As the name suggests, the Arctic Char is a cold-water fish native to alpine lakes and arctic and subarctic coastal waters; no other freshwater fish is found as far north as the Char. They’re a very unusual fish and display many variations within their species; their colour, size, and shape vary greatly. Over time, scientists have managed to split them into over fifteen different species.
They weigh on average between 1lb to 3lb; however, fish up to 20lb have been hooked and landed. Despite not growing to epic proportions, the Char is one of the most beautiful and elusive fish to catch and is on the bucket list of many anglers worldwide. Once found and hooked, it will put up an electrifying struggle, sometimes even to the death.
Arctic Char have a varied diet and feed on insects found on the water’s surface, salmon eggs, snails and other smaller crustaceans found on the lake bottom, switching to zooplankton and freshwater shrimps in the cooler months. With a varied diet, there are many ways of fishing for Arctic Char, including with lures and spoons, but the authentic way and best way to catch them is on the fly. In destinations like Iceland, fly fishing anglers typically target the Char by swinging large streamers across river currents.
Below are the top destinations in the world for Arctic Char.
The Vatnsdalsá River is one of the most famous Salmon rivers in Iceland and is renowned for the size of fish it produces. Located in the country's North West, approximately three hours drive from Reykjavik, it flows for over forty kilometres and offers a vast array of quality pools and beats. It produces between 700 and 1,200 Salmon each season, with a healthy average size.
Battle Hill Lodge is nestled on the banks of the Fossárlar River and is famed for the incredible Sea Trout fishing it offers, renowned as being some of the best found anywhere in the world. A historic, picturesque location of striking beauty, it gives travelling rods an incomparable fly fishing experience of a lifetime.
This Sportquest Holidays exclusive offers travelling rods the chance to fish some of the most picturesque and productive freshwater fly fishing rivers in all of Iceland. Our beats, located in the northern part of the country, offer two days of quality fishing on each of the Laxá In Aðaldal, Reykjadalsa & Mýrarkvísl Rivers.
The River Lónsá is situated in northeast Iceland amid the Langanes Peninsula and is a name renowned amongst the freshwater fly fishing community. The Lónsá is home to an abundant healthy population of Brown Trout and is also considered one of the very best rivers in Iceland to target and catch the beautiful, elusive Arctic Char.
The Reykjadalsa river, in the northern part of Iceland, is a tributary of the lower section of the Big Laxá I Adaldal and is known as one of the countries best wild Trout and Char rivers. Renowned as a surface fishing and dry fly anglers paradise, it produces high volumes of fish, and it hasn’t been unusual for the river to produce over 3,000 Trout per year.
The Mýrarkvísl Lodge is situated on the banks of the delightful Mýrarkvísl river, the lowest tributary of the Laxá I Aðaldal on the northern coast of Iceland, around 400 kilometres from Reykjavik. It offers a wide range of diverse waterways for anglers to wet a fly and is famed for its numerous quality Trout and Salmon beats, pools and even a lake.
Namsentunet Lodge, one of Norway’s most exclusive Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout fishing retreats, is nestled on the banks of the famous river Namsen, affectionately known as the ‘Queen of Rivers’. The Namsen is famed for its huge Salmon, and each year, good numbers of 40-45lb fish get landed by travelling rods.
This is the perfect fishing trip for a novice or experienced angler looking for a short fully guided holiday with the chance of catching an exceptionally large Trout. Fishing on some stunning private beats, you will have your guide on hand to answer any questions and hopefully land and photograph some magnificent fish.
Alaska Trophy Adventures Lodge is the perfect wilderness fishing retreat. Boasting a world-famous run of all five species of Pacific Salmon, plus a host of resident fish, such as Leopard Rainbow Trout, Arctic Char and Grayling. No set itineraries fish with your guides each day for the species of your choice.
A fly fishing dream in stunning scenery where you can cast a line in crystal clear streams that are full of fresh, aggressive Arctic Char. Kangia River is a river truly made for fly anglers, with cut-banks, rapids, slow and deep stretches, waterfalls, and pocket-water all the way down to the tidally influenced delta.
Average Customer Satisfaction Score 87%
"In general a good trip snow melt meant that the fish are running about 3 weeks late as a group we caught 120 fish, good numbers but nothing like normal. Would love to go back next season may be 1 week later."
"Thoroughly enjoyable week, as I group I think we landed somewhere in the region of 120 to 150 fish. It was some first-class fly fishing in crystal clear water. The guides and staff were exceptional and I'd love to go back."
"Hi Peter, As discussed whilst we were at the lodge, it's a great holiday at a fantastic destination. The fishing is superb along with the excellent guides and host. There is very little that you can improve on when everything is at such a high standard. We did have the issue of the broken rods for both Chris and myself on the first day when the rod racks come off the car. Luckily the lodge had loan equipment so both Chris and myself could carry on fishing for the rest of the week. Having said the above it still did not distract or change my view that it was a wonderful holiday."
Name: Arctic Char
Also known as: Blue Backs, Torgoch, Red Belly’s
Scientific name: Salvelinus Alpinus
The Arctic Char is a cold-water fish and a member of the Salmonidae family and is closely related to both Salmon and Lake Trout and has many characteristics of both. Due to their vast range and very often isolated existence, they are subject to distinct Morphological changes, creating vast differences in size, colours and habits. They are highly variable in colour, depending on the time of year and the environmental conditions of the waterway in which they live. The appearance differs between populations. The Arctic Char’s dorsal side is dark, while the ventral varies from red to yellow and white. It spawns in freshwater, and its populations can be lacustrine, riverine, or anadromous, where they return from the ocean to their freshwater birth rivers to spawn. Over time, scientists have managed to split them into over fifteen different species.
To learn more about the Arctic Char, visit our YouTube channel.
Arctic Char are native to Arctic and subarctic coasts, lakes, and rivers of high elevations and are found throughout Northern Europe and North America, particularly Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Siberia, and Alaska. No other freshwater fish species are found at a higher latitude or as far north.
Although Arctic Char would be considered rare in Britain and Ireland, only found in deep glacial lakes, they are highly abundant in many parts of the subarctic world. If you are an angler looking to target them, some of the best countries include Greenland, Alaska, and Iceland, with each destination having its own species variation.
Rivers tend to be the most attractive proposition for the fly angler, ahead of lakes, as the fish grow slightly larger on average, and the fishing styles employed on flowing water are more enjoyable. Some lakes can be of interest to anglers, such as Lake Thingvallavatn in Iceland, which holds four different subspecies of Char, only two of which can be found there.
When choosing tackle for Arctic Char, you first need to look at the type of water and the size of fish that you are likely to encounter. If you are fishing in rivers with a good flow and holding decent-sized fish like Greenlands Kangia River, a switch rod or small spey rod of 6/7# is recommended.
When fishing in higher water, a small double-handed rod gives you great control of your flies and any fish you hook. High water conditions allow you to swing large flies such as intruders and 2 to 3-inch tube flies that can entice an aggressive response from big, angry Char.
Single-handed rods in 5/6# can be used with floating lines and long light leaders in lower water conditions. Types of flies for fishing this way can be nymphs and small streamers.
If you’re travelling to fish for Arctic Char and would like more information on the most effective ways to fish for them, read our blog post: Fishing Methods When Using Arctic Char Flies.
Because Arctic Chars tend to morph, their size range can differ significantly. Fish in certain types of water average only 1lb, but certain rivers of northern Europe and Canada hold beasts reaching up to 20lb. Overall, fish ranging between 2lb and 5lb is considered average for anglers travelling to target them.