Fly Fishing West Ranga Lodge Iceland
The West Ranga Lodge is situated only a short drive from Reykjavík in the South of Iceland and is one of the most famous Salmon Lodges in the world and a name at the top of many bucket lists. The West Ranga River runs for over 70 kilometres; its headwaters start near the foothills of the spectacular mount Hekla before it flows towards the sea and joins with the Hólsá. The river is entirely spring-fed from its source, meaning both water temperature and flow are consistent. Iconic amongst the freshwater fly fishing community, it’s home to abundant populations of Atlantic Salmon to over 20lb in weight.
Famed for its beauty, top-quality pools and high volume fishing, over the past 14 years, the river has indisputably been the single most productive Atlantic Salmon river in Iceland, responsible for an annual catch of over 6,490 Salmon. In 2009, it boasted an unprecedented 10,000 Salmon landed in a single season, making it second only to the Ponoi River in Russia in terms of overall productivity.
With 18 rods fishing exclusively on four private beats, spread over approximately 25 kilometres of double bank fishing, it’s no wonder that West Ranga Lodge has become the go-to destination for travelling freshwater fly fishing rods. Whether you are new to Atlantic Salmon or fully experienced, you will enjoy your time both staying at the lodge and fishing this delightful river system.
All About The West Ranga River
The West Ranga River is one of the most famous Atlantic Salmon fishing rivers globally and is famed for its abundant fish populations. Approximately just one hour drive from Reykjavík in the South of Iceland, it’s a popular destination for travelling rods and attracts hundreds of anglers each year.
The river has an average width of 50 metres, with varied topography; it features gentle flats and long guiding runs punctuated by impressive multi-tiered falls. The river is entirely spring-fed, which means both water temperature and flow are consistent throughout the year. As a result, it never has low water, and it is seldom if ever, coloured due to flooding and heavy rains. Often the only meteorological threat to anglers is the wind, but thanks to the double bank fishing, it’s never usually a problem.
Salmon populate most of the central river; however, the best fishing gets found from the Árbæjarfoss waterfalls, 15km downstream to the junction of the East Ranga.
Árbæjarfoss, also written as Arbajarfoss, is a waterfall near the small town of Hella. Named after a nearby farm and church, Árbær, it’s one of the most famous spots on the Ranga and in Iceland for Salmon fishing. Approximately 35m wide and 7m to 10m tall, Salmon on the Ranga must pass this structure to reach their breeding grounds upstream. Anglers who fish in this famous area will probably notice the concrete on the sides of the waterfall, which is a Salmon ladder designed to help the fish on their journey.
One thing that is slightly unusual on the West Rangá is that there is minimal natural spawning habitat. Therefore, it relies heavily on a successful smolt-releasing programme. This programme, which began in 1989, combined with virtually perfect water conditions throughout the season, has made the West Ranga what it is today.
What is the Fly Fishing Like on the West Ranga River lodge Iceland?
The Atlantic Salmon fishing at West Ranga Lodge gets spread over four beats, which provides approximately 25 kilometres of double bank fishing.
On the majority of the pools, it’s possible to fish with single-handed rods; however, due to its size and prevailing winds, it’s often better to fish with double-handed rods. The longer rods will allow you to cover the larger pools more efficiently and offer better control on a long line through the drift.
As the river is entirely spring-fed, the water tends to be cooler than other Icelandic rivers. For this reason, sunken fly techniques, often in conjunction with sink tip lines (or sinking leaders), are frequently more productive. In addition, the fish will usually respond to smaller flies fishing on floating lines and hitched and stripped Sunray Shadows during warmer weather. If you’re travelling to West Ranga Lodge to sample the fishing, read our blog on Atlantic Salmon Tips On Depth & Speed.
The fishing on the Ranga is easy wading, and the bottom is predominantly made up of black volcanic sand. All the beats on the river get accessed by car, so there’s minimal walking involved. It’s all relatively safe and comfortable and suitable for anglers of all fishing and physical abilities.
The West Ranga Lodge can accommodate 18 anglers, and the fishing is based on two rods per guide. All the guides are incredibly experienced anglers who know the river very well. They are service-minded, speak perfect English and are good fun, ask them anything, and they will do their best to ensure you have the best time. Having a guide with you for the duration of your trip can make a huge difference in your success. Not only will they help you catch the Salmon and put you in the right area, but they’re also a huge help when it comes to landing them. There’s nothing worse than losing a fish because of landing difficulties.
Rod Sharing & Fishing Days
One of the unique things about fishing at West Ranga is how flexible the fishery can be; all trips can be tailored entirely to suit your needs. A maximum of 18 rods per day are allowed on the beats, but all get fished on a rotation schedule, provided on arrival; this ensures every rod gets to fish their fair share of waterfalls and selection of pools.
On the Ranga a popular feature is the ability to rod share, so two anglers can share one rod, but only one can fish at any one time. Rod sharing is an excellent way of reducing costs and making the trip even more cost-effective. If you do rod share, then in general, you also have to share a room, unless there’s space available for you to have your own. There’s a small supplement for this if there is, and it’s on a strictly first-come, first-serve basis.
The fishing days at the Lodge get set in even numbers, so it’s possible to have 2,4,6 or 8 days fishing. However, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll fish a half-day at the very start of your holiday and then a half-day on departure day. So, for example, if you book four days fishing, you’ll enjoy a half-day on arrival, two full days back to back, and then a half-day on the day you depart.
The Fishing Day
Fishing on the West Ranga river gets split into two daily six-hour sessions, from 7.00 am to 1.00 pm and then from 4.00 am to 10.00 pm. The lengthy amount of fully guided fishing time you get is one of the main reasons why many anglers decide to rod share, that and the fact that rod sharing is very economical.
The number of fish anglers can expect to catch will vary significantly on angling ability, but a competent fly angler could land anything from 2-6 fish per day, with many more lost on the way. Of course, as with any form of fishing, river conditions and weather affect average catches, so these figures are only a guide.
There is a strict policy in Iceland that visiting anglers must have their fishing tackle sterilised before entering the country, which is something a veterinary surgeon can easily perform. They can then provide you with a certificate and a signed inventory of what has been sterilised, which will need presenting to the customs officers at Keflavik airport. The most critical items to be treated are rods, reel/line, waders and flies.
Another and more convenient alternative before entering the country is handing your fishing equipment over to customs officers at arrival. They will then be able to disinfect your tackle for you. This takes around 15-20 minutes and costs approximately €40 per person.
If you have any questions about our saltwater fly fishing holiday to West Ranga Lodge Iceland, contact us by email our experienced team will be happy to help you with any queries you have. Are you looking to explore more of our freshwater fly fishing holidays? Make sure to view all our alternative Atlantic Salmon fishing holidays. Additionally, you can call us on 01603 407596 to make an enquiry.