Destination Reports

East Ranga, Iceland

Max Salzburg July 19, 2023

Looking out at five active volcanoes across the treeless alpine tundra from the deck of the Aurora Lodge at midnight with the sun just almost setting in the distance, it became very clear to me that I was someplace very far away from home. Iceland is a country of extremes and often referred to as the land of ice and fire. The weather changes quickly, the wind blows hard and trees are a rarity. It is also home to some of the finest and most consistent Atlantic salmon fishing in the world, and that was why I was visiting. In some ways Iceland reminds me of Wyoming where I grew up. The Aurora Lodge is the perfect base to experience the East Ranga and all that southwest Iceland has to offer. 

Where did you go and how did you get there? 

I visited the Aurora Lodge on the East Ranga River. To get there I flew to Keflavik International Airport (KEF), then rented a car and drove approximately two hours to the Aurora Lodge. The lodge is near the small town of Hvolsvöllur in southwest Iceland. One important travel note is that the international airport in Iceland is near the town of Keflavik approximately 50-kilometers west the city of Reykjavik and not actually in the city of Reykjavik.

Where did you fish?

I fished seven of nine beats of the East Ranga River. It was week one of their season so we passed on fishing the upper two beats, as not that many fish had had the needed time to reach them.

How was fishing?

Very good for the first week of the season! Mind you, I only fished a few days and I landed one 15-pound salmon and one 7-pound grilse, but I had at least one encounter with fish each of the five sessions that I fished. The lodge was just getting warmed up for the season and all the anglers in the lodge had encounters with fish while I was there. There can be a bit of wind on the East Ranga especially in the afternoons, but the wind kept the bugs at bay, and it seemed like the action tended to pick up when there was a little bit of chop on the water. If given the choice between wind or biting flies I will take the wind every day.

The major lodges in Iceland report their weekly catch rates and you can follow along with how the season is going here -

How did you fish?

The water on the East Ranga is very cold and as such the fish hold deep. To get down to them we fished two-handed rods with Skagit lines, fast-sinking tips, and often weighted tube flies. The technique is a lot like winter steelhead fishing in that anglers cast approximately 65-degrees downstream, throw a big upstream mend in the line, and hold the rod pointed across the river until the swing comes even with the tip then follow the swing with the rod. The idea is to slow down the swing so the fly sinks and give the fly as much time in the swing zone. I really try to fish the whole swing until the line stops below me then drive it a few more feet before giving it a twitch at the end of the swing just to make sure a salmon is not following the fly or in the run directly below me. It takes a bit of patience to fish slow, but if the guides have a good idea of where the fish are, it is best to fish slow and cover the water well and sometimes cast at different angles to try to get the fly to swing at different depths and angles.

Where did you stay? 

At the comfortable and well-appointed Aurora Lodge. The lodge is the perfect base camp for serious salmon anglers and travel companions alike. The lodge is very nice and offers a high level of service without being pretentious.

What equipment did you use and how did it perform?

I fished a 13-foot, 8-weight, Sage X Spey rod paired with a 600-grain Skagit Max Launch head and a T-14 MOW tip. It performed well. The setup was great for turning the fly over and putting it where it needed to be. The setup cast well in the wind, but some guests may prefer a 14-foot or a 9-weight rod to help punch through the wind.

East Ranga, Iceland

Experience a prolific salmon river with high catch rates of large fish