Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trout Fishing in Iceland

When I think of trout fishing, I immediately think of delicate poles and lures, and the cold, small streams in the northwest United States described in so many of Richard Brautigan's novels. It's safe to say that I have a very romanticized view of the sport, even though I've never participated, so when I had the opportunity to go trout fishing on the family farm here in South Iceland, I was very excited. I think I have a romanticized view of fishing in general. When I was a teenager, I got really into it and went dock fishing in Florida frequently, but I never caught anything with my own pole. Still, the point of fishing, at least to me, is largely based on not catching anything, but about patience and stillness and maybe learning to tie neat little knots. It's fun to just sit next to the water doing basically nothing, almost fearful of that burst of energy that might snag itself upon my line. Almost hoping that it doesn't happen. But perhaps that attitude is why I was never able to catch anything. I was content without the reward.
Obviously, this was not a recreational fishing trip.We were net fishing and hoping to catch many trout that would be smoked with a heavy layer of dill and served at our breakfast here at the hostel.
The Botn farm is located 60km east of Vík and the property is almost the size of Luxembourg, although almost all of it is covered in three layers of lava formations called Eldhraun, created over the last few hundred years by Katla's eruptions.
I'd driven past Eldhraun last year and stopped to take some photos of the surreal landscape. At the time it was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen, looking more like an underwater landscape. One thing I didn't do last year was walk on it, so I was very surprised that the moss covering the lava mounds was extremely thick and cushioned. It feels like walking on memory foam and you can sink your fingers deep into it and still not touch rock.

There is also an abundance of bird life at Botnar, including two types of loons that live on the lakes nested in deep trenches between walls of lava stones. One of these lakes was where we were fishing. In the evening just before sunset, Þráinn, Æsa, their daughter Katla, and I went out in a little skiff and Æsa dropped the nets.

Þráinn and Æsa launching the boat.

We didn't pull them up until the next morning, of course, but before we went back to the house we got to try talking to loons (no answer) and saw a rare geological formation that looks like the lava is laying an egg.

 First thing in the morning, I got news that a friend mine passed away over the weekend from a hit and run bicycle accident. I was completely wrecked by the news and I'm still not doing very well, so the entire day was filled with on again, off again crying. I was offered the car to take back to to Norður-Vík but I thought it would be better to distract myself, so I went back out on the boat to pull in the nets. I actually did feel pretty good pulling in about 40 or 50 fish, even though my help probably wasn't really all that helpful. I hoisted in the nets against the wind and Æsa and Þráinn untangled the trout and occasionally bashed one of them against the side of the boat to kill it. I tried this once and it was not difficult, although I was ignorant about where exactly to hit it's head and probably caused it some unnecessary unpleasantness. 

This one is a little too small

So that's trout fishing in Iceland. Quite satisfying to actually catch something. Who knew?

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