Fly Fishing Tip: How to Land Salmon from a Cliff

Sometimes, you just have to make a "what the heck" cast. I recently returned from a remarkable adventure to Iceland, where I was primarily fishing for large brown trout. I did take one day, however, to salmon fish on a beat at the mouth of the Laxa (Salmon River). There's an impressive waterfall there where fish stage as they run in from the ocean. Standing on the cliff next to the falls, guide Asgeir Steingrimsson suggested that I dangle the fly in a slick behind a rock. So I did, which was like dapping the fly from three stories above. Sure enough, it got bit. Now what?

I went for the camera and handed Asgeir the rod (admittedly in part because I didn't feel like tip-toeing around the rocks on the cliff ledge. Asgeir walked the fish around the point and through a rapid. Stew Armstrong ran down the back of the cliff, got to the beach and eventually netted the fish. It was a small grilse, but no doubt one of the most exciting fish I've ever hooked, if only for the "how it happened."

Now there are a few lessons to be learned from all this: First, I'm definitely a believer in keeping the tip or your rod high. Maybe not always that high, but you get the picture. Second, I am continually baffled by how fish will hold (and can be caught) in tiny pools and seams adjacent to what I would normally consider impossibly turbulent water. It's always worth a cast. And last, no matter what you hear or read, a very large factor in determining whether you land a fish or not is, well, dumb luck.

Below is a view from the other side. The cliff we were on is center-right in the photo, to the right of the second waterfall. The fish ate the fly right behind the rock in the river that is closest to the falls.