Published May 19th 2011

Want to challenge the big brown trout?
Iceland's Minnivallalękur river may be your kind of the place.


A hefty trout

Medium sized spring fed stream, crystal clear water and brown trout reaching the 20 lbs./10 kilo mark.
Where do you find this? Just over one hour's drive from Reykjavik in Iceland in the Minnivallalękur river.

Minnivalllękur is a beautiful trout river that runs into Iceland's biggest river, Žjórsį (Thjorsį). Žjórsį is a glacier river and colors completely up in the summer and I believe that many of its trout then enter Minnivallalękur where the water is is clear is it gets.
This makes it easy for the trout to hunt where food is plenty. There is a good stock of stationary trout. They can easily be seen in some of the pools on a calm clear day, feeding like it was their last meal. These are big greedy and fat trout with an average weight around 4 lbs./2 kilos. Among them you will see fish that makes a 2 kilo fish look like baitfish!
"Minni" as we call the river holds some seriously big brown trout, and every year the river produces a fair number of fish between 5 and 10 kilos and sometimes bigger!
It is a catch & release river but a few monsters have found their way to being stuffed and are now hanging on the walls inside the lodge. One of them, a 10 kg giant was found dying. There is a official list of brown trout over 10 kilos or a whopping 20 lbs. caught by anglers since all caught fish have to be registered here.
In good weather you will see the fish, but it is not easy to catch them, especially the big ones. But with the right nymph or dry fly technique, nothing is impossible and some anglers catch a lot of fish.


The river opens April 1st where it can be very bad weather here in Iceland. Sometimes it's just barely OK, but its definitely not spring or summer at this time. It's mostly locals that fish the river this time, but I would recommend foreign anglers to try fishing this time of the year anytime.
The locals mostly fish with streamers and sink tip lines and as anywhere else in the world, brown trout get used to these flies and lines drifting over their heads all the time and they simply don't take. Changing the technique and changing pools can really make a difference on this river.
Normally the first days of the season produce lots of fish. Propably because it has been unfished all winter.

The river

The trout

Spring fishing in Iceland is May where the days become longer and warmer. The insect activity increases a lot, and you will also see the brown trout in Minni become more active in the surface. This is a good time where new fish from Žjórsį start to enter the river.
Summer fishing is June, July and August. Here the river never sleeps. June and July has no "nights"--there is light all the 24 hours of the day--giving a lot of action on the river.
Dry fly fishing is becoming very effective and many anglers almost get scared casting to a 5 kg+ monster taking small midges from the surface.
There is a lot trout moving in and out of the pools so even though a pool is empty one day, it might be full the next day.
Some pools are short and deep, they often hold 1-3 fish, but in the longer pools there can be many fish. The most productive pool is Stöšlvarhylur, which is long and always holds between 20 and 50 brown trout and many really huge ones "live here". Statistically it's the best pool but also the most fished one, and that's usually connected. But this pool holds fish all the season and in good numbers.
Autumn offers a more aggressive Trout getting ready for spawning, and you will see many big waves chasing your streamers even in a good Icelandic autumn storm. Even tough the weather can change and it will rain a lot, the water will not get colored.
The last day of the season is the 30th of September.

Fishing the river

Few rods
The river is only fished by four rods daily, and is licensed with a very comfortable lodge located right next to the the river. There are four bedrooms with two beds each, a living room, kitchen, dining room and a nice porch with a view over the river. The is also barbecue and Jacuzzi.
The river is fly only and full catch & release to preserve the unique wild brown trout stock dating back to the ice age.

It's difficult advising on tackle in a place like this where you have to fish lightly and delicately but there is a chance (risk?) of hooking a fish bigger than many salmon up here in Iceland.
But for streamers, a 5-6 weight rod with a floating line is good. I really don't like sinking lines, they stress the fish and ruin the pools for a long time. Use a heavy fly in stead if you want to get down in the deep. Various classic streamers work but most popular is the Black Ghost.
For the summer fishing, a 4-5 weight rod with acfloating line and a long leader does the job. Black Gnat and small black midges in size 18 are perfect. Pheasant Tail in size 14-18 with different weights work all over Iceland. I prefer the bead head in black. The local Peacock Nymph also produces well.

If you are interested in challenging this amazing river, there is a period open from the 7th till 14th of june but also some open rods now and then. Otherwise it might be an idea with a spring trip in 2012 along with some amazing Sea Trout fishing in Iceland's Rio Grande...

River impressions

Season: 1 April - 30 September
Stretch: 8 kilometers, double bank fishing
Average catch: 350-400 brown trout a year
Rods: 4 per day
Guides: Available
Lodge: Self catering with four rooms with two beds each
Notes: Fly only and full catch & release
Lease holder

The lodge

User comments
GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted June 13th 2011

Dear Joseph,

The "poor treatment" is actually a pretty gentle treatment. Brown trout are surprisingly tolerant when it comes to handling. Many of them with a thick leathery skin and a protective layer of mucus, the purpose of which is exactly to protect the fish. This mucus or slime will be regenerated if it's worn off. The whole idea of the leathery, slimy skin of stream fish is protection. They endure some really rough treatment during flooding, when passing rapids and when moving between rocks and branched in the water.

Of course you shouldn't rub the fish around in the grass or place it in gravel or rubble, but landing it gently by hand and laying in the soft grass for a photo is hardly any tougher on the fish than netting it.
These fish are all back in the water within a minute and oftentimes much less, and I doubt they be worse off than if they were just lifted out of a net for a photo and then released.

Some fish are much more vulnerable like loose scaled sea run or saltwater fish. Loosing the scales can be a severe problem, because they take time to grow out again and won't grow if the tissue below is damaged.


From: Joseph - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted June 13th 2011

If it is only catch and release, then why the poor treatment of the fish by laying him on the grass? That does some serious damage to his protective slime.

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