Greenland – a trip report by Charlie White
By Charlie White
Arctic char fishing in Greenland has been on my radar for a long time but for various reasons I have never actually taken the plunge.
That all changed last year when, on the way to host a group on the East Ranga in Iceland, I spoke to Valgerdur Arnardottir (Arni Baldursson’s daughter) who had just come back from Greenland and was utterly raving about it. She had tales of icebergs, a great camp and seriously productive char fishing – I was sold and determined to make it part of my 2018 itinerary.
Four adventurous souls agreed to come with me and the five of us set off from Reykjavik’s domestic terminal on 31st July for a short trip to see what we could find.
On arrival into Narsarsauq, a small airport on the south coast of Greenland, it was somewhat surreal to look across the tarmac to see icebergs bobbing down the fjord which abuts the runway. There is something mesmeric about them and none of us ever got bored of looking at the icebergs, no matter how many we went past and got up close to.
We then hopped into the boat for the three hour trip to the lodge. Icebergs, waterfalls, seals, sea eagles and stunning views of glaciers ensued. It was pointed out by one of our team, that this boat ride would be the absolute highlight of the trip for practically anyone else who came to Greenland, for us it was just a way to get to the fishing.
The camp is brilliant. Eight twin bedded cabins with a shower and a loo block just across the way. It is very comfortable, very welcoming and has just enough edges to it to make you feel you are being really adventurous when in fact you are being looked after beautifully.
We sat down to a delicious cod based dinner and then bolted out of the door to fish the local lake and river which was a two minute boat ride away.
The fishing - what can I say? Five of us landed over 100 fish in a couple of hours. We all fished nymphs and streamers to locate them and after getting a few under our belt we switched to dry flies and watched them as they sipped, slurped and hammered our dries under a cloudless sky. It was a fabulous evening of fishing and in truth it was just the beginning.
We boated out every day and went to spots known to our local Innuit guide and sometimes we found fish and sometimes we didn’t. When we found fish in a taking mood it must be said that we caught a lot of them but the sheer not knowing if they would be there each time made if feel very rewarding when we got it “right”.
One particularly memorable pool was on our last day. We boated for around 45 minutes – with some stunning glacier views – to a river. The bottom pool seemed to hold some bigger char and we left one rod trying to tempt them whilst we all spread up river seeing what we could find. I leapfrogged a lot of it and got to the very top lake which did not appear to hold fish.
I walked back down thinking that perhaps the char hadn’t run the river at all yet to find one of our rods in fishing nirvana.
A deep pool about 30 yards long and 15 yards wide held hundreds of char, all stacked up and all clearly visible
I don’t know how many fish were taken out of it but probably around 50-60 over the course of a couple of hours and we all tried different flies, techniques to see if anything wouldn’t work. Just great fun fishing and it was perhaps more fun for the spectators sitting on top of the hill as they could see every single reaction from the fish as the fly went through the pool.
It reminded me of sight fishing in Iceland but on steroids.
All of the fish were between 2-3lbs but fought very hard for their size. A 9ft 6# rod was perfect although a 5# might have been a better option when it was a bit more still.
Bodily the char look like sea trout but they have very closely packed scales and handling them is more like picking up a fat eel. They are very pretty fish and the range from bright (and therefore fresh) silver to the more deeper reds and pinks as they got closer to spawning. They all seemed to inhabit the same place and there was no rhyme nor reason as to whether you would catch a fresh fish or one that had been in for a bit.
We didn’t actually count how many fish we landed but I would guess it was close to 300-400 fish over the three days and if the “tug is the drug” then this should be on everyone’s bucket list.
On one of the days a couple of us decided to see how close we could get to the reindeer and walking the hills in this way is something I would really recommend. When fishing you are, by necessity, low down in the country and the stalking/walking meant you climbed lot of hills and got some stunning views that you just would not have got had you only fished.
The food was local, simple and delicious. We had cod, reindeer stew, Arctic char and reindeer fillet. The char and fillet were up there with some of the best food I have ever eaten. Granted, you are hungry and everything tastes better in situ but they really know how to make the most of the ingredients.
Do take head nets – the bugs love their country and they wish to protect it!
We were there for 4 nights and 3 days and I would think that would be about perfect. The fishing is spectacular but it is more about fishing in a spectacular place with willing fish and more than three days may feel a little “samey”.
Greenland just feels massive and very untouched. It is a real “last frontier” and with Icelandic tourism going through the roof, I can see that Greenland is going to appeal to those who have a bit of wanderlust and want to see something off the beaten track whilst experiencing fantastically productive fishing.
All of us agreed it was one of the best trips we had ever been on and all of us are planning on going back. Do contact me if you think it might be something you would like to try – I really can’t imagine anyone not loving it.
The West Ranga is the most prolific river in Iceland – sounds straightforward when you read it but it is when conditions are at their toughest that this fact really comes into its own.
Fishing has improved this week with floating lines beginning to be effective. The team of 6 rods had a great week with a lot of laughs amongst great fishing. They landed 85 fresh fish with 16 fish over 15 pounds for an average weight of 10.1 pounds. The middle and lower river have fished best...