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Red Letter Days

Posted in Fishing Articles.

In my days of fly fishing I‘ve come to realise that a lot of the success (if success is measured in number and size of fish) is about the moment. Being there at the right place at the right time with a fair amount of luck involved as well. I have seen clients of mine trying their best for a few hours in the morning with no luck only to be met by their wife, who decided to sleep in and arrived to the river late, make one cast and catch the biggest fish of the trip.



Big brown trout iceland 2A few years back while guiding a lovely couple from Italy I spotted a nice brown trout holding near and undercut. The man tried his best but the big, picky trout did not want to eat and he eventually spooked it. I spotted another one for the woman and her first cast was off, she hit the bank and got her fly stuck. She pulled on the fly line until the fly came loose, the line dropped on the river with that perfect slack and her nymph drifted downstream without any drag. The 7 pound trout opened its mouth and the rest is history. Sometimes you just have to have some luck and it was by pure luck I caught my very biggest brown trout ever in May of this year. In fact I broke my PB not only once but twice in the same hour.

I am fortunate enough to live in a country of big brown trout and not only that I run a fly fishing operation in said country. I‘ve been in love with brown trout for a long time and have spent a fair amount of time chasing it. So long story short I had caught a few nice ones before that evening in May 2014.

Lake Thingvellir

thingvellir1Lake Thingvellir has been on my bucket list for a long time as stories about and pictures of monster brown trout have been circling the internet. But for some reason I had never been. The lake is only 40 minutes from my house and it‘s best fished in May when is usually a slow month for me. One Sunday I called my colleague and asked if he wanted to take a drive with me to the lake, go see the new luxury hotel that‘s been built nearby and perhaps pay a visit to a farmer who allegedly had some good fishing spots on his land. We went to see the hotel and paid a visit to the farmer who showed us the way to the best spot. We explored the area a little bit and decided to come back the following day with rods in hand.

After work we gathered our things and drove to the lake. It was chilly but relatively calm with clear skies. We went straight to the point where we had agreed would be the most likely place to start and about 5 minutes in we saw fish splashing on the surface. My friend cast towards the fish and hooked his first Thingvellir brown trout. It turned out to be not a huge fish but what we‘ve been seeing splashing on the surface clearly was not the one my friend caught. We kept casting and finally my line went tight and a few minutes into the fight we realised we would have to take this one to shore as neither one of us had a landing net with us.

thingvellir2The fish turned out to be 70 cm long and in great condition with a golden brown colour. It was not my biggest brown trout but definitely the prettiest. We waded back out and kept fishing with success immediately. A nice 55 cm brown trout was landed and released in the water and so far we‘d caught three trout of decent size. Then something very big hit my fly and took off leaving my reel screaming. I just started wading back to shore right away and it turned out to be a good idea as the fish was a whopping 82 cm long. An old fish that had obviously seen some things in his day. We did the mandatory grip & grin shot and kept fishing.

The monster

thingvellir3The school of fish that was cruising along the edges of the deep water seemed to have gone away because for about 30 minutes we did not see or feel anything. We moved around casting in different directions until finally we saw the splash on the surface again. You can imagine how difficult it was to make a cast towards those splashing fish knowing how big these fish can be, anticipating something monstrous ripping your fly line from your hands at any moment. At least I was shaking and finding it hard to make a proper cast.

My line got tangled before I could make the cast and while trying to fix my phone started ringing in my ear. As that time of year is very busy for me I have to have my phone with me at all times and in this case I had my Bluetooth hands free device in my ear. The ringing in my ear and the urgency to get the bloody line untangled for my next cast to the school did not help at all. I decided to leave the phone call and get the line untangled that soon came undone. I made my cast, let the fly sink while I checked my phone. It turned out to be my grandmother and I called her back. As strange as it may seem the second she picked up the phone on the other end I feel a massive tug on the line, set the hook and off the fish went tearing line off the reel with a vengeance. Oh how the reel was screaming. As I am a man I cannot do two things at once and when I saw that the fish was about to finish my backing I was forced to ask my grandmother if I could call her back. I had to move and try and get in a better position to be able to follow the fish if it did in fact finish the backing. Moving back to shore was pretty much my only option and soon the fish started to get tired. After about 20-30 minutes fight I finally managed to land that monster of a brown trout. It turned out to be my biggest ever brown trout at 87 cm. When the mandatory grip & grin shots had been finished I was happy to release that fish back into the lake. Not only had it given me the fight of my life it also turned me on to this magnificent lake.

Right place – right time

Since then I’ve been to that same spot many times fishing and guiding but not hit it at the right time again yet. We were incredibly lucky to have been there at that exact moment and have that big school feeding within casting range. I think that a lot of fly fishing is pure luck, being at the right place at the right time, but it’s experience that brings you to the right places at the right times even though that was not the case with us on Lake Thingvellir, that was pure luck.

When you travel for fly fishing you can get lucky and you can be unlucky. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard your guide say “you should have been here last week” or anything along those lines. Usually you have to book your trip well in advance and you cannot tell what the weather will be like when you finally start fishing or how the conditions in general will be. You can travel half way around the world only to find the river you’ve booked for the week to be flooded. I always say that once you’ve found that river or lake you like, stick to it and some day it will be the right place at the right time and you will experience that red letter day. 

Tight lines,
Stjani Ben


  • Rafstöðvarvegur 14
    108 Reykjavik


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