Greenland Char Fishing
Scott Guilmartin / Sportsmens Compass Team Member
Everyone in our “camp” in Greenland hammered Arctic char during a recent trip. We spent a week in south Greenland the second week of July and tangled with 2 to 5 lb fish on 5 and 6 weight rods, and had a great time doing so. A light weight spinning rod would have been a great option as well.
Getting to our camp required lying to Keflavik, Iceland, then flying backwards two hours to Narsarsuaq, Greenland. The airport at Narsarsuaq was originally a US Air Force base active during the 1940s and 1950s, with not much there other than the airport. Upon arrival in Iceland, we were required to have our gear sanitized by airport personnel, or produce an acceptable certificate of sterilization from a veterinarian. The cost was about $45.00 US. I figured it was worth paying for it at the airport and not potentially having inadequate documentation.
Once in Greenland, getting to the camp required transportation via boat through fjords filled with icebergs with views of the Greenland Glacier. The glacier covers 80 percent of the country. The trip took just under three hours, arriving at camp at 10:00 p.m. local time.
We stayed at a Lax-A Angling Club owned camp. My companion and I were the first guests of the season. It had been a long journey and we were greeted with hot shrimp chowder, fresh bread and a chocolate tart. The camp was first rate. Two person cabins with electric heat and comfortable beds served as our accommodations. The key staff consisted of an Icelandic couple and a Swedish guide. They couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. My fishing buddy, Dr. Neil Milner mentioned that he like coffee first thing in the morning. Jona, who did the cooking, asked us what time we would like our morning coffee. Neil said 7:00 a.m., and coffee was ready every morning at that time.
The camp had bathroom and shower facilities for both men and women plus a sauna, which we enjoyed. All facilities were in good working order, which is somewhat remarkable when you consider how remote the camp is. The food was very good. Breakfast normally consisted of eggs, bacon, cold meats, cereal, and breads. We often came in for lunch, if fishing the home water, and were served sandwiches, soup and cake & cookies. Dinner entrees included char, cod, reindeer and lamb. A reindeer goulash served one night was remarkable. No question I gained a few pounds on the trip.
The camp was located at the end of a bay and sheltered by steep rock hills. A small steep stream fed into the bay from a lake about 1000 feet upstream. This stream provided several exceptional fishing pools in addition to the mouth of the lake. We landed 20-30 fish a day, fishing about 6 hours. It was often a fish every cast although there was the occasional slow period where you might go 10 minutes without a fish on. The slow periods were infrequent.
The char were aggressive and battled hard. Once hooked, powerful runs ensued, stripping plenty of line. The fish frequently jumped, adding to the pleasure and of fighting them. Most fish were caught stripping nobblers, cone head muddlers and similar patterns in red, orange, pink and white variations. Use weighted flies, especially if using a floating line. I used both an intermediate sinking and a floating line. I found using the sinking line helpful. The fish in our area averaged between 2 and 4 lbs. We saw some larger fish likely in the 8 lb range, however, no one in our group landed a fish over 5 lbs. These char tested our 6 weights and severely tested the 5 weights. I fished with 2 and 3X tippet and leaders. I would advise sticking with 2X because the rocks can beat up your leader quickly at a lighter thickness. Bring both and you decide.
We also took a few fish on dry flies using caddis and midge imitations in 18 to 20 sizes in gray/black colors. We tried dries
when we found fish congregating before running a river into a lake system. In certain instances the fish wouldn’t attack streamers but would take a dry fly. It was almost as if they had no interest in feeding until they got close to, or where they were going to spawn.
The bad news is that there are lots of flies. The good news is they didn’t bite often. You need a bug net! There are times when the wind is blowing and a bug net isn’t necessary, but that is only part of the time. I brought heavy-duty bug spray, which I didn’t use, but suggest you bring anyway. The flies will swarm around your head and drive you to distraction with out a net.
Some considerations on travel: Iceland has become very popular with tourists and if you need to over night near the international airport (which is in Keflavik) you want to book a hotel room as far in advance as possible. Keflavik is about 40 miles from Reykjavik . Your booking agent should make arrangements for the flights from Iceland to Greenland and transfers to your destination. Weather and other issues can come into play, and you need to be prepared to leave camp a day early or later depending. This past trip we left camp a bit early to get ahead of a windstorm known as a “fone” that arrived with sustained 50 mph winds. It cost us an afternoon lost fishing but avoided a delay of up to two days getting home. Having a dependable and competent outfitter is doubly important when the unexpected happens and travel arrangements need to change. Our party and a group of 5 who joined us mid week all gave Lax-A high marks for managing our return trip and the quality of the camp.
We found Greenland starkly beautiful and full of challenging char….as advertised.
About the Author
Scott Guilmartin is a Co-Founder of Sportsmens Compass. He is an avid fisherman; both fly and spin. In addition to the website, he is a principal in a sustainable energy development company. Discovering and sharing new or overlooked fishing opportunities is a favorite avocation.