both. With about a half hour to go we were sat on the bank mulling over what to try. I told Saevar that the final half hour before dusk was the best time so we should keep going and hold our nerve.
Suddenly, as we sat there watching the pool, salmon started to jump the low falls. Most of them cleared it on the first attempt. A few fell back. One after another, salmon flew over the falls. We had picked an inch long red Frances tube and I told Saevar to sneak up to the base of the falls and make the short cast over the white water where the salmon had obviously congregated. As he eased into place, the salmon kept making their leaps. But as soon as the fly skated over the white water, the jumping stopped. Cast after cast, there were no takers and not one salmon made the leap. Finally Saevar looked to me and I signalled him to come back to make a change of fly. Not twenty seconds elapsed after his last cast and the salmon were at it again. Leap after leap. We tried another fly and the same thing happened. They stopped while we flogged the pool. And started again once we stopped.
All this happened over the space of one and a half days. For the rest of our stay, we caught a few, lost a few. Time flew as it always does while fly fishing. Thank God for the next fishing trip.